Letters to Evelyn

John Selman

Publisher: John Selman Pages: 261 Price: (hardcover) $19.00 ISBN: 9781737095231 Reviewed: July, 2024

Letters to Evelyn is an unsettling blend of supposed memoir and science fiction about a man’s struggles in the military and in love before he encounters an alien civilization.

The book’s first sections, prefaced by a poem and letter to an unrequited love named Evelyn, purport to describe the life of John Jackson Selman III. Selman wants to become a fighter pilot, like his father, although his efforts are hobbled by his stepmother’s attempts to kill him.

Once in the military, John hallucinates for months due to narcotics slipped into his food. The story relates a speech to his shipmates and a lengthy conversation with his captain occurring in July 2000, in which Selman predicts the fall of the Twin Towers and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, envisions a woman named Evelyn Tuskegee, and allows the captain to drink his blood. While Selman fails to pass flight school and struggles in the Navy, others question if he’s Jesus. After an unrequited attachment to a woman named Maria, Selman develops a similar fixation on Evelyn, a teaching assistant at a school he attends for an engineering degree.

Eventually, the two fall in love and marry. At their Maine home, they encounter an alien civilization and travel the Intergalactic Space Highway, where they visit another planet and listen to a long, ranting speech from Selman’s former colleague while their spaceship is trapped in a dinosaur’s vagina.

The book is wildly imaginative. However, the style is turgid and the diatribes grow wearisome as Selman lectures other characters on moral behavior, ending racism, and loving one’s fellow man. Even the scenes with realistic settings are full of perplexing events, as when Selman hallucinates a black cloth covering his face while flying a helicopter in flight school, a struggle his instructor apparently never notices. Once the narrative introduces extraterrestrials, coherency drops altogether.

Overall, this strange mashup of genres with a hero who exhibits symptoms of psychotic disorder and a narrative eschewing conventional qualities, like plot or point, is an extremely challenging read.

Also available in paperback and ebook.

Author's Current Residence
Brunswick, Maine