Sea Above, Sun Below is George Salis’ spectacular debut novel that takes a striking existential approach to combining faith, obsession, the razor-thin line between (and permanence of) life and death, and a dreamlike narrative to present the story of a group of young skydivers and their cult-like coterie of followers as they try to decode what this experience of living is all about. What truly makes this piece such a triumph is Salis’ dedication to telling the story through a series of vignettes that uses postmodern prose tricks, narrating through the kaleidoscopic embodiment of classic mythology, biblical allusion, and stream-of-consciousness dream sequences. The result is a beautiful and perplexing quilt of a book that on the micro-level can be digested in gorgeous geometric patterns that fly at the audience like a phoenix burning through the atmosphere at terminal velocity, but at the macro-level builds a patterned wonder of a tale that Salis brilliantly constructed to present the characters and vignettes together with the complexity of constructing a jigsaw puzzle out of the random, seemingly unrelated pieces of parachute found in the bottom of a bin of rejects. There is a lot going on – but by the end everything that seems so disparate fits so perfectly that the lives of our characters and their thematic relationships, not to mention the allusions throughout that Salis seems to effortlessly incorporate, create an amazing story about the baffling nature of existence itself into a melange just as bafflingly convincing.
This book is similar to much of Salis’ previously published work that is widely available online. He has a knack for presenting somewhat pedestrian lives that take on a scale that leaves existence itself – the universe and gods at times – in the balance while executing exciting prose that combines postmodern techniques with beautifully neoclassicist heft. The result is a style that is completely unique and sets him apart from his peers. The simple fact is, reading Salis is an incomparable experience.
One final note, Sea Above, Sun Below was released by River Boat Books, a fascinating new imprint dedicated to taking down Amazon and the big retailers by deconstructing the industry from the inside out – and they achieve this by printing writers that are similarly rebellious in their work. I purchased my copy directly from the publisher and am excited to continue reading their releases in the future. It hearkens back to the days when, say, a record label’s releases carried a certain level of credibility in the tastes and habits of their audience. The independent spirit of the publisher along with the momentum of Salis (and his peers’) work made reading this book an incredible experience to be a part of the new vanguard of talented, bizarre, rebellious, and deconstructive writers on the horizon. Supporting this publisher meant supporting more great work like this, and I look forward to many more great experiences such as this.
Photo by Jef132, Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-sa 3.0.