The Utopia Experiment - Dylan Evans

I must have liked this book because once I picked it up I couldn't put it down and read it in two days. It's a non-fiction book about a man who decides to quit his career, sell his house and set up an experiment to see if and how humans could live after a world apocalypse. 


The book is interesting as it cites a number of ideas by philosophers, writers and filmmakers who have explored these kinds of dystopian concepts, but ultimately the book is a disappointment. Dylan Evans suffers a nervous breakdown during the experiment which lands him in a mental institution - I'm not spoiling the book by the way, you learn this in the first few pages. The book feels like the experiment, it has hints of truly exciting stuff but then shuffles its way to end like a person propped up on anti-depressants. Dylan tells the story but it sounds like a hashed together university lecture, missing the passion and excitement I was hoping for in the book. 


It is interesting to note that the author's career before embarking on The Utopia Experiment was in robotics, his passion had once been to develop emotions for robots. During the experiment he literally shuts down and is unable to communicate to any of the volunteers who come to participate in the project. This is not the first time he has suffered with depression he says and it is so severe he contemplates taking his life. The only way it seems that he can survive and function in the world is to live a medicated life, and in this way he comes to resemble a kind of robot himself. 


He goes on a lot in the book about wanting The Utopia Experiment to be a secular community, the idea of any religion disagrees with him strongly, particularly by one of the more eccentric volunteers named Adam who refers to 'the great spirit' frequently. Out of all the volunteers it is Adam who Dylan is most drawn to and after he leaves his descent into depression accelerates rapidly. You have to wonder why this is - perhaps Adam is the outwardly crazy, unmedicated version of Dylan which is why he is so fascinated and repelled by him, a person who has learnt to live with his madness. 


There is one interesting part where Dylan describes looking into a stream and being hypnotically drawn to it - could this be evidence of 'the great spirit'? Again, it's another stone left unturned in the book which the medicated, society-acceptable version of Dylan files away with the folders marked 'madness'.