Journey to the West Valley Wall

Fiction - Science Fiction
270 Pages
Reviewed on 02/03/2019
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

M.L. Lloyd lives in British Columbia. He is currently writing three stories for publication over the next three years. The next book, The Winter Purge, will be released in 2021.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers' Favorite

Journey to the West Valley Wall by Mark L Lloyd is a science fiction story with strong psychological and spiritual underpinnings. Jack Van Horne writes science fiction, but he has a condition that has been having a devastating effect on him. It is called agoraphobia and it reinforces his depression. While Eddy, his editor, thinks that his mental illness is just a form of mental block, Jack knows he can’t dismiss it. The illness has affected the progress of his current writing very negatively. Now, charged with watching his niece for two days, Jack ventures beyond his familiar landscape on a journey to the West Valley Wall. He believes his cure or ultimate curse may lie in this journey, and what if all this isn’t real? The outcome is surprising.

The writing is gorgeous and the reader immediately feels a connection with the protagonist, thanks to the strong and expert use of the first person narrative, a voice that irresistibly draws readers into the worldview of the protagonist. The conflict is mostly internal, and it is introduced in the opening pages: “My editor and good friend Eddy thinks I’m suffering writer’s block as well, but it’s more than just that. My agoraphobia and depression have been getting worse and worse since book one.” It is interesting to navigate the mindscapes of the protagonist, to feel his mental tension, and watch him struggle in his dilemma, torn between what others think and what he firmly believes. Journey to the West Valley Wall is a powerful narrative with deep undercurrents when it comes to meaning and symbolism. While Mark L Lloyd tells the story of an author suffering from a rare mental illness, he invites readers to navigate the gray zone between reality and illusion. The characters are believable and elaborately developed and the conflict so strong that it moves the plot forward. A delightful read, indeed.

Deborah Lloyd

Jack Van Horne, a science fiction writer, has been plagued with agoraphobia for the past ten years. Jack has been unable to leave the street where his apartment is located, only venturing to the local coffee shop and his doctor. Whenever he tries to write the third book of his space fantasy series, he struggles with panic attacks. His roommate and friend Shelley provides a great deal of support to him while encouraging him to finish the book. In Journey to the West Valley Wall, written by Mark L. Lloyd, Jack’s plight reaches a climax when he is charged with watching his niece Tessa for a few days. Not only does he have to travel to get to her home, he is soon faced with an unexpected situation that forces him to act outside of his comfort zone.

This book is a compelling read for several reasons. The day-to-day consequences of Jack’s agoraphobia and anxieties are well described. Including sections of his science fiction writing adds an intriguing depth to the story. The setting of a small town in British Columbia is also interesting. The development of the main characters, Jack, Shelley, Tessa, and several other characters is fascinating, as each one grows as a result of daily and life-changing events. The author writes in a fast-paced, easy to read style, engaging the reader from the first page to the last. Author Mark L. Lloyd has crafted a wonderful novel in Journey to the West Valley Wall. It is a unique book!

K.C. Finn

Journey to the West Valley Wall is a work of dramatic and psychological fiction penned by author Mark L Lloyd. The action centers on science fiction author Jack Van Horne, who has been lucky enough to make decent money as a full time writer. This is fortunate for Jack, who suffers from extreme agoraphobia and cannot leave his house except for a few ‘safe’ places that he knows well. However, the illness has now progressed to a stage where he is also struggling to write. But life forces him to change when he is tasked with caring for his niece at the West Valley Wall, a challenge he takes on despite knowing that he might not even be able to get to her.

Author Mark L Lloyd has a superb grip on mental illness and the difficulties which it puts upon those who suffer with it. I really related to Jack’s struggles throughout the novel and the perception that some people on the outside had of him, especially in suggesting that his condition wasn’t real or serious. The harrowing emotions that he goes through even trying to do everyday things were powerfully accurate, and the journey he goes on to try to overcome his fears makes for excellent reading in itself. Then, the wider plot which over-arches the tale takes over, making for a really surprising ending that I didn’t see coming. Overall, Journey to the West Wall is a powerfully human tale but also a surprising and thrilling psychological read.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Journey to the West Valley Wall by Mark L. Lloyd is a journey through time and space. Jack is a famous, or maybe more accurately at times, “infamous” science fiction writer. Pressured by his publisher and his fans, Jack struggles to resurrect the main character from his last book. For Jack, Sage Sauer is dead. Those close to Jack believe it is merely writer’s block but for Jack it is an impenetrable void of confusion. Jack has become a shell of a man, and during the last decade he has methodically withdrawn from the world. Locked inside his anxiety, agoraphobia and depression grip him so writing is an impossible task. However, a greater task awaits him. Months ago, Jack promised his sister, Michelle, that he would house-sit and care for her daughter, Tessa, while she was away. Jack pushes himself way beyond his comfort zone to fulfill his promise to Michelle. Jack’s treacherous journey to the west valley wall of town opens a dimension to a world long forgotten.

