Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: All Art is Junk by R.A. Harris

Lana Rivers, a girl with paintbrush hair, is missing and it's up to Lancelot, her cyborg knight, and his bionic conjoined twin, Cilia, to find her before her evil father, a disrespected artist turned mad-scientist, performs a terrible experiment on her.

Lana is somewhere on The Installation––once an unknown artist's subversive statement on society and now the only thing keeping it afloat, literally. A deluge of biblical proportions has wiped 99.99% of mankind from the face of the Earth and the only survivors are all on the floating art installation, addicted to a drug known as oil.

Lancelot's mission is thrown into jeopardy when the people of The Installation begin to go insane, forming gangs, each with their own fetish, and go to war against each other as a dread drum soundtrack shakes the very foundation of their world.

As Lancelot races to rescue Lana in time, he'll discover the origin of oil, himself and the truth about Lana's father's experiments. And in doing so, he'll learn more about humanity, morality and love than he ever expected.




We can look up the definition of “art” as it applies to different mediums, but an artist, if such a thing exists, would tell you that sacrifice is part of the process. Creating anything that is “art” is a primal process that involves blood and emotion, and when the composition is complete, something new is learned or gained by the artist. R.A. Harris conveys this concept in his bizarro novella, “All Art is Junk,” although I don’t know if that was the author’s intention. You see, one may interpret art to derive personal meaning, and that is this story’s greatest success.

The plot seems straightforward and almost obvious: a cyborg named Lancelot must brave the insane world of chaos and nightmare to find a young girl named Lana. We can expect the robot is going to learn about humanity and love, as the summary on the back of the book suggests, but the meat of the book is Lancelot’s interpretation of these things in contrast to the ideas that have helped create the strange world Lancelot confronts. Here’s a book that revels in the artistry of an idea and doesn’t let go. The author’s prose remains unique and in-focus; the reader isn’t distracted by heavy-handed prose because Lancelot’s goal is the impetus for each sentence. This book can be a simple journey of self-discovery, or it can be a quest to understand innocence; the Harris has provided a story of anti-art, an understanding of the humanity that is lost or gained through the process of creation. 

Metaphors and symbolism are everywhere, but the writing is the main attraction here. Harris brings this world to life as if he were painting the pages rather than writing them. Lancelot came to life; I wanted to know what he would learn, and most of all, I wanted to know how he would learn it; The Installation is an interesting setting that is fun to explore through Lancelot’s eyes; his quest for Lana is a fun adventure that can be enjoyed without delving deeply into the text, although Harris allows you to understand the story on your own level, just like Lancelot. If you’re curious to know what the heck that cat is doing on the front of the cover… 

A fun read. I appreciated the prose and the author’s unique approach to the concepts that are explored within the book’s pages. Harris has a bright future ahead of him; it’s hard to believe this is his first book.