I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.HAPPINESS IS A COMMODITY by The Behrg
Published by Pricks Like Thorn Media on November 28, 2016
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Dark Fiction, Dystopian, Fiction, Horror, Psychological Horror
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In the future, Happiness can no longer be achieved through natural means, but must be purchased from the government for brief 20-minute increments.
And the price is going up.
One man documents his experience as he uncovers a conspiracy by the governing elite. Those who are ALWAYS happy. But he will soon discover that the cost of real Happiness may be far worse than living perpetually in the dark.
Told through blog-post entries, this non-traditional novella explores a world where darkness and misery are the norm. An allegory for living with depression, this story will open your eyes to the millions lost in darkness around you, and may prepare you for a future that is all too likely to come.
HAPPINESS IS A COMMODITY, by The Behrg, is what I found to be a profoundly deep, original, way of thinking about the condition of depression. He has a writing style that I find unique in just about everything I’ve read by him. The Behrg’s short tale “The Girl Who Couldn’t Come Up With An Original Title”, also dealt with depression–or a lack of “happiness” as a theme, but this story comes at it from another angle altogether.
In a society where people are no longer able to feel “Happiness” without a government-issued “punch” ticket–where they are able to get a puncture through the arm that triggers the emotion of Happiness for a twenty-minute interval–the people are more of robotic shells.
The exception, of course, being the government elite.
A man named Jerry Atkins types a “blog” of sorts, entitled “The modern ramblings of a “Jerry-atric”, in which he ruminates on the state of the world–for everyday workers, such as himself, in the aftermath of the new “lack of” natural emotions. Right from the start, you realize that this isn’t written like any old book. The creativity of this approach really worked for me, and made me feel as though I were a part of the society Jerry is detailing. His feelings come through with such raw emotion, it really seemed more like being privy to someone’s innermost thoughts, than of reading a novel.
In one account, our narrator states: “. . . It’s insane that a little flip of the switch upstairs prevents us from not only being able to feel, but being able to care . . . to recognize that something living requires attention on our part in order to remain in that state . . . “
Through these entries, the world as we know it begins to take on new dimensions. Things that we take for granted every day no longer exist. As Jerry muses about his very reason for being, he begins to question the society that he now belongs to.
“What if happiness is more than what society wills it to be? . . . a cage, one we willingly crawl into . . . What if we are our own captors?”
This round-about approach to depression–theoretically through the lack of being able to attain “Happiness“–got my mind wondering just what it is that makes us truly happy. Is the absence of this what causes depression, or is it something more intangible, something mere words and possessions are only on the fringe of?
For Jerry: “. . . I only exist; there is no feel.”
Whereas the small elite stand on another level of consciousness altogether.
“. . . They feed off our misery. Our empty lives are what fill them with joy.”
In an afterward by the author, he comments so unabashedly about the concept of depression, and how it can effect everyone around you. Each gesture or word from another has the power to ease its pain, or enlarge it. He questions what “happiness” means to each of us, or what we feel it should mean. Tackling a sensitive subject such as this in the form of this one individual’s blog entries enables these thoughts to worm their way into your head before you even notice they’re there.
Which is precisely what is meant to happen.
“. . . Only when you reach The End can you contemplate what comes after . . . If we but turn away from the pasts we have chained ourselves to.”
Another astonishing genre-breaking novel from an author that is consistently blending his stories into multiple areas of classification. I enjoy being challenged to think “outside the box”, and The Behrg excels at writing tales that push you to do just that–all within a fun and different framework.
One of my favorite comments that Jerry Atkins left his readers to think about was: “. . . No one ever chooses gray as their favorite color.”
A simple statement, that somehow speaks volumes about the message in this book.
What is “Happiness” to you? What lengths would you be willing to go to find and capture it?