REVIEW: Immobility by Brian Evenson (reviewed by Patrick Trotti)

Immobility by Brian Evenson
Tor Books
ISBN: 9780765330963
Immobility by Brian Evenson is more than just a book. It’s an event, one that you must be prepared for prior to reading. It will take your breath away, not giving it back until the story is told; the scenes are burned in your memory. Evenson, the director of Brown University’s Literary Arts Program, is the author of ten books of fiction and has three O. Henry Prizes as well as an NEA fellowship. I was extremely excited to read his latest offering as I consider Evenson to be on the most daring and inventive writers out today, in a class with Dennis Cooper for their limitless imagination and beautiful wordplay.


Released in early April, Immobility is a strange journey. A noir/mystery set against a post apocalyptic world, it features a man, Josef Horkai, who is paralyzed from the waist down and utterly confused about what is going on around him. All of these elements make for an interesting, if not extremely complex, read. By shrouding the main character in mystery, and crutching him with disabilities, Evenson is able to further execute his vision of a world on the edge of collapse.

The plot surges forward at a breakneck speed, daring the reader to try to keep up. Things aren’t what they used to be, a new set of circumstances, due to a catastrophe, have become the reality but the real mind games begin when the main character can’t seem to remember what existed before. This serves Evenson well, as he’s able to propel this looming sense of doubt and a lack of being able to compare past and present into a mind bending game that hooks you from the first page.

The lack of characters in the novel only reinforces the book’s immediacy, leaving the reader that much more invested in each one. Greater emphasis is placed on the relationships, thus creating more pressure for Evenson to deliver. He does, in ways that will leave you in awe to the very last page.

The mood is bleak, and rightfully so, as none of the people in this newly transformed world can stay outside for any length of time. Names of cities and places are removed, no longer necessary, just the unspoken tension between the inhabitants of this damaged landscape that they are now forced to navigate. The ending, without giving it away, will come as a shock. As unpredictable as it is imaginative, it steers away from a gimmicky feel, instead tightening the final stitch on what is a scared body of a text.

Evenson’s unique style and distinctive voice are here and fans of his previous will undoubtedly appreciate this most recent offering but his prose seems tighter, more condensed, ready at any given moment to combust upon itself, blowing up the whole beautifully rendered dreary world he has created. Thankfully for the reader it doesn’t self implode. Rather it continues on, twisting and turning, leading the reader down a dystopian rabbit hole that more than pays off in the end.

It’s difficult, almost impossible, to describe this book in a blurb. When finished, I felt many things. Empty, frightened, intrigued. Most of all I felt as though I had just completed a complex mental maze in which the orchestrator pulled all the right strings at all the right moments.

Immobility is a great book, showcasing a great writer at the height of his powers. Go and read this but when you’re finished, and scared and confused, but slightly exhilarated, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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