We live in an age where there are many authors who are known as “genre blending” writers, where the lines between what is sometimes disdainfully referred to as “Genre Fiction” and the more “writerly” “Literary Fiction” blend to such a degree it’s hard to categorize exactly where the novel fits. New York author D.A. Wright doesn’t merely “blend” genres with his debut novel Arbitrary Nonsense (or The Pendulum Rift), he absolutely obliterates it completely. This is a very hard novel to classify which is what makes it the stunning achievement that it is. Think Louis Carroll crossed with Edgar Alan Poe, Kurt Vonnegut, Jorge Luis Borges and Douglas Adams, throw it all into a blender then pour out the positively unique result. This is a very well written novel - and D.A. Wright has considerable talent as a writer - but it’s the original blending of science fiction, literary fiction, Dada burlesque, Dante-esque comedy and Platonian philosophy (as well as other absurdist thinkers and ideas) that makes this novel the wonderful experience it is.
It’s a love letter to The Absurd and there are plenty of absurdist moments - comedic and otherwise - which take the reader on a grand journey through Oblivion, the several layered world (called “Fathoms”) in which the bulk of this story takes place. There are also elements of Fantasy fiction as well with its bizarre characters, other worldly landscapes, Cervantesian stories within stories, and plenty of laugh out loud moments which take the “seriousness” out of a work which in a lot of ways is a very serious work. It ponders philosophical ideas without taking itself too seriously and lovers of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Literary Fiction will find something to enjoy about this on its own terms - never mind the whole - as it follows the story of three friends who one night find themselves between worlds where there are ashen covered deserts, Roman styled colosseums, a Dante-esque/Bosch trip through Hell, as well as a 1984-styled dystopian society where each citizen is nothing more than a cog in a wheel and is on the verge of a revolution.
There is so much going on in this novel that it would be impossible to get through it all here but if you’re looking for an absolutely fun read that will also make you think, this is a novel worth exploring. It helps to be a bit read up on some philosophy and classical literature to get all the references, jokes and amusing asides but this is a novel that isn’t afraid to be itself; isn’t afraid to be what it wants to be without having the feeling that the author was looking over his shoulder while writing it. You can tell he was having the time of his life creating this absurdist adventure and that feeling of fun leaps right off the pages to the reader. If you’re looking for something fun, intellectual, and dare I say entertaining, you can’t go wrong with this. Reading this reminded me of why I love reading fiction in the first place - to allow the author to take you to a world of his/her choosing and allowing you to enjoy the ride.