Pan is an unusual guy, kind of like his unusual moniker. Bearing a certain kinship to the lusty, partying Pan of Greek mythology, Pan’s debauchery is tangible, as we begin our relationship with him whilst he lies in bed with an unknown lady. Yet Pan is not what he seems or who everyone believes him to be; his past lives intermingle with the present in his head, and he strives to keep his true identity secret from all around him. Off the Grid is an intriguing book, one that inspects the complexities of memory and time and the eccentricities of one man who is caught between them both.
Pan’s life is one of the virtues of the flesh: sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll as it were. Throughout his youth, he struggled with authority, with religion, and with the ideas the society attempted to jam down his throat. As he grows, he drowns his disenchantment with the world and with existence in any vice he can find, be it women or drugs. As a desolate Pan explores his memories and lives through some trying experiences, the readers come along for the ride, examining each seemingly disconnected moment that created Pan’s life as well as the turbulent future Pan is living now. While each moment is poignant with imagery and smacks of desperation, there is also a sense of rebellion against “the man” and of breaking out of the watchful eye of The Institution. Even the reader isn’t let in on the plan for Pan, and as you struggle to piece together the identity of this mysterious, neurotic, narcissistic, and possibly deranged man, the plot only grows thicker and more twisted. From murdered friends to out of control cartels, there is so much more packed into this book than most. With seemingly endless stories wrapped around a central idea, there’s something for everyone with Off the Grid.
Brian Courtney has a very descriptive and illuminating style to his writing that seems to focus on all aspects of the five senses. We get a chance to join Pan in a dimly lit, piss-smelling, and peanut-strewn bar a time or two, vast stretches of wilderness, and violent issues with abusive cops or arrogant agents of The Institution. Scenes aren’t just what Pan sees, they are what he hears, tastes, smells and touches. In creating these vivid images, the author succeeds in taking us to locations both vile and divine, resulting in a very active and emotional reading experience. You can practically taste or hear the events happening, although you may not want to.
Reading Off the Grid: Catalyst was like sleep-walking through someone else’s dreams, possibly their nightmares. It was surreal and visual, without being too wordy or muddled up about the “whys” and the “hows” of a convoluted plot. It was just a straightforward look into a strange man’s mind and dealt with issues like power struggles, violence, and authoritarian control. It was also one of the most intriguing books I have read of late. It’s incredible uniqueness stem not only from the writing style that Courtney chose to employ, but the issues it attempts to examine. I’m not sure if this will be part of a series or not, but it was certainly intriguing enough to hope for more. Catalyst is an excellent subtitle for this one, because all the events incite a violent flurry of action from Pan and from all the dangerous foes he faces. Definitely a worthwhile read for those who think differently, have an intelligent and racing mind, or just enjoy a book with amazing visuals!