The world as we know it is ending. The first signs appear before anyone knows anything is wrong – an ominously foretelling conversation appearing over a few weeks on a highway overpass. Tensions rise with layoffs at the local university. Strange sounds are heard from the depths of the local prison.
That's just the beginning. That's still relatively normal.
Beneath the prison is a testing area for a military engineered disease designed to take away human's symbolic capacity – and thus their ability to communicate. Dr. Flake Fountain has been coerced into finding the as-yet elusive cure, but it is soon too late. The disease will leak from the supposedly secure testing compound. The quarantine around the city will be broken. Dr. Fountain will be left with no choice but to watch and record as in just a couple of days the world drastically changes... perhaps for the better.
Though Just a Couple of Days starts out as a lighthearted political satire, somewhat reminiscent of the works of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, it doesn't remain so. As the novel progresses, it sheds many of the trappings of plot and changes into a more philosophical novel, along the lines of Daniel Quinn's Ishmael, though there is still some action and character development. It is an interesting mix; one that requires readers to pick up the book without any pre-set notions of what kind of story it is going to be. If they have any, they will inevitably be disappointed, for Just a Couple of Days doesn't fit into any mold. Those who go in with an open mind may well find it fascinating in terms of both philosophy and style.
One remarkable thing about Just a Couple of Days is the way that the characters mirror the change in the book's aim. In the early chapters, there are several obviously stereotyped, satire-appropriate characters – the overly eco-friendly hippies, the tyrannical university president, the all-knowing government agent – but as the book progresses, these characters are either removed from the story or are changed by it so that they fit into the more philosophical mindset. The only character who is a true character rather than a caricature is Dr. Fountain, who is really viewing the whole farce from the outside.
In Just a Couple of Days, Tony Vigorito presents interesting concepts about human nature and society. Do we really need symbols to co-exist? Do our current forms of communication bring us closer together or create divides we don't notice because we don't know of any other way? Would society fall apart if we lost our ability to communicate - and if it did, would that be a bad thing?
The answers that Vigorito presents are surprising yet intriguing, and though all readers won't agree with Vigorito's assessments, Just a Couple of Days will make most pause to think. Vigorito breaks storytelling conventions as he gently introduces his philosophies, and something along the way is bound to grab everyone's attention.
Though it is not at all what it seems to be at the beginning of the story, the end of this book presents a fascinating picture of what the world could be like, how the end could be a beginning, and where we might be heading if we don't stop ourselves. We may be on that path already, but Just a Couple of Days makes one wonder if that is entirely a bad thing.