Gone to be Snakes Now by Neal Bell (1974)

The mutant planet held the key to Earth's violent past - and its shocking destiny

Sometimes a book sucks because there are too many holes in the plot. Sometimes a book sucks because it's boring. Sometimes a book sucks because the characters are utterly hateable and nothing bad happens to them. Sometimes a book sucks because it's too long. And sometimes a book sucks because the whole thing is pure, unadulterated, crazy talk.

The cover of Gone to be Snakes Now, with its crazy, colorful patterns coming out of an old guy's face, seems to imply that there will be some psychedelic stuff in the book. The nonsensical title of the book perhaps increases this implication. It's possible that the author banged the whole 158 pages out during an acid trip or some such, though I don't know how one would remain focused enough to keep writing while under the influence of a psychedelic drug. Not that I'd know anything about that.

Maybe if I was a 15-year old high school stoner I would love this book. Maybe I'd say, "Yeah, man, this book is really sweet, the author was tripping, man. Yeah, man, drugs!" Maybe I'd be able to look past the random and constant changes in perspective and tense, non-sequiturs, nonsense and general crazy talk. Maybe I'd be willing to spend enough time to more clearly decipher the narrative. And maybe I'd be a stupid high school stoner who likes stuff for stupid reasons.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh. It's possible that this book has a wider appeal, maybe with people who are really into poetry or something. I don't know. People who are into writers like William S. Burroughs might dig this book. Personally, I prefer reading words once, quickly, and immediately understanding what they mean.

This book has a dreamlike quality, and maybe the whole thing is supposed to be a dream rather than a drug trip. To get through the whole thing, I certainly had to treat it like a dream. I just sped through it as if I were reading a book written in plain English, understanding only the words that made sense and ignoring the rest, as if they were just the meaningless details of a dream.

Underneath all the crazy talk, there is a story. It's about a kid named Walter who lives in a secluded valley that nobody ever leaves. Supplies for the towns are mysteriously deposited near a lake to be distributed and embezzled by the elders. Everybody has a set date of death. People are terrified of a cave monster called the Borg (unrelated and not nearly as cool as the Borg in Star Trek). Walter hears that there is life outside of the valley, and so embarks on a journey through desert and jungle to see what's out there.

I'm sure there is a lot of symbolism in this book. The whole thing is probably symbolic of something or other. Symbolism in science fiction can be a great thing, but I'm unwilling to root through mountains of crazy talk to find it.

Buy this book.

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