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Released: August 2015
ISBN: 9781310417849
ASIN: B010GEJNIE
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INTO THE VOID
Author: Emma Stein
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Price: $3.99

The country of Anglina is teeming with social upheaval, and its officials have found an unlikely national hero in a philosopher and social activist named Horace. The Anglinian government has appointed the effeminate, irreverent, and stubborn scholar to undertake a journey around the world to learn the secret of other countries’ success. Unfortunately for Horace, most of the societies he visits turn out to be drastically different from what he expected, and he repeatedly sends scathing but witty reports about his travels and the people he encounters.

Horace is dedicated to serving his country and takes pride in his assignment, but as his journey progresses, he begins to suffer from isolation and repeated failures at integrating into different societies. Not only does he grapple with bureaucracy, language barriers, and foreign climates, he is also confronted with ghosts from his own past. Incarceration in one of his destinations unleashes waves of self-doubt and an identity crisis, but Horace perseveres in the name of Anglina and out of self-respect. His determination pays off: just as he has all but lost hope, Horace encounters a series of communes whose inhabitants welcome him into their ranks and open his eyes to more a liberal and egalitarian way of life.

Excerpt
Boasille

Nearing LaHague
Between Anglina and Boasille

Dear Addie,

The tradesmen who have been kind enough to take me on as a bit of useless cargo on their voyage to Boasille are docking at their first port of call tomorrow. From what I have heard, there are some rather willing prostitutes in the city of LaHague who will do anything for a bottle of our good Anglinian gin. That would explain the contents of our cargo hold to some extent, I suppose. “Give’m a swig and they’ll return the favour fives times over...or under or sideways!” is how my cultivated shipmates put it.

If they offered postal services as well, I would have no qualms pocketing a little bottle of gin from the hold and slipping it into a painted woman’s bag, but I believe the poor dears are much better at transmitting syphilis than messages. But if LaHague is as large as my illustrious companions have suggested, I assume there will be a postal service somewhere along the docks.
I am a bit reluctant to stray too far on my own, you see. I imagine the great unwashed on this ship have enjoyed pulling my leg this whole time, telling me horror stories about little “flippity-floppity fops” like myself who vanished as soon as they set foot outside the dock and shipyard area. “First their fineries evaporated into the air, then the powder in their hair. They looked like men then in the face, then disappeared without a trace.”

Aside from chanting that primitive rhyme outside my cabin door at night and otherwise taunting me, the sailors have as little to do with me as possible. At the very sight of me, they spring effeminately to the side and lift imaginary skirts like grand ladies trying to avoid a muddy puddle, and they eye my rather modest cravatte as though it could spray a gale of deadly vapours at them any minute.

Even the captain is incapable of shaking my hand in a morning greeting without checking that his gloves are snugly insulating his fingers against the contagious disease of affectation I appear to be carrying.

In me, they all see a reflection of what they most fear becoming, or perhaps a reflection of what they already are, but refuse to acknowledge. When one of the unwashed fellows let loose a remark even you would find foul and loose, I retorted that he also must at least enjoy the company of men if he chose a profession where he hardly sees a woman the whole year round. You need not see my swollen left eye to gather that remark did not go over especially well.

I know I have only been away from Anglina for ten or eleven days now, and have really nothing to say with regards to my mission from the Council. Nonetheless, I am still sending you a report, so to speak, lest I become a sloth early on in my journey and fail to shake the persona. After all, I’ve seen no shortage of well-meaning persons appointed to positions or missions, only to fall asleep at the wheel in the lap of luxury.

No, I am by no means implying the Council’s manner of governing the country has anything at all to do with my present research on alternative social models. Every member of the Council is as responsible as the next, with the exception of Horace and Addie.

Speaking of which, I am aware that you and several of the other members waged bets on whether I would abandon this task within the first week—I assume you waged against me and acted out a scene of me forcing the captain to turn the ship around with your typical drunken gusto.

I hope your bet was smaller than your disappointment.

Due to the social isolation the circumstances have forced upon me, I have had quite a bit of time to reflect upon my undertaking in the name of Anglina. The distances I am going to cover seem daunting now that I have crossed the first leagues, and they have reminded me that developments in the transportation of goods and people has lagged considerably behind developments in the production of both.

And this is the easy part of my journey . . .

What the reviewers are saying
A Snide, Cynic Abroad
Alienation. Culture shock. Cultural Reflection. These were the feelings I often took away from the novel. Throughout they intermingle and play off of one another in a way that serves to emphasize the overaching experience of finding oneself in places with different cultures, laws, beliefs, etc. The letter format drives the plot forward while facilitating these feelings of distance and loneliness. This perspective and process continued to bring me back for more. ~ Patrick Rich, Amazon

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The letter format serves the plot well
"Into the Void" is a novel filled with rich detail as it follows the protagonist, Horace, on his many travels. The letter format serves the plot well, as we, the audience, are left to sometimes ponder and think of some of the responses Horace may have had from his recipients - a nice method that encourages the reader to interact with the material. Horace's exploration of the other countries successes often uncover the unexpected, a realization that many of us may have at one point or another in our lives. It's easy to imagine ourselves in Horace's shoes on occasion (which probably look fantastic!). I think that Emma Stein has done an excellent job with "Into the Void" - it's not easy to weave criticism, humour, and un/intentional social commentary throughout a novel - Horace carries it along admirably! ~ Emily Kakouris, Amazon

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This is a book I shall read many times over ...
This is a book I shall read many times over to insure I obtain all it's intricacies. 'Into the Void' is a book I didn't want to end. The letter method of delivery is quite unique and cleverly executed. Ms. Stein exhibits a life full of varied experiences and languages. I hope this little gem has maximum exposure. It is too enjoyable to be overlooked. ~ Ann C Robertson, Amazon

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Makes you think and is very funny in places
Interesting book! Makes you think and is very funny in places. Would definitely recommend for anyone who likes travelling or has spent some time abroad. ~S123, Amazon

• • •

Horace’s correspondence home gives his insight into politics, people and places he visits while searching for ways to make his home country better. Horace finds himself an odd duck in most places he visits even finding himself in prison for a time. He does not give up on his quest and sends letters that detail what he sees, experiences and feels back to his friend Addie in Anglina from each place he visits. There is a bit of a “Gulliver’s Travels” feel to the story though I cannot put my finger on why I felt that way as I read Horace’s letters.  This was not an easy book for me to get into as it is not the type of book I usually read but there were parts that made me consider and wonder and made me cringe and often feel thankful to be who I am and have lived where I have in spite of how bad some of the times and places I have lived in have been.  If you are a person who enjoys reading correspondence about unusual imaginary places, events and peoples then this book might be worth taking a look at. ~ Cathy Geha, Goodreads

 

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