Erin is a fast-paced novella written by psychonaut and editor, Robert Dickins. It follows protagonist Lije Baillie on an excursion to the Solpsycle festival with his friends, a cocktail of psychedelics, and some excess emotional baggage. Clinging to a warping, increasingly anarchic environment, he feels a darkness surging up within. It is something he isn’t admitting to himself: something only Erin can lead him to.
This book is a vibrant journey. It is a short read, but deceptively deep: something I didn’t fully appreciate until the very end when it left me contemplating. Dickins does a fantastic job of putting the reader right at the centre of the action, and I love his portrayal of a landscape I recognise:
“Grotesque, post-hippy caricatures are enticing me into their booths, trying to sell me sprawling colourful hats and baggy shawls, scratchy bags and day glo sticks. They want me to vanish as well; vanish into a cloudy, indistinguishable mass. But it’s impossible. I am lost and this is who I am…”
There are some laughs, some reflective chill-out moments, and some chaos. But Erin is more than that: it is an experiment in altered consciousness, not only for Lije but for the reader, too. There is a distinct impression that we are caught up in a trip: the gaps in Lije’s experience, a general confusion about the passage of time, and abstract sensory rhythms…
“beat, beat, boom”
…all contribute to this. We are never quite sure how much of the story is happening in reality and how much is his enhanced perception.
One of the themes I took away from the book was the festival as a psychedelic playground. This is a world where participants are free to do as they please, leaving their everyday lives behind for a weekend to chase the taboo of enlightenment or insanity. They can explore themselves and one another, but most of all they can explore boundaries. Is that huge fence keeping them contained for ticket control, safety, or to stop them contaminating the ‘real’ world? It is like a gateway between mental realms. For a while the relationship between the staff and the punters, both of whom are in temporary roles for the duration of the festival, feels like a bizarre experiment in social psychology.
The biggest enigma of all, though, is Erin herself. She raises so many questions! Is she a friend in flesh and blood, a spirit guide, an anima, a deification of a drug like Lady Ayahuasca? Or maybe she is a kaleidoscope encompassing all of these. Because, for me at least, when it comes to the mind and emotions, the means aren’t nearly so important as the healing itself. The map we use to find ourselves is not the territory.
“Trust me, my self is many people.”
However you choose to interpret the metaphor, the experience, and the ending, Erin is not a book you will easily forget.
Erin is available to buy as a paperback here.
Or if you prefer e-book, its here.
Thank you to Psychedelic Press for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.