Michael J. Seidlinger doesn’t need to sell me on a new book. Ever since In Great Company, one of the most fascinating, richly-written journeys into the chaotic world of social networking I’ve ever read, all a writer like Seidlinger needs to do is tell me he’s got a new book coming out. I don’t even need to know the plot right away. I just have faith in the idea that whatever it is, it’s going to be a hell of a ride. I trust that I’m going to leave his words feeling just a little more ill-at-ease about the world around me than I did at the start.
The Amazon.com “About The Author” section for Seidlinger latest troubling masterpiece, The Sky Conducting, describes the author as a man “consumed by language.” Whoever came up with that, even if it’s Seidlinger himself, obviously knows what they’re talking about. “Consumed” might not even be a strong enough word. The Sky Conducting is a man not only consumed by words, but also perhaps obsessed by them. It’s not just the words themselves though. It’s what he can do with those words in terms of style and structure. Telling a story and telling a good one is clearly very important to Seidlinger. As with In Great Company it doesn’t just end there however. There is so much going on here that it can be easy to simply label The Sky Conducting as a surreal, nightmarish and incredibly intuitive post-apocalyptic fable. This is easy to do, but it shouldn’t end there. Most likely your own opinions at the end of the book will be much further-reaching than that.
At its heart though, The Sky Conducting is indeed a post-apocalyptic story. There’s a phrase you might notice on the back of the book, America died while no one was looking, and that’s a perfect, grim way to get us started. Seidlinger doesn’t construct some future that’s fantastic in scope and impractical to imagine. His future is of the not-impossibly-so variety. This is the kind of future that troubles us almost immediately by suggesting that it could be nearer than we might think. The possibly doomed spirits of The Sky Conducting are in the midst of a massive exodus from the lives they knew, to the lives they hope to find. Amidst the rubble of nearly everything they once held dear and took for granted. This is a story that’s been explored before, but in the hands of someone like Michael J. Seidlinger, everything old feels new again. The prose of The Sky Conducting is sparse, sometimes disjointed and always frightening us with the notion that we are being pulled into territory we’ve never visited before. We are indeed being drawn into unfamiliar territory, and it’s easy to be completely seduced by his unforgiving vision of what may or may not actually happen. Easy enough that the book can fly right past you at a truly impressive pace.
The Sky Conducting is not a traditional horror story, but it can hit you as hard as the best of that genre. Seidlinger has a uniquely distinct idea a dystopian future. This idea in any form would be worth any attention it might get. The idea in the particular form used here makes it remarkable in every possible way. Just remember that if you weren’t worried about the future before The Sky Conducting, you may be as you hear the echoes of the book’s unforgettable ending ring in your mind again and again. It stays with you for a truly disconcerting period of time. Much everything like everything else in this story.
Michael Seidlinger, The Sky Conducting: A+