Book review of Human Fish by Benjamin DeVos - By Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture

Benjamin DeVos, Human Fish (Eraserhead Press) – BOOK REVIEW #9

Benjamin DeVos is back with his book Human Fish after having impressed us in 2019 with Madness Has a Moment and Then Vanishes Before Returning Again (Dostoyevsky Wannabe). Good news: Human Fish impressed us with a stronger force, a force perceivable from the first lines of the book.

The plot, hilarious at first sight, hides a striking journey of initiation. Find the full plot at the end of this review. For now, read the review and get the book as fast as you can.

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Benjamin DeVos, Human Fish (Eraserhead Press): our review.

The universal Human Fish: a question of character

We’re all the Human Fish, or at least have been. All along its journey of initiation, this main character is endearing without even trying. His own existence suffices. Tossed from adventure to adventure – with or without his will – empathy is the prevailing feeling.

Despite his apparent naivety, the Human Fish has remarkable adaptability skills in the modern world where he evolves. Benjamin DeVos portrays a pure, wholesome, unadulterated character, and this raises the question of its own credibility. Our humble answer is: the world is in such need of tender characters that credibility isn’t an issue at all. The main character isn’t too good to be true, because he experiences the real the realest way. The realest way, global warming included.

He told her that there wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t think about his poor dead friend. He told her about the turtle’s ghost, how the other night he finally saw it.

– Excerpt from Human Fish

The Human Fish reading The Human Fish by Benjamin DeVos
The Human Fish reading Human Fish by Benjamin DeVos

Ancient philosophy and tradition in the modern times

At the end of the last paragraph, we slightly evoked the experiences of the Human Fish. These experiences raise their lot of philosophical questions. This book is not about new age ideas. This book is about the accidents of modern life and how one can act and react.

The Human Fish seems limited by his condition at the beginning of the journey, but the notions of free will and self determination appear as the character evolves. The nietzschean question “Is Man good by nature?” is also raised.

Above all, Benjamin DeVos seems to stick to the humanist side: except a few exceptions, all the characters have their share of attenuating circumstances, and their intentions are often mitigated by the context of their actions.

The Human Fish acted like everything was okay, but his mother intuition was never wrong. (…) He didn’t want to break his mother’s heart or pay the consequences for the turtle’s death.

– Excerpt from Human Fish

Benjamin DeVos' style: discussion

The sentences are short, and their pattern is quite repetitive. This pattern allows of course a powerful emotional upswing, but can be, let’s admit it, a bit tiring sometimes. The formula is right, but can be somehow overused. At least, this was our feeling and it could not be yours.  It’s a matter of taste.

The main power of DeVos’ writing style is his aptitude to place the reader in the middle of the action without ever polluting the writing space with redundant adjectives. Neverending descriptions are not in the author’s habits, and that’s something we rejoice about. Strongly. 

At the beginning of the review, we used the word endearing. The writing style is globally as endearing as the author is. We’ll interview Benjamin next week so stay with us!

Benjamin DeVos - Human Fish book on Kindle reader
A cat not reading the book. Don't follow this example.

Benjamin DeVos, Human Fish (Eraserhead Press)

Available now.

His mom is a trout and his dad’s a human. He is a half-man, half-fish creature from the sea, trying to figure out the world of man. But the answers he finds lurking in the Los Angeles underbelly only lead to more questions. On a journey to find his father after a drug deal gone bad, how far will the Human Fish go to seek out the truth of his identity?

About Benjamin DeVos

Benjamin DeVos is the author of The Bar is Low, Lord of the Game, and Madness Has a Moment and Then Vanishes Before Returning Again. He is the head editor of Apocalypse Party and lives in Philadelphia.

Visit Benjamin’s website.

Written by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture.

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