Book: The New Sense
Author: John B. Dutton
Publisher: Self Published
I was interested in the premise of this book, where one of the main characters (known througout most of the book only as “B”) has the ability to sense the world through gravity and therefore can perceive objects and events around him even when the other senses are lacking. I was also intrigued by the story’s structure, which is told entirely through a woman named Sara’s diary entries that later turn to blog posts and includes email exchanges.
A lot of the material in this book included deep-thinking theories and ideas and challenges to look at the world a new way (much like this book tackles the form of a novel in a new way). The novel’s setting takes place in 2002-2003, and it feels very much grounded in that time period with continual mentions of historical events of that time (War in Iraq, sniper shooter in D.C., shuttle explosion and so on).
The story kept me intrigued and there were enough little mysteries thrown in the mix that peaked my interest enough to keep going. The first half of the novel the most active and most engaging. However, I kept questioning whether the diary format was necessary for telling this particular story and whether there were any missed opportunities as a result from it. Because everything was told through diary/blog entries, the reader knows that the narrator is safe even when she gives accounts of potential danger. There was no immediate suspense or momentary thrill. The most exciting aspects of the book are the mysteries surrounding the “new sense” and the discovery of an underground research lab obsessed with studying B; but even these carry the suspense only so far.
Definitely a satisfying read from a philosophical and literary perspective, but where it comes to compelling story, I felt that there were some missed opportunities, especially when B, makes a sacrificial decision in order to keep Sara (his girlfriend) safe.
Additionally, considering how deep-thinking B is in this story, it becomes somewhat baffling that he would fall in love with Sara, who oftentimes appears self-centered, shallow minded, easily irritable and impatient. To be fair, there were a few moments when Sara was able to connect with B’s way of perceiving the world, but for the most part she remained an immature and close-minded character through the end.
B’s own flaw is that he approaches the world with a (faulty) sense of superiority because of his ability to perceive the world differently than most humans. He often condemns humanity for relying so heavily on sight and for studying and discovering the universe through a limited means of perception. The problem is that B’s perspective has its own limitations. It allows him to reach farther than most humans, sure, but his philosophy on the world often leads him to vague, open-ended questions without answers rather than accepting the solutions that allow humans to function in the world they live in and “see.”
I think the philosophical aspect of the book and some of the questions it poses are worth the read for those of you who enjoy a bit of cerebral literature. There’s quite a bit of stuff here that will cause you to ponder. I finished reading the book having highlighted many passages that I found either interesting or simply well written. However, I will say, that the novel will leave you off with more questions posed than answered. So beware.
I think from an experimental and discovering perspective, this novel was a nice venture, and I’m glad I dug in and stuck to the finish.