Benjamin Franklin famously wrote that, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except for death and taxes.”
Franklin was wrong. When it comes to books by Joss Sheldon, many things can be said to be certain. You can be certain that Sheldon will include the sort of risqué content which mainstream authors wouldn’t dare to touch. You can be sure of an emotional roller-coaster; full of ups and downs, twists and turns. And you can be sure of a unique, un-pigeon-hole-able read; a novel like no other book you have ever read before.
Occasionally there are deaths and taxes too. Although that’s not the case in “The Little Voice”; Joss Sheldon’s latest novel, which is out this week.
The Little Voice tells the story of Yew Shodkin. He’s a normal sort of kid, with a natural proclivity for mischief. We’re not talking about major mischief here, just the sort of things which most children do from time to time. Things like running around, shouting out, and picking bogies from their noses.
Yew’s mischief gets him into trouble. When he continues to misbehave, encouraged on by a small red
creature who lives inside his brain, Yew gets into even more trouble. The punishments come thick and fast, until Yew is finally broken. He becomes the person his society wants him to be. But, in doing so, denies his own true self.
This is the crux of The Little Voice. At its heart, it is a tale about wanting to be yourself whilst living in a society which wants you to be someone else. That, I feel, is something we can all relate to.
The Little Voice is highly psychological. It doesn’t try to deny that. Sheldon, in fact, actually introduces a number of psychological concepts to the reader, to help them understand the narrative. He writes about experiments which are, in themselves, highly entertaining. They’re little anecdotes which offer insight into a hidden corner of the human psyche.
The Little Voice is radical. It questions the very things which we’re supposed to love; things like law and order, hard work and education. It swipes away at the authority figures we’re supposed to respect; our parents, teachers and bosses.
And, you feel, it’s personal. It’s written like an autobiography.
Okay, it’s styled as the memoirs of a fictitious character – Yew Shodkin. But you feel that Yew is fictitious manifestation of the author himself. Sheldon, on his own website, calls himself a “Scruffy nomad, unshaven layabout, and good for nothing hobo”. He dropped out of mainstream employment and ran away to India, when he decided to become an author. And, in an interview with AXS, he said that he has “Spoken up, spoken out, and been totally ignored. I’ve been arrested. And then I’ve been through periods, years even, where I’ve not done anything; feeling apathetic; feeling like nothing I could do or say would make a difference.”
It all sounds very much like Yew Shodkin himself!
You can tell the message is personal. It affects you when you read The Little Voice. You, the reader, put yourself in Yew’s shoes. You walk in his footsteps. You feel his joy and despair.
It’s because of this that Sheldon’s latest work can be called “psychological”. It’s certainly no psychological thriller, in the traditional sense. But then again, there’s nothing “traditional” about Sheldon. He’s a nonconformist; a free-spirit in a shackled world. That’s what makes him special.
The Little Voice is short and easy to read. Yet it still won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Like his other books, ‘Involution and Evolution’ and ‘Occupied’, Sheldon’s writing cuts deep. At time, it will make you feel uncomfortable. It’s certainly not “pop-lit”. But it is magnificent. It is a compelling rhapsody of rhyme and reason.
Franklin was wrong. When Sheldon writes a novel, you can be certain it will be one of a kind. And, true to form, The Little Voice is just that.
The Little Voice is out now. Visit its Amazon page here.