Every once in awhile a book comes along that shakes up the foundation of what we know to be true. Armen Melikian accomplishes just this in Epistle 1 of Journey to Virginland, the first in a three-book series. Everything we know about the evolution of religion, war, and social mores, are all up for grabs in Melikian's biting satire, as we follow a protagonist named Dog on what appears to be a nihilistic sojourn through fictional Virginland in search of enlightenment.
Armed with a mouth salivating dry wit and a head filled with knowledge only an encyclopedia would be familiar with, the narrative follows Dog from biblical and fictitious places like Satanland to Paradise as he interacts with its inhabitants; hoardes of money-hungry and thrill-seeking women, staunch religious officials, and even his own kin. As with George Orwell's “Animal Farm”, anything told from the perspective of an animal is bound to be highly tongue-in-cheek, and there is certainly no shortage of cynicism throughout.
Throughout his journey, Dog's discourse w ith Satan and others gives the reader a not-so-flattering glimpse of the relationships between people, sexes and cultures today and throughout the history of Western Civilization. There are wonderfully written, at times poetic passages along with a healthy mix of sarcasm and dry humor that keeps the reader questioning the nature of God's existence itself. Melikian does a clean and concise job of getting the reader to ponder the doctrines of religion, capitalism, and communism, while painting a slightly shrewd portrait of the role of the patriarch in foreign countries.
Admittedly, there are times when it is easy to become lost on the satire portrayed within the novel if unfamiliar with biblical references or the sociopolitical conditions of other nations, but overall the humorous yet caustic critique of human nature through the eyes of a dog is both illuminating and thought provoking. Melikian is definitely a much-needed voice in the ever-diversifying world of literature.