Ether by Ben Ehrenreich

Mike’s review

Might as well start this one out with the plot summary: A man (who the book calls the stranger, but all of the book’s characters could pretty rightly be called the stranger) may or may not have used to have been a very powerful man in something of a dystopian (or, maybe then, it was not dys- but u-) future. And now he walks around for a while and meets other down on their luck sorts. Except this whole thing takes place inside the narrator’s dreamworld (all books, obviously do, but this one calls attention to that fact). The stranger comes into the narrator’s “real” world and visits a few times. The jacket says the stranger wants to know what’s going to happen to him, but little is ever actually discussed in these scenes (or, for that matter, ever). Nothing much really happens. I mean, the whole world may burn down, but it’s not that big of a deal.

I really wanted the dystopianness to be the stranger’s fault. Like he used to be so powerful that he could bring the whole world crashing down, but this was never explored.

Also never explored: why the narrator feels the need to create this world, to deal with his problems (whatever those may be beyond not sleeping too well and being less than thrilled with his wife (though he never calls the woman who snores next to him his wife, I’ll run with the term)), by creating these characters. Why, in general?

Strange that the jacket proper noun capitalizes The Stranger, but the internal text does not. I feel like the book would have been a solid 10% better had The Stranger been capitalized throughout as it would have made that which was tame more foreboding.


I want to be angry at the suddenly lesbian because of a harrowing experience (this is happening, apparently, with the car up on the sidewalk), but a sentence like, “They told each other jokes composed entirely of kisses that tickled them more than any joke they’d heard before,” makes it tough.

But then again. The first time I read that sentence, I was like, whoa. Then I re-read to write it out and I was like, is this the same sentence that just floored me? And now, typing it, I rolled my eyes at myself. So. I had this thought, but didn’t write it down because I decided it’d be hard to articulate, but bear with me here. Okay?

There’s something so easy about making points in language like this. Ehrenreich barely stitches together coherent thoughts for the most part. It isn’t stream of consciousness, but it is kinda cloudy, a little wispy and tenuous. Here’s where the point is hard to make. I’d have to re-type out at least a page to give you the jist of what I mean. And I’m not going to do that. Because even then, you agree with me or you disagree and there’s not much I can do in terms of persuasion.

Now. Couched within these clouds are points about consumerism, loneliness, modern life. If I typed them here, you’d be like, so what? big deal, what’s your point? But, because they come in the spaces between these soft clouds of thought, they seem so striking, borderline revolutionary. Is that fair? I don’t know.

It’s like a lightsource in the distance when it’s pitchblack at night. Of course it’s going to stand out.

This may be why the joke-kisses line hit me so hard the first time, but quickly lost its effect.


If all these disparate characters come back, no way will I remember any of them. If they don’t come back, why are they here?

Mostly this ended up being untrue. I remembered them all, with the exception of a few of the gang the reverend and bagman accumulate for like a page, which, seriously, why were they there?


That pretty much sums up my feelings in general: Why were they there?


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