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Friday, May 10 through the end of summer, Cathy and I will be selling her hand-made soaps, lotions, and toiletries, along with my photography, note cards, calenders, books, etc.

Come see us!

Across the street from the C Shop

4825 Alderson Road, Birch Bay, Washington 98230


I had an automated blogroll here, powered by Google Reader, but Google, in its near-infinite lack of wisdom, killed Google Reader. Prior to this murder, all I had to do to put a blog on my blogroll (or to take it off) was to place it in a Reader folder called, appropriately enough, "blogroll" (or, of course, to remove it). I use The Old Reader now for following blogs, but it seems to have no way to something similar regarding the blogroll. If you know of a way to do this, please let me know.

Nonessential: The Expansion Paradox – a review and a giveaway

Nonessential: The Expansion Paradox
J. E. Seanachai 
Published in 2011
ISBN 978-1463623180

Nonessential--The Expansion Paradox at Amazon.com

Part of me wants to say that this is a book that critics will look to for decades to come, when they need to define or describe the author’s work.

It is, in many ways, a book that is, itself, beyond description. It is a novel, it is social commentary, it is a game, it is a puzzle.

Another part of me wants to point out, though, that Jill Seanachai, in spite of what you might think based solely on her skills and talents, is still a young author, still with most of her career in front of her. It will hardly be fair, twenty or thirty or forty years from now, to point to her third book and say “There, that book right there, that was the book that defined her.”J. E. Seanachai

Her first novel, Dead Bird in the Weeds, was a very good book. It was a first novel, with everything that means. There were some awkward turns of phrase, there was some unpolished writing, there were some editing issues. And yet it was a good book. It was also a first self-publishing venture, with everything that means. There were some design and formatting issues, especially in the first edition. Publishing is a completely different creature than writing, with its own steep learning curve, and she had not mastered it.

And yet, in spite of all this, Dead Bird in the Weeds is a very good book.

Nonessential proves that Jill has climbed those curves.

This is not your grandmother’s self-published book. This isn’t even a project most self-publishers would have approached without trembling. On the other hand, I don’t think this is a book that could have been produced in any other way, at least not by an author without the clout of years and years of bestsellers. Not in the world where you submit your manuscript in 12-point Times New Roman or it’s an automatic rejection. Not in the world where you don’t even submit to the publisher, but to an agent who sees the agent’s second job as cutting ten percent from each manuscript that makes it through the gauntlet of irrelevance of the submit/conform/resubmit gruel mill (emphasis on submit – as in “submissive”). The first job of an agent, of course, is rejecting manuscripts, as witness their gleeful tweets and blog posts about how “easy it makes the job” when authors use the wrong typeface, or the wrong form of salutation, or don’t get the butt-kissing part just exactly right in their queries (too much, apparently, is as fatal as too little). It will be left as an exercise for the reader to determine what, exactly, is “made easy” by these sins, since they are completely irrelevant to the task of finding good manuscripts. Silly me, I would have thought that was the job.

Nonessential is an exercise in book design, a manifesto of authorial control over the whole work of art that is a book.

This is not a book that was created by a publisher that has lost sight of its true business (providing publishing services to storytellers) and gotten lost in the hopeless fantasy that it exists to sell stories to readers. Storytellers have sold audiences on their stories without a publisher’s help since the very first fireside, and only the sudden increase in the cost of doing so (brought about by the increased size of the audience and the increased machinery of book production) ever gave publishers the idea that they were supposed to be gatekeepers in the first place. Why this hundred-year-old history gets to be called the “traditional model” is beyond me, but now that digital technology has reconnected storytellers to their audiences, we no longer need the machinery. We can tell our stories by ourselves, thank you very much.

And believe me, Nonessential: The Expansion Paradox stands ready to tell you a story.

Seven of them, to be more accurate.

  • Adam Hunter’s wife is gone, leaving him alone with their young daughter, and all he wants in all the world is to have her back. Or is that not true at all?