Mark L. Lloyd’s Journey to the West Valley Wall is a disconcerting piece of fiction. Is it a dramatic action adventure or a science fiction thriller? Traveling through the mind of the main character, the reader is transported from present to future, thrust into multiple dimensions of reality while trying to make sense of the internal conflict plaguing the protagonist. Lloyd creates a story within the story, challenging his reading audience to determine what story plot is real and what is imagined. I couldn’t help but remember Rod Sterling’s opening monologue: “It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.” Journey to the West Valley Wall is as entertaining as it is perplexing; it will keep you guessing until the end.

Valerie Rouse

Journey to the West Valley Wall is an interesting story surrounding famous author Jack Van Horne. Unfortunately, Jack suffers from agoraphobia and he absolutely hates to leave his comfortable apartment. He is, however, encouraged to go on a trip to babysit his niece Tessa in West Valley. His roommate Shelly accompanies him on his journey. The change of environment serves to inspire Jack mentally and he is able to focus on Tessa for a change instead of himself. A brush fire forces Jack to ensure that Tessa is safe as she is asthmatic. This dance with danger improves Jack's writer's block and surprisingly he begins to write the sequel to his science fiction book series.

Journey to the West Valley Wall begins at a slow pace. As the action unfolds, the pace rapidly increases, catapulting the reader into the riveting plot. One feels the tumultuous emotions of the main character as well as those of the other characters. The story within the story is an effective tool utilized by the author. It serves to portray the mental anguish that writers can endure to create literary masterpieces. I loved the fact that the author chose to surround the main character with close family and friends. This can inspire persons who tend to be hermits to reach out to others for emotional support. The ending is totally unexpected. The author skillfully merges the two competing story lines, thus creating an unusual cliffhanger. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Journey to the West Valley. I encourage lovers of science fiction and action stories to indulge in this book.

Grant Leishman

In Journey to the West Valley Wall, author Mark L Lloyd has cleverly combined two stories into one novel. Jack Van Horne is a successful science fiction writer. Both his first two books based around character Sage Sauer’s space adventures have been best-sellers with both novels being made into blockbuster feature films. Despite his success, Jack is wracked with self-doubt and the crippling effects of agoraphobia and fandom pressures. He rarely leaves his apartment these days and is unable to write the much anticipated final book in the Sage Sauer series. Crippled by fear and uncertainty, Jack finally experiences an epiphany when he is forced, by circumstances, to run for his life along with his twelve-year-old niece as they try to escape a raging forest fire. We follow the trials and angst of Jack in his crawl back to something resembling normality, as well as those of his space hero Sage Sauer, as the third book begins to come together.

I thought the premise of two stories in one in Journey to the West Valley Wall was a clever technique employed by author Mark L Lloyd and he made it work extremely well. The character of Jack Van Horne was eerily identifiable by fellow authors who have all gone through those mental demons, although not as badly as Jack, usually. He was a character that evoked extreme emotion in the reader, ranging from deep sympathy and sorrow, right through to intense anger at the man’s stupidity and inability to cope at times, and yet always tempered by a feeling of sadness that - despite his clear brilliance - he must suffer so much. I particularly enjoyed the interactions between Jack and his niece. The parallel story of Sage Sauer was equally compelling, especially for science fiction fans. The journal of his adventures left the reader wanting to know more about the character and the processes by which humans had survived or modified in the world of Sauer. It left questions in readers’ minds and that’s a great thing to achieve. This is an excellent story and one I can highly recommend.

Lit Amri

“Agoraphobia; an anxiety disorder of being in places or situations that can cause a person to irrationally panic, feel trapped or helpless.” Jack Van Horne is a science fiction writer who’s struggling to bring back his famous character from the dead for his third and final book of a space saga. His agoraphobia is getting worse, which makes him more depressed as he can’t help being housebound most of the time, except for his visits to his doctor and getting his coffee at a nearby cafe. When his sister-who lives merely five minutes drive from his apartment-asked him to babysit her daughter for a couple of days, it unexpectedly becomes a monumental adventure for Jack which is going to help or worsen his mental health.

Journey to the West Valley Wall by Mark L. Lloyd is a light-hearted yet eye-opening urban drama of agoraphobia and has more suspenseful moments than I expected. As I have some hermit habits, I understand part of Jack’s need for his safety or comfort zone, which is easy to empathize with. His stay at his sister’s house is a life-changing experience that, if I might be so bold, most non-agoraphobic people take for granted. Jack’s introspection is insightful and, in its own way, substantially educational about the disorder. To a certain extent, Jack’s best friend, Shelly, is a godsend to him despite her own flaws but I’m quite fond of Jack’s 12-year-old niece, Tessa, who becomes his source of strength to get the better of his anxiety in unexpected ways. The twist in the end is brilliant and will definitely delight readers. Simply put, Lloyd’s Journey to the West Valley Wall is an excellent, rollicking read.