Dan Holloway writes a conundrum

Dan Holloway’s recently published novel Evie and Guy is a true oddity. The author wanted to write a novel without using those restrictive things: words. This has been done before, of course. Most recently (to my knowledge) by Sheridan Shed Simove whose What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex briefly became a bestseller in 2011. Simove’s book of 200 blank pages was a cleverish joke. And you could scribble whatever you liked on the blank pages when you got bored with it. Ultimately, however, the joke had a pretty limited shelf life and it was an expensive sort of notebook

What Dan’s done isn’t a bit like that. Evie and Guy is 120 pages long. Apart from the prelims it contains nothing but numbers. And it is not a joke.

It is almost impossible to say anything about the content of this book because of  spoilers. You may wonder how that could be possible for a book comprising only numbers but, oddly (as I’ve been wrestling with this review for a couple of weeks now) every time I write a sentence describing its content I find that what’s in that sentence is likely to impinge on your reading pleasure.

So how to review this? It being a book of numbers and yet still claiming to be a novel is, of course, noteworthy. And here we are on safe ground: it certainly is a novel. It is one which has something in common with the old ‘choose your own adventure’ novels. In this case you don’t turn to page 85 if you want Boobjob the Magnificent to slay the dragon or page 231 if you want her to sojourn in yonder tavern. The author invites you to impose your own experiences – and you have those on too many levels for me even to contemplate listing here – on the numbers he has provided and create something completely new as a result. Indeed, it should be possible to return to the book time after time, with a slightly different mindset, and find new stories among the numbers in it.

Do investigate Evie and Guy for yourself. It gives more free rein to the imagination of the reader than I have ever encountered before. And it demands the reader bring more of him/herself to it than any book I’ve previously come across. The only boundaries to one’s imagination are the numbers on the pages. And, conversely, the freedom to choose one’s own narrative is entirely dependent on those same numbers. It may be the first book ever to do this. There is a clever philosophical concept which underlies this premise, which I don’t pretend to understand – but I do understand the power that Dan Holloway has given to his readers with this book. You could, indeed, use it to generate other works of fiction. It is both completely satisfying as a novel and totally frustrating. It demands that you trust-fall into it. Otherwise all those numbers become just spiky little marks on the page. Embrace it and you can lose yourself in it for hours.

Dan has posted an explanation of the project on the ‘Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?’ website. Do not read this article before reading the book. It’s called ‘How do you write a novel without using words?’ Here’s a link to it: http://authorselectric.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/how-do-you-write-novel-without-using.html.

And this is what Dan says about how to get hold of a copy of Evie and Guy:

“This pdf  is provided free of charge. Please feel free to share it at will provided you also do so for free and you keep all the credits intact. It is free because I believe culture should be as widely available as possible. If you enjoy this work, or think it important that I carry on working on projects like this, please donate whatever you can afford/feel is appropriate by Paypal to songsfromtheothersideofthewall@googlemail.com. Or, from April 12th, buy the paperback, details of which are at http://danholloway.wordpress.com.”



Published by Judi Moore

Hi there, I hope you find something to interest you here. In December 2017 I published my fourth book – ‘Wonders will never cease’. It’s a satirical campus novel set in the fictional Ariel University in 1985. If you enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse novels, Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’, David Lodge’s campus novels or Malcolm Bradbury’s ‘The History Man’ back in the day, you may enjoy revisiting the ivory towers of 1980s’ academe thirty years on. See what you think. “It is December, 1985. The year is winding gently towards its close until Fergus Girvan, a Classicist at Ariel University, finds his research has been stolen by the man who is also seeking to steal his daughter. But which man is, actually, the more unscrupulous of the two? And is there hope for either of them?” In the autumn of 2015 I published a volume of short fiction: 'Ice Cold Passion and other stories'. I am also the author of novella 'Little Mouse', a shortish piece of historical fiction which I published in 2014 and, a sequel to it, 'Is death really necessary?', my eco thriller set in the near future and which, confusingly, I published in 2009. All the books are available from all good online bookshops and FeedARead on paper, and as e-books on Kindle. On a semi-regular basis, and about a month after the event, I post here reviews which I do for Big Al & Pals, the premier reviewer of indie books, based in the States. My interests tend to thrillers, SF, magic realism and other quirky stuff. On this blog are also posted the reviews I did for Leighton Buzzard Music Club over some five years up to the end of 2015. LBMC present annual seasons of eight monthly chamber music concerts at the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, Bucks. They select young musicians just beginning to make their name - and the concerts are usually magnificent. I was very proud to be associated with them. I review other music, books, theatre and exhibitions which I've particularly enjoyed. BTW - it says the link to Facebook is broken. I dispute that. Click it and see, why not?

3 thoughts on “Dan Holloway writes a conundrum

    1. I think one of the reasons is that as soon as I’m given words to play with I ramble ad infinitum. (there are links on my website to some very lengthy interviews about what i was aiming to do and how I did it). There is an explanatory note in the preface, but I know Judi thinks the book works better if you don’t read that until after the book.
      Judi, thank you for such a thoughtful, insightful review and for paying the ultimate compliment of taking what I was doing seriously


  1. If you go to Dan’s website you can download a pdf. See what you think. I really daren’t say anything more about the approach because it does cause spoilers. You need to discover what it is for yourself, otherwise it loses its oomph.


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