Travis Mohrman has written a novel in two parts in the oral tradition of Mark Twain.  The internal voice follows the cadence of speech used in telling tales around a campfire. Breaks in narration are solid and you can almost hear children saying, “No, tell us more! Pleeeeez?”

17231392The author describes life, both literally and figuratively, living on the edge of an ancient civilization, ravaged by some undefined apocalypse.   Tiny enclaves struggle to survive in a world still tainted by man’s fatal indiscretion.  This is the story of one man’s journey of discovery.

Three themes emerge in Down The Path and Further Down the Path.  There is an initial examination of self-reliance and cooperation.  It is necessary for Cooper to traverse the country relying solely on his ability to compete with nature.  Upon his arrival at the village, he sees how cooperation among a community’s members leads to something more important than survival alone.

His own people destroyed their own autonomy by making everything a communal mandate.  People were required to fish or grow crops for the use of everyone with little sense of satisfaction or reward.  Children were raised separate from their families instilling no sense of the kinship that leads toward a larger sense of belonging.  They had become a group of individuals doing just enough to benefit from the efforts of others.

17730690A second, related, theme is the destructive nature of living in an urbanized environment.  Cooper’s people had enclosed themselves in boxes, isolating themselves and poisoning themselves through mankind’s earlier misdeeds.  Although unaware of the dangers, they were hastening their own demise.

The village is seen as an open, organic space.   As a community, they build houses and maintain the village.  Families raise their own vegetables and their own children.  Individuals choose their own vocation as their investment in society.

Finally, we see the peril of technology.   Technology destroyed the environment hundreds of years earlier.  Mankind is only beginning to recover from the blow.  Cooper’s home, while a completely urbanized society, displays no level of technological development.   Meanwhile, the village has mastered many aspects of technology and is developing more for the benefit of the community.   The people of the village view technology as a tool to better their circumstances, not as a lever for greater power, nor as a safety net to protect against failure.

The discovery of the mysterious bunker highlights the question of technology.  Cooper is enamored of everything he sees.  He accepts the benefits of the bunker without questioning its provenance.  Handro questions everything about the place.  Who gains from their presence and what this benevolence will cost.  While he and Cooper share a desire for all good things, he wants to know where they come from and why.

My one difficulty is the lack of human conflict.  Mankind has managed to blow itself up once, or we wouldn’t be here.  In the second book we see that not all mankind has gained insight from the initial catastrophe.  Humans by nature are self-serving.  Strong personalities will always struggle to have their ideas voiced and adopted.  Not all confrontation can be avoided by retreating into the forest.

Those who are suspicious of their own are more suspicious of outsiders and will maintain and protect their power.  There is sufficient chance that confrontation will arise during Cooper’s multiple trips to and from the village.  The opportunity for friction also exists between Handro and Cooper as they wait out winter near the mysterious bunker.

Opportunities exist within village life for disagreement and dissension.  Even in as bucolic a setting as the village, nothing is ever so simple as one person saying this is the right thing to do, and having all who oppose simply lay down their objections and go along.  People disagree.  Shouting is sometimes involved.  Hard decisions frequently make for strong opinions, whether its agreeing now is the time for Cooper to return and rescue his community, or the time for others to mount a rescue in the midst of one of the harshest winters to be remembered.

Down the Path and Further Down the Path are  fine efforts.  I look forward to hearing more of Handro, and also more about the mysterious bunker.