The Society of Others
William Nicholson
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The Society of Others
William Nicholson
240 pages
January 2006
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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A recent college graduate in England, incredibly bored with his life, refuses to engage with his family and generally passes the hours in the confines of his room. The lack of motivation is pervasive, almost paralyzing him, until he makes an impulsive decision and decides to take a road trip, one without a destination and with absolutely no structure.

He begins hitchhiking and accepts a ride with a philosophy-spouting truck driver with no concern for their destination; after three days on the road, they reach what appears to be an Eastern European country. When the truck is intercepted by security police, the truck driver urges the young man to jump from the truck, to run for his life. From a safe distance, he watches the police brutally murder the truck driver.

Thus begins an existential journey in which the young man is challenged to use his wits for survival in a dismal winter landscape. This is a country in a constant state of emergency because of “terrorism”, where people mind their own business, afraid to draw the attentions of the secret police. The young man suddenly discovers an appreciation for his family and the life he left behind, besieged with random brutality and crippling fear as well as the unexpected generosity of strangers who offer shelter and camaraderie.

This extraordinary plunge into the unknown speaks to the consequences of actions individual and societal, shattering the young man’s ignorance in a quest for survival and a personal metamorphosis. Complete helplessness and dependency on others is juxtaposed with the rising strains of elegiac music and metaphysical dialogue, where the familiar coexists with the unknown.

Much remains unexplained by intention, although assumptions could be made, and the ending of the drama is unclear, albeit purposefully. I am unsure whether Nicholson has created a political thriller or a psychological crisis, if it is a significant work or has aspirations that remain unmet. Perhaps it remains for each reader to determine the answer.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2005

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