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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.