Review: Human by Den Holson ★★★★

Human by Den HolsonIn a time somewhere after 1952, and a place often known as Dundee, a man concludes the search for his mother’s grave, failing to find any remnant of a true piece of her being in her headstone and final remains, and thus giving up on his life-long quest. Rather than being the final conclusion to a wider tale, this event is at best a mid-point.

With his father’s spirit in his ear, and his mother’s photo as phone wallpaper, the narrator continues an introspective journey of the nature of truth, humanity, being, and a few other more interesting things, maybe. Pondering the purpose and function of mere existence, hunting dragons, following a trail in narcotics, and formal philosophical study; claiming neither fact nor fiction, the quirks of a man’s – or perhaps all of man’s – psyche and what it may or may not encompass are explored in Human by Den Holson.

Describing this book with any kind of universal certainty is difficult, simply because it doesn’t try to spoonfeed anything to its reader, forcing them to consider the ideas and regular potential nonsense presented in the narrative for themselves. The idea of “believe anything, so long as you don’t altogether believe it” is fairly intrinsic to the book, and makes it a perfect piece for the more introspective reader.

While there is some semblance of logical plot at times with the progression of the main character and his own internal monologues alongside his other internal monologues, and further monologues that are possibly completely other, overall there’s not a lot to simply pick out and direct a reader to as a way of finding the meaning of the book. It could easily be argued the story is not about a central character as much as it entirely is, depending on which voices you might choose to pay most attention to, and which you might lend your own experience to.

The book plays heavily with itself, both narratively and in the very basics of the book, complete with epithets of the HUMANS group of 2040 and an editor’s note about the “made up” vocabulary, as well as precognitive mentions of groups soon to rise and ideas to be widely adopted. Certain groups are named and outlined in the book, not all with the best of intentions, and the disjointed structure of the main body is disconcerting and, by the same action, stimulating. The book is by no means an easy ride, but a careful dissection and consideration reveals a lot of interesting ideas and attempts at exploring something far beyond the scope of a simple novella.

On the other side of the argument, it is also full of undeniable nonsense, most likely on purpose to challenge the genuine sentiments behind the provoking novella. The chaotic brew that remains as the finished product is effervescent and bizarre, but not unlikeable. Human is entirely charming in a kind of confusing, off-putting way, confident that an audience exists, and unconcerned with the remainder of the potential readership out there.

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