Simply put, Battle Without Honor or Humanity is a collection of short stories. However, they are not exactly fiction, but more akin to streams of consciousness assorted into run on sentences that form disjointed paragraphs, bound with the theme of technology holding sway over the human imagination.
The unnecessary verbosity practically dares you to declare you don’t actually understand what’s going on, and thus leave yourself vulnerable to its unspoken judgement. Indeed, the first tale involves a university professor berating a student for his lack of sophistication, and sets the scene well for a barrage of philosophical disdain to be levelled against the reader, strongly implying Wilson’s own attitude for anyone he perceives to be his intellectual inferior (which is most probably everyone).
The are some wonderfully demented ideas hiding amidst the thesaural explosion that comment on America’s political and social landscape, such as a sequel to Planet of the Apes being directed by a monkey or presidential secret service being undertaken by gun-toting steroid junkies, but the intentionally aggravating writing style more than negates any sense of satisfaction you may glean from unearthing their significance. The tales read like snapshots of human thought captured in the phase of its formation, the disassociated jumble of ephemeral fragments that make up consciousness before it’s beaten and streamlined into coherent sentences that we verbally impart to others.
Perhaps if the ideas presented were done in the form of coherent stories or even disconnected abstract they may have been more palatable, but Wilson has crafted his tales as gonzo prose for the information age, placing an idealised version of himself as observer, reporter and narrator to the abnormal proceedings. His self-aggrandised alter-ego swaggers through a surreal dreamscape with intellectual machismo, dispensing condescension and violence to unenlightened proles sleepwalking through their vapid existences who struggle to grasp his singular worldview. He comes off as the kind of social philosopher you meet at a party, the passion of whose ideas pale against his overwhelming need to establish just how much smarter he is than you, like an academic equivalent of “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”
Battle Without Honor or Humanity is a very short book, but is nevertheless incredibly frustrating to work your way through. Upon finishing it, it feels like something you’ve endured rather than read, the very act of making it to end an achievement in itself.
BATTLE WITHOUT HONOR OR HUMANITY: VOLUME 1 / AUTHOR: D HARLAN WILSON / PUBLISHER: RAW DOG SCREAMING PRESS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW