A true departure from the norm, Armen Melikian’s Expraedium defies both expectations and linguistic conventions in its innovative approach to the epic quest trope within the fantasy adventure genre. Indeed, Melikian’s use of a bespoke combination of political, philosophical, religious, and mythological concepts, as well as his application of a new approach to/interpretation of the English language, renders Expraedium a unique reading experience.
On one level, the book follows the alienated and perhaps nihilistic Brathki as he undergoes a kind of existential crisis and embarks on a quest to secure the success of Ubaratutu in an ongoing war. Or, perhaps, to discover the truth about Ubaratutu and the intentions of its sprawling bureaucracy. Or, maybe, to reveal some matter of intense religious significance. Then again, perhaps the purpose of Brathki’s quest is something entirely different. Or, perhaps, it doesn’t even matter in the slightest.
The latter option seems the nearest to the truth, as it appears Melikian’s goal is to eschew the constraints of a plot and instead strive to unravel the subtext’s subtext, to dive beyond the meanings of words and into the words themselves, to maybe even reveal the man behind the curtain. In this sense, Brathki is Odysseus and his odyssey is a journey toward understanding the answers to questions his mind cannot yet begin to form.
Given the likely deliberate impossibility of deciphering what is going on throughout much of Expraedium, the suggestion of Brathki’s quest as a hybrid literary/mythological journey is apt. That is, the book should not be read in the expectation of following a plot through to a satisfying conclusion; rather, it should be read for the pure purpose of reading, for the joy of following the sentences as they unravel without any expectation of arriving at a final denouement.
Of course, Melikian’s unique approach in this regard means that Expraedium will not appeal to all readers. It requires a slow and close reading to even come close to understanding what Melikian is striving for. And even then, there’s a very high likelihood of misunderstanding, misinterpreting, or even just generally missing the point. For every reader who perceives a modification of Joyce’s dense stream of consciousness style or Robbins’ seriocomedic portray of the transmundane, there will be another reader who perceives word soup.
While it’s certainly not an easy book, Expraedium can be a hugely rewarding read, albeit one for which the reward differs on a reader-by-reader basis. For those looking for something challenging and thought-provoking with hints toward significant action and a mighty payoff, it may well prove a good choice.
|Publisher||Erzenka Publishing House|
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