Carr’s jumbled and unsatisfying first novel depicts a dystopian future in which much of the dwindling U.S. population is addicted to consuming the shadows cast by natural light. Mira, a young woman with poorly defined supernatural powers, spends much of her time caring for her shadow-addicted mother. Years before, those seeking to escape the addicts and the hardscrabble life outside gathered in artificially lit domes, but recently, for nebulous reasons, the “domers” have been establishing outposts. Bale, a soldier banished from one of these outposts, joins Mira and her addicted friend Murk as they cross the desolate landscape in hopes of hunting down a particular shadow thief before the impending return of Halley’s Comet, which will cast particularly potent shadows. The parameters of the addiction and its variations are frustratingly opaque, and the passages addressing the addiction’s history and the way it shaped the world just raise further questions. Numerous side characters and events add complexity without clarity. Interesting ideas form the core of the novel, but their development leaves much to be desired. (Sept.)
Praise for Sip
Library Journal Debut of the Month
"For a novel about domed worlds devoid of light, Sip has no shortage of luminosity. The precision of the images in this novel illuminate every scene like the water around a lighthouse. A fable about shadow addicts and sealed-over inaccessible domes feels eerily prescient for the increasing volatile divide in the United States."
—Idra Novey, author of Ways to Disappear
“In Sip, Brian Allen Carr beautifully cultivates the classic motif of the loss of the shadow to underline, disguised as a speculation about the future, the nightmarish features of our dystopian present.”
—Yuri Herrera, author of Signs Preceding the End of the World
“It’s a post-apocalyptic wasteland and are you on team Dome, team Shadowless Army, team Doc, or team shadow-sipping junkies? I know which team I’m on. Brian Allen Carr’s Sip is funny, literate, crass, dark, violent, lyrical, oddly touching, and totally bat-shit crazy. I loved it.”
—Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock
"Whether one reads Sip as a psychedelic Western or an analogy for a society addicted to bleeding the planet dry of its natural resources, Carr serves up a heady brew with plenty of nightmare fuel."
—San Diego CityBeat
"Fans of postapocalyptic fiction will find it difficult to put down Carr’s haunting debut, which richly details its world’s harsh history while leaving readers enough hope for the future. The title also has excellent YA crossover potential."
—Library Journal, Starred Review
"Feels like an old western crossed with something from Mad Max . . . Sip is a fast-paced, strange and enjoyable leap into a flickering world of addiction."
"Carr has delivered an exceptionally written and entertaining story with great characters and wonderful language."
—This Is Horror
"A stunning speculative concept . . . a surreal futuristic landscape. But at its core is something Western, and something Weird. It’s a high-concept story that never loses sight of the grit."
"A bleak, bizarre, and compelling work, abounding with memorably weird imagery."
—Vol. 1 Brooklyn
"Carr’s premise is crazy and wonderful in equal measure."
"A post-apocalyptic sci-fi Western . . . intriguing core characters."
"Interesting ideas form the core of the novel."
"Like Philip K. Dick or Robert Louis Stevenson before him, Brian Allen Carr's Sip shoots us with a brand new metaphor full of our addictions. One day we'll return to this book after the war began and speak of its shadow-drinkers like we do zombies and vampires and say, 'And this is where it all began. This new wild mythology that was true even then. When the comet returned.' AND TOGETHER WE'LL SIP."
—Scott McClanahan, author of The Sarah Book
"Brian Allen Carr has written a great novel, and Sip will remain engraved in the reader's memory for quite some time."
—Alain Mabanckou, author Black Moses
"An utterly transporting voyage through an oddly sweet, surprisingly funny, and horribly human post-apocalyptic wasteland. As much a celebration of the wonders of our daily existence as it is an indictment of the hungers which bring us low, Brian Allen Carr's Sip inflated my shadow-soaked head and set me floating on strange and beautiful winds. Never before have I so deeply wanted to return to the end of the world."
—Jeremy Robert Johnson, author of Skullcrack City
"Sip reads like what might happen if Cormac McCarthy dropped acid and then hallucinated a science fiction novel. Half post-apocalyptic disaster, half weird Western, Sip's a blood-slick trip that's nonetheless humane at its core."
—Brian Evenson, author of A Collapse of Horses
“If this book was a movie I’d go see it again tomorrow; if it was a TV show I’d buy a TV. Brian Allen Carr writes like lightning on the horizon and I’d drink his shadow if I could.”
—Ben Loory, author of Tales of Falling and Flying
One hundred and fifty years ago, a child learned to sip its own shadow, which resulted in an ecstatic high better than any other drug. The addiction quickly spread, as crowds of young people gathered to take others' shadows, from both the old and young. Eventually, towns, cities, and governments fell apart, and those who wished to survive went to live in domed metropolises protected from natural light and natural shadows. Others, both sippers and survivors, lived outside, foraging for what they could in a hard, wild world. Mira lives in rural Texas, chasing mouthfuls of shadows for her addict mother. Her friend Murk is also addicted, slowly drinking his shadow away. Ex-domer Bale joins them on their quest to find a possible cure for shadow sickness, the rumors of which have been passed down in myth and song. But the trio must complete their mission before Halley's Comet returns—in less than seven days. VERDICT Fans of postapocalyptic fiction will find it difficult to put down Carr's haunting debut, which richly details its world's harsh history while leaving readers enough hope for the future. The title also has excellent YA crossover potential.—KC
A post-apocalyptic sci-fi Western, short story writer Carr's (The Shape of Every Monster Yet To Come, 2014, etc.) debut novel traces a brief and hobbled journey across the enduring landscape of the end of the world.Around the year 2017, a terrible new addiction afflicted humanity. People discovered they could sip shadows, ingesting a darkness more powerful than the strongest drug. Predictably, the other side of the high is abuse, withdrawal, desperation, depravity. In short order, society crumbles; tribalism reigns; all becomes violence and stark waste. A century and a half later, the addiction has come to its finale. In the precisely realized landscape of southern Texas, Mira (the daughter of a shadow-stolen mother), Murk (an appealingly foul, shadow-addict amputee), and Bale (a "domer" raised in a hermetically sealed settlement that eliminates natural light) embark on a muddled quest across the Texas scrub to…do something. Ostensibly, their mission is clear—they must find and kill Joe Clover, the addict who stole Mira's mother's shadow, before Halley's comet returns—but, as with so much else in this exuberant book, their motive is overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters and side plots. We meet the ferocious women of the Shadowless Army; the Faulkner-ian Doc; the Dr. Strangelove-esque Capt. Flamsteed; Bale's doomed brother, Drummond, and more and more and more besides. This, coupled with an uneven tone which borrows just as heavily from Flannery O'Connor as it does from Chuck Palahniuk and an even more unfortunate tendency toward the exploitative grotesque (amputees are an endless source of sight gags and are sometimes beaten to death with their own peg legs; a saloon piano player is a waddling one-eyed midget possessing a "voice, quasi-maniacal"), conspires to create a book whose allegiances tend toward the shock and awe of its conceit and shy away from the coherent development of either its world or its main characters. A promising premise and intriguing core characters but, ultimately, not enough cohesion between the plots to stick them all together.