A Review of Ignorance Theory by KJ Nelson
K.J. Nelson, the talented author of Ignorance Theory, was kind enough to send this book to us herself, something we greatly appreciate. A thank you must be extended to the author herself, not only for writing this piece of fiction, but also for seeking out our opinion.
Now on to the review!
The synopsis itself was pretty interesting, and if you follow Nelson on twitter (which you can by following @ignorancetheory), you will know that Nelson is very proud of this novel. She has tweeted “No zombies. No vampires. No porn. A fresh imagination. A new evil.” And I think, for the most part, that Ignorance Theory lived up to that description. The new evil is apparently technology and the destruction that mankind has wrought upon the earth. And while I don’t think considering technology (or the cloning that it leads to) is necessarily a new evil, the way in which Nelson writes about it is. The coolest thing, for lack of better term, is that while this story can clearly relate to our world, our reality, Nelson isn’t actually writing about the world as we know it in the present. She provides both the past, present, and future of an imaginary world that could very easily be ours. It’s a bit hard to describe – almost like an alternate take on our world.
The Good: As stated above, Nelson doesn’t take the two usual approaches to writing this sort of fiction. Her story is not set years upon years into the future nor does take place in the present world of reality. Instead, she creates one giant allegorical world where all is symbolic and all is easily applied back to how we are actually living now – a very delicate concept that is done very well.
The style of writing is very different. It also seemed as though this novel, this project was a giant extension of Nelson herself – almost like her very own child. This of course may have been impressed upon me due to the fact that Nelson self-published this novel, but I feel like there’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears behind these words. She really tried to capture something artful and unique; I think she mostly succeeds, although the novel definitely needed an editor with a heavier hand. There’s also the fact that Nelson covers a wide array of ideas and concepts in this novel. Most of these are unpleasant, including a rather disturbing scene with a pregnant young girl and another rather dramatic chapter with a murdering Santa. It seems as though the messages presented through these scenes is something that Nelson truly believes in.
There’s also a certain bluntness to the writing which is different from most highly symbolic work. You don’t have to search for meaning. For example, the civilization that is so destructive to nature is called “Technology”. It’s a none too subtle nod. Normally I like subtlety. However, I found myself making connections to other things/works which the author later confirmed that she never intended. I think that this is a pretty good sign – the fact that there is still room for different interpretations even with very blatant messages being shot at you definitely shows strength of content and delivery.
The Bad: The style is different, and although I stated this as a positive, it also took me quite awhile to become accustomed to the style and formatting. The beginning itself is a bit rough to get through. I am unsure of the editing that was done for this novel, as it was self-published. As stated before, a heavier hand was needed. A lot of the first 60 pages was incredibly repetitive and needed to be cut. Of course, I understand that most of this was done to truly impress the symbolism of the words on the reader. However, not that much was needed – cutting some of the repetition actually would’ve given more weight and power to the words and symbols that Nelson was trying to impress upon us.
If you truly delight in subtlety of the author’s message while the story and characters play forefront, this is not a book for you. This novel is a statement piece through and through; the plot only moves forward as a way for Nelson to say what she needs to say. Therefore, at times when you don’t agree with the message Nelson is broadcasting, the novel can come off almost a bit preachy. Although, in all fairness, I must state that I think the preachy moments are rare; most of the time, the message is thought provoking.
Don’t read: As stated before, if you are not one for messages and symbolism, this book is not for you. If you like easy reads or character heavy novels – again, this will probably not tickle your fancy.
Read: I truly think any English major could enjoy this or, at the very least, appreciate what Nelson is doing and trying to say. For others, if you like novels that challenge you to think, to explore new areas, this is a good novel to pick up. Also, if you are looking for something new, something you’ve never read before, you should definitely give this book a try.
Written by Rachel B.
Rachel is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She recently graduated with a degree in English. Presently, she writes, reads, and then reads and writes some more, with a giant and ever-present mug of green tea in her hand. Follow Rachel @rrbindl and DNFB @not4birds