Edge of Civilization by Jennifer Ott: Book Review and Author Interview

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***If after reading this review you’d like to read this book for yourself (and I highly recommend that you do), you can get the Kindle version for FREE through Monday in honor of Memorial Day!

Edge of CivilizationsmAt its most basic, Edge of Civilization is the story of a man trying to find his way home from the edge of civilization – twice. Earl Hollsopple is a “lost” Vietnam veteran who sets out to find his way home, forty years after his first expedition. His modern-day journey parallels his repressed wartime odyssey in unexpected ways.

As Earl heads towards home (wherever that may be) after leaving the abandoned silver mine he called home for forty years following the war, flashback scenes from 1970-71 show the similarities between his two journeys every step of the way. Ott handles these flashbacks marvelously, not losing the reader along the way (as some authors do) as she alternates between the past and the present.

Earl has the soul of an artist; he is never without his journal, either in the past or the present, and he stops to write his thoughts and observations in prose whenever inspiration strikes him (which is frequently).

He also has a talent for meeting exceptionally interesting people – Ned the alien hunter; Fu-Han, the young Chinese boy who provides Earl with food and shelter; a legion of vagabond derelict knights and their king; a gang of leprous beggars who unknowingly provide Earl with the means to escape China; and – most importantly – two beautiful young women who enter his life forty years apart, but who have a profound effect on him and his journey.

Some of these people help Earl; others he is able to help, or even redirect into helping others. Although many of the people Earl encounters treat him badly, believing him to be a mentally ill homeless man, Earl never seems to lose his faith in humanