The type of story that offers something interesting and unique.
Inside Out by Will Elliott is stand-alone novel where a man's brain provides the canvas for a trippy adventure through the world of cults and brainwashing. It is similar in style to his previous release Nightfall, and while it may not have the same emotional impact, the story is more comedic and, in my opinion, far more accessible.
The story follows Denton, a young directionless man who is meandering through life without much hope or purpose. After a very angry moment where he flies off the handle in a road-rage incident, he is brought to his senses and "rescued" by a very sexy member of a religious sect (cult). Denton is invited to join, the brainwashing begins, and when the cult leaders realise Denton is worth a fortune, they hatch a plan to liberate him from his piles of money. The only obstacle for the cult leaders to overcome are the people who live inside Denton's head. They can see something bad is coming, and they will do what it takes to save themselves and Denton.
What you need to get your head around, and this is something that Elliott does with ease, is that Denton's brain provides the setting for half of this story. The world of Denton's brain is separated into distinct sections, with the logic centre and emotions downstairs, the dreams and imagination upstairs, and the conscious level represented by a supreme being living above the clouds. The people who populate this world are personifications of the different aspects that would make up your brain, with Mr Scott (logic), The Dream Master (dreams), Len (fear), and Wetpatch (libido) the major players. They all work together to help Denton run his life, assimilate information, and make decisions, something that they have had mixed success with given Denton's lot in life. This is a unique and fascinating method of storytelling - the viewpoint frequently shifts between Denton (outside) and his brain (inside), and you get to see how the actions of one impacts the other.
What really makes this book stand out is the humour. It is a dry humour, sometimes slapstick, sometimes observational, and often offensive in that South Park style of comedy. When Denton sees an attractive person, Wetpatch starts to run wild through his brain, leaving a sticky mess wherever he goes. The characters are one-dimensional, but that is the entire point as they represent singular aspects of the brain, and Elliott uses this to his advantage by putting these one dimensional characters in awkward situations that would easy to solve if they could just think outside of their tightly defined boundaries. Elliott also uses this book to provide some interesting satirical social commentary on the nature of organised religions and the importance of material wealth, and he somehow manages to deliver this commentary without biased or preachy.
The one thing that was missing for me in this book, compared to Elliott's previous books, was the emotional impact. While I easily became invested in Denton's story, it was more fascination rather than an emotional investment. I didn't really care what happened to Denton because I was more interested in how his actions would impact the world inside his brain. This is still a great feeling for a story to evoke, but my experience with Elliott's previous stories included this fascination alongside a massive emotional impact slugging me in the side of the jaw. I think this may have been the cost of making the book more accessible to a wider audience.
I really enjoyed Inside Out. It is the type of story that offers something interesting and unique, which is a valuable commodity in a genre that is often accused of being repetitive. While it may not be my favourite Elliott story, it is still a lot better than a lot of other stuff out there. Will Elliott is guy who takes risks with his storytelling, and the genre is better for it.
Review by Ryan Lawler
This week I interview Will Elliott, author of the highly acclaimed novel The Pilo Family Circus and the recently released Nightfall. We talk about his new book, what it's like having such a highly acclaimed debut novel, a [...]
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