Brian Evenson’s Science Fiction Novella The Warren will leave you pondering it, probably for the rest of your life.
While reading Brian Evenson’s new science fiction novella The Warren, I continually had to remind myself that I wasn’t reading an already established sci-fi classic. It was that good. I devoured this powerfully chilling novel in about 2 days, and I immediately want to read it again. I know this is probably the most annoying thing I could say, but the last page is so fantastic I have it open in my browser window just to read it over and over throughout the day.
Enter The Warren
The Warren is an intentionally perplexing story following our hero, and one of the only two corporeal characters, X. X is one of many persons created to continue the line of alphabetically named survivors of a planet turned hostile. Sequestered in the underground home and laboratory he calls the warren (mostly likely named for the system of tunnels rabbits dig to serve as underground dens to hide from predators) with only the Monitor (a computer used to teach the people who they are and why/how they got there) for company, X is the first person to be created alone. Before him, every new generation was created as a pair to keep each other company and to keep each other safe from the many ambiguous dangers lurking outside of the warren.
What do I mean by “created,” you ask? Well, that is an excellent question. Without spoiling anything, I can say that each new generation inside the warren is created from “material,” which is never truly explained. Most of the novella is left unexplained, so if that bothers you, take heed.
A Riddle, Wrapped in a Mystery, Inside an Enigma
For those, like myself, who enjoy thinking, The Warren will leave you pondering it probably for the rest of your life. Because of the unanswerable nature of the question of identity, the most prominent theme within the story, it is told in a disjointed and ethereal manner. X, who narrates (in one way or another) the novella knows just as much as the reader, and thus the heavy sense of confusion is palpable on every page.
I’m realizing more and more that it’s impossible to tell you anything without spoiling everything, so the pared-down premise is this: X awakes alone, his head full of voices. His predecessor, out of desperation, imported the consciousness’s of everyone who came before into X’s mind, leaving his own personhood vague and indefinite amongst the sea of others commanding his brain. Eventually, X comes to accept this and refers to his body and the voices within it as “us.”
Not Alone After All
When the collective consciousnesses known as X decides to search for more material to form another person, he realizes he must leave the safety of the warren and venture into the lethally poisonous air. On the surface, X finds another person and unconsciously releases him from his sleep chamber (somewhat like a cryo-tube) and into the world. This creates nothing but trouble for X, and immediately the speed of the novella rips into overdrive.
Danger and mystery double as X slowly discovers more answers and loses more control over his self to the others within his mind. This leads to blackouts in his memory while other minds take over, represented by glowing sets of eyes inside his mind. Unfortunately for X, not every mind he’s housing has the same intentions and ideas. X and the other person freed from their sleep chamber run into each other multiple times, and it never ends well. Eventually, these confrontations force X to question who, and what, he truly is.
The story is a fast read, gripping and engaging from start to finish. As amazing as it was as a standalone novella, I would be ecstatic to read sequels explaining how everything came to be in the post-apocalyptic wasteland Evenson has created. Verdict? I’m saying that science fiction novella The Warren is a definite must read!