Voyage to a Phantom City
Regent Press (2016)
Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (4/18)
Christopher Bernard’s “Voyage to a Phantom City” is a story told by Asriel Hunter, who is engaged in a fantastical expedition across the Sahara Desert in the hopes to find a long-lost mythical city. The book is interesting for one particular reason: it is told in the second person. This is rare for novels, and it puts the reader in the mind of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories that were popular when I was a kid. You become the main character and thus feel present in the adventure across the desert.
The novel is paced quickly, alternating between flashbacks and the present, which is where the 2nd person point-of-view comes through. The book thus has a dream-like feeling to it. It is certainly original, however I found myself having trouble connecting with the story. The 2nd person narration was refreshing; however, I think the back-and-forth between past and present was a little too quick for me. It was a little hard to figure out at first when the past was the past and the present was the present. This certainly is not a book to bring for a lighthearted read at the park, as this is a novel that is complex and challenges the status quo. The book is most certainly also trying to reign in readers who value politics and current issues that are plaguing our world, such as climate change and oil production, which are known to butt heads, such as with the Keystone Pipeline, for example.
Bernard’s writing certainly as a beautiful quality to it, however, I’m afraid that the structure of the book might turn away readers who like fantastical adventure stories but may not like the dense structure of the writing. Sometimes it just felt like there was too much going on. The author’s innovation is clear, as is his experience. I would recommend “Voyage to a Phantom City” by Christopher Bernard to audiences looking for adventure stories, and who also like a sense of retrospect. This is a read that is both innovative and sentimental, clear and complex, and brings home the idea that it’s not where you’re going that matters, it’s how you get there.