The Road of Things to Come
By Benson Phillip Lott
ISBN #: 9781611873948
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Vicki
When Sheriff Keylee discovers escaped mental patient Simon Fielding wandering down the desolate road of Shepherd’s Pass in a sleepwalking trance, he takes him into custody with the intent of returning him to Jessup County Hospital with few questions asked.
The sheriff’s dispatcher Debbie is a bit more curious. She has looked into the matter of Mr. Fielding’s escapes and comes across some unsettling information regarding Jessup County Hospital and a former psychologist who was believed to be involved in a patient’s escape attempt from the hospital twenty years earlier.
Dr. Douglas Grover, a clinical psychiatrist on the ward, is a particularly strong advocate for Simon’s discharge. He meets with him for sessions on a weekly basis where they continually discuss the haunting dreams that Simon has convinced himself are glimpses of the future. These visions involve an illuminate figure that appears on a brightly lit path and produces a series of images, the most disturbing of which involves a terrible car accident on Shepherd’s Pass, which Simon believes is the revelation of his death.
Dr. Grover is suspicious of the images and wants to know more. He reveals to Simon his own personal investigation into the history of Shepherd’s Pass and even admits to having remarkably lucid dreams where he too is confronted with his own demise. He further confesses to have encountered a bizarre book, detailing several accounts of complex dreams similar to the ones that both of them are experiencing. The common denominator is, of course, the road: Shepherd’s Pass.
As the doctor and patient continue to exchange theories, a decision is made to return to the Pass for further investigation. What happens next will forever alter the men’s lives. (Goodreads)
The Road of Things to Come challenged me in a way that no other book has for a long time. Each page seemed to spark a new revelation; yet the fire was extinguished after only the edges of my epiphany were ignited.
For me, it is difficult to pinpoint the message that The Road of Things to Come is communicating. To begin with this was a horror story and while the elements of horror remained throughout, author Benson Phillip Lott, went on to incorporate the gothic and the psychological thriller, address theories of science versus faith, and interweave fantasy and time travel. The hybrid genres result in the ultimate creep-factor. Some may say that genre hybridity can be a lethal cocktail of lethargic confusion but for The Road of Things to Come it is the foundation and interestingly, where the plot and characters seem to have been born from; almost organically.
The reader is carried through the novella by multiple points of view and narrative styles that intentionally twist and skew our perception of the story unfolding before us. This is most evident towards the end, when the reader is addressed as the storyteller, which then morphs into the reader as the character being told the story, which then switches to alter the readers’ understanding of what is real and what is not. Confused yet? Good.
There is a distinct, and I believe intentional, dreamlike quality that is brought about by the multiple points of view and narrative styles. Lott places emphasis on sleeping, sleepwalking, time loss, dreams and visions and they ultimately become the downfall of each character. There is an ironic external distrust of imagination and creativity but this is counteracted by the internal bond that Dr. Grover and Simon Fielding form over having shared the same vision. This, to me, is a comment upon the interpretation of art and our shared experiences as consumers of art. In a way this review is reflective of this comment as other readers will, no doubt, have an entirely different response and some may even distrust The Road of Things to Come.
The novella begins and ends with the deserted back road, Shepherd’s Pass. All roads lead back here because it turns out that Shepherd’s Pass is the true main character in The Road of Things to Come. Like any good main character, Shepherd’s Pass is complex, familiar and will resonate with you long after you have finished reading. Sheriff Keylee, Simon Fielding and Dr. Grover are fated to travel along the road and all three are doomed by the road. Shepherd’s Pass, a horror genre staple, draws the characters in under the false pretences, underlined by its entirely unthreatening, almost welcoming, name and completes its character arc by physically, psychologically and irreparably harming the characters. Although themes of the labyrinth are evident it would be remiss to ignore comparisons to the haunted house and haunted land.
I truly enjoyed reading this novella. However, I think I have drawn the most enjoyment from trying to figure out what the novella was actually about! If readers are seeking intrigue, theorizing and mystery; The Road of Things to Come is a must read. Confusion is 100% guaranteed.