Tag Archives: dystopian

“An In-Between Place”: A Book Review of Shawn Smucker’s “These Nameless Things”

These Nameless Things

This is the most unique and unusual book that I have read in 2020, and perhaps in the past several years. It almost defies classification, and although I have a rather terrible memory, I know that this story is one that will remain with me, and one that I will be pondering for a long time to come. Since this is my first Shawn Smucker read, I don’t know if his other books are similar, but I intend to find out! These Nameless Things is a stunning amalgamation of allegory, dystopian, magical realism, and psychological horror. While reading, I found myself jotting down one quotation after another because the writing is so poetically profound. This is one of the few books that I plan to read again, likely more than once, and I anticipate discovering more details each time. As such, this novel would make an excellent choice for a book club or discussion group.

Smucker has taken an age-old question and written a compelling narrative around it, addressing it from the future-set prologue: “Have you ever, for a flash of time, understood the significance of being? The miracle of existing?” Perhaps the best part of the story is looking back from the last page and realizing how the many subtleties click into place. These Nameless Things brings to mind the essence of several famous stories, including Plato’s Cave and Dante’s Inferno. It has a Twilight-Zone ambiance and an intentional timelessness to it. While it has vague references to Scripture and is a clean read, I find that the story is more thematically spiritual, with overarching Christian symbolism that is for the most part subtle. By this I mean that believers will easily recognize it, and those not of the faith will most likely enjoy the story for its own sake because there is no overt proselytizing.

Along with the themes, some of the other aspects of this striking novel that appealed to me include the chapter titles and the anthropomorphism. I cannot remember the last adult fiction book I read that had chapter titles, and it was both refreshing and appreciated. It took me a while to understand what was happening in the novel, and for a while in the beginning I felt baffled, which is intentional on the author’s part and will make sense later on, and the titles helped to bring some comprehension amidst the surreal atmosphere. As an aside, the cover is beautifully done, depicting the haunting essence of the story, with the mountain looming in the background, an ominous juggernaut. These Nameless Things is ultimately a story about secrets, guilt, and forgiveness. Dan, the first-person narrator, relates that “The secrets piled up inside of me. They hibernated into cocoons, transforming into things that had lives of their own.” Later on, another character tells him that “In this place, our guilt consumes us…The only thing that can rescue anyone from this deep darkness is grace.” This is the redemptive message of These Nameless Things: hope in the power of confronting and confessing our guilt, and hope in the unmerited gift of grace.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Click HERE to buy These Nameless Things