Review: Lost Everything
Lost Everything Review
By Brian Francis Slattery
In premise and setting, Brian Francis Slattery’s gorgeously written apocalyptic science fiction novel Lost Everything, appears to share much of the same DNA as Cormac McCarthy’s bleak, minimalist novel, The Road. Both novels take place in a version of the United States where the land and the people have been transformed by some cataclysmic occurrence and both novels deal extensively with a father’s love for his son. It is in the execution however, that Lost Everything separates itself. Told with vivid imagery and flourishing language, Lost Everything follows Sunny Jim’s attempts to find his son before a rumored biblical storm arrives to wash everything anew. Accompanied by his friend Reverend Bauxite, the two men set sail aboard The Carthage, a riverboat packed with survivors and refugees, up north to where Sunny Jim’s sister lives and where his son has been staying. As The Carthage reaches further and further up North, the towns and cities they pass show signs of increasing desperation. Images of war, death, flooding and atrophy haunting every sight they see. Increasingly, it becomes apparent to Sunny Jim, Reverend Bauxite and the other refugees aboard The Carthage that the end might truly be in sight.
Despite its bleak premise however, Lost Everything bursts at every word and every punctuation mark with triumphant signs of life. There are no one-dimensional characters in Lost Everything, no characters who exist solely to move the plot along. Each of the many, many characters introduced- some for only a scene or two, some for longer- are given rich back-stories explaining not only their motivations but their souls. There are no true villains in Slattery’s universe, only flawed and hurt people who somewhere along the way have made compromising decisions. The priests, captains, soldiers, con men, musicians, murderers and heart breakers who reside aboard the Carthage are all presented as real people with equally legitimate but conflicting desires and needs. Despite all the death and destruction and mayhem presented in Lost Everything, the work is utterly humane.
As the novel builds to both its climax and thesis in its final pages, every revelatory sentence feels earned and every moment well worked towards. What might feel like mawkish sentimentality at the hands of a weaker writer feels genuine and profound coming from Slattery’s pen. Whereas The Road, though excellent, was bogged down by the sheer weight of its bleak world view and nihilistic undertones, Lost Everything improves the formula by reinventing it with a refreshingly optimistic take on the post-apocalyptic road novel. Winning and unique, Slattery succeeds largely because he never forgets that his characters have lost everything but their humanity.
By Chris Vanjonack
Brian Francis Slattery has written three science fiction novels- Spaceman Blues: A Love Story, Liberation and Lost Everything. He is an editor at the New Haven Review and lives in Connecticut with his family.