  • Dr David Goddard, philosopher, lecturer, educator, is changing the world with his lecture series and his three little words.

  • The Project Leader moves in and out of the story lines as though he is… well, as though he is in charge of something, possibly something even darker, even more sinister, than you imagine.

  • The Archivist, harried and overworked, struggles only to keep track of it all, under a set of arbitrary constraints that make no sense at all.

  • There is a chronological story that weaves all of these lives together, but it’s, um, not chronological.

  • There’s “Your story – start anywhere, go wherever.”

  • And, of course, there’s always the option to “read from cover to cover, as the author intended, ignoring all notations.”

Notations? Yes. Navigational notations. Per the “Instructions for reading,” page xiii. I told you, this is not your grandmother’s self-published book. The fact is that it stands ready to tell you these stories in a visual tour de force of design and formatting that adds to the book, rather than simply piggy-backing on it. Sidebars and navigational notations and line diagrams and dates transcend mere decoration or embellishment and become fundamental parts of the book. This is not a book you will close easily.

This is not your grandmother’s self-published book.

    My advice is as follows:
    1. Buy the book.
    2. Read it. Cover to cover. Like a book.
    3. Tell everybody you know to read it.
      1. That’s what I did.

        Follow J. E. Seanachai on Twitter

        Check out her other books:

        Dead Bird in the Weeds

        Haunted Voices From my Past

      And I have two signed copies to give away!

      First copy goes to the commenter who leaves me the best reason why you should get it. Bonus points for aliens, unicorns, zombies, or other signs of an unhealthy imagination. Comments close when I say they do, so hurry.

      Second copy… Um. Stay tuned!

      14 comments to Nonessential: The Expansion Paradox – a review and a giveaway

      • When my people take over the world, it will be because of our ability to slip between. Oh, you think we’re just moving from light to dark, from one room to the next…but we are passing through the optional worlds. That’s what the arrows are for. We follow the arrows. How did you find out about the arrows?

        I need the book. I need to know what you know about the arrows.

      • Thank you so much for the beautiful review, Levi, and for sharing my work with your readers!

      • Dmytry Karpov

        This book sounds really interesting. I just looked up an excerpt, and it hooked me right away.

        Oh, and I should get the first free copy because… aliens, unicorns, zombies, and the fact that I just wrote that, which means my imagination is definitely not healthy.

      • I would like the book, it sounds like a great read, and when the zombies attack, and my unicorn can’t fly, I can throw the book at them and get away. Though the aliens may want to read it as well…………………

        • An excellent thought! This book is big enough to stop your average zombie dead in his tracks. Um, so to speak. And it’s good enough to engage all the aliens while you complete your getaway.

      • Levi,
        This is indeed one of the more articulate reviews I have read of a self-published book in a very long time. It’s much appreciated. Since the author, J. A. Seanachai, appears to have a presence here, I would suggest she get a copy of her book into the hands of Jeff VanderMeer, with the request that he consider a review of the book for Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog. Jeff has a Feedback form on his website that she can use to contact him.

        – marty

      • Okay, assuming that the comments that don’t say “Gimme a book!” aren’t entries, that leaves three. That means I get the unfun task of deciding which ONE of you doesn’t get a book.

        If you’re lurking and thinking of entering (and there’s a lot more traffic on this post than there are comments), better hurry!

      • You can add me to that “gimme a book” list. Sorry, I didn’t realize I had to specify that. Cheers.
        – marty

        • Well, you didn’t mention any zombie vampires… :)

          Okay, not sure if that makes it easier or harder, but I’ll just assume everybody was “entering” my “contest.”

      • Okay, I’m declaring this closed. Copies go to (drumroll, please!):

        Little Fluffy Cat, because she was firstest with the mostest, and Marty Halpern because– well, to be honest, because I’m doing this to plug Jill’s book, and Marty looks like a good direction to shove a book, with that goal in mind.

        Thank you all!