Book Review : D. Harlan Wilson - Battle Without Honor or Humanity, Vol. 1
I've finished Battle without Honor or Humanity, Vol. 1 ten days ago or so and don't remember anything about it. If I open the book again and read a couple sentences, it comes back to me in flashes but it fades out as soon as I close it again. Not that it's terrible or anything. I remember quite liking it. I wouldn't say it beat me either because the format it rather user friendly and I suspect the inherent weight of the writing has something to do with it. I'll try my best to review D. Harlan Wilson's Battle without Honor or Humanity, Vol. 1, but this might be a weird one. I'll try to make it entertaining at least.
So, Battle without Honor or Humanity, Vol. 1 is a series of short, intense and thoroughly surreal vignettes. Everything in he book operates under dreamlike logic and creates an assaults on the senses that would only be possible to achieve without trying to construct meaning. I might be completely wrong about this, but Battle without Honor or Humanity, Vol. 1 seems like a rebellion against the idea of meaning. An attempt to create better, more engaging images without suffering the burden of having to link them together. Un Chien Andalou for the age of mainstream consumption if you will. Here's an example pulled from the vignette called Scotomization:
Anatomy of a submarine: conning tower, sleeping quarters, boiler room, trim and ballast tanks, nuclear reactor, ballistic missile repository, Cold War wine cellar, snorkel, anechoic plating...
Perception as a red hatchet.
Fidel wanted to drive. Had put on the captain's frayed, smoldering hat to ensure that nobody argued with him. Nikolai punched him. Fidel punched him back. They clutched one another by the lapels of their suits and threw one another from side to side and then they crashed through the decayed floor panel and fell out of sight. Jackie salvaged the hat and slipped behind the helm...Octopi and squid covered the nose of the sub. She shook them off violently, yanking on the controls. Her forearms inflated with color and I traced the cephalic vein from wrist to crook with my fingernail...
Let's see what we have here. There's a vague theme of Cold War. Characters named after historical characters. A series of clear images like well-edited movie frames and that's it. It ends two pages later when a character named after John F. Kennedy admitting his own social anxiety problems. What am I supposed to do with this information? Build my own relationship to the text? I'm not sure what my role as a reader is here and it sure shit isn't to "just enjoy the book." Tell that to more gullible readers than me. Battle without Honor or Humanity, Vol. 1 is the kind of book that makes me feel really self-conscious about what I'm doing here because I might not see the obvious overarching meaning here and become frustrated over nothing.
But sometimes you need to let go of the wheel. I'm a voracious reader, so I've developed strong habits and a breakneck reading rhythm that Battle without Honor or Humanity, Vol. 1 has successfully challenged. It forced me to slow down and experience storytelling in a manner I wasn't familiar with. That alone made the book a success for me. Battle without Honor or Humanity, Vol. 1 is an organic, fractal and sometimes adorably cartoonish experience that celebrates the immediacy of storytelling. It doesn't foster any sort of intimate relationship to its reader and demands to be a spetacle. It is meant to be read out loud, to be forgotten and read out loud again with inflection and enthusiasm. At least, it's how I understood it.
I don't think the Battle without Honor or Humanity series will make D. Harlan Wilson rich or anything. Some readers will call him pretentious because that's what readers do on the internet when they're not spoonfed the meaning of a text.. I do not claim to understand Battle without Honor or Humanity, Vol. 1 or anything, but it was a frantic and disorienting experience that achieved something I thought books couldn't do anymore: drag me out of my comfort zone. I wouldn't say it dragged me out of my comfort zone and elevated my soul, but it was a challenging enough curve ball and I had a good time with it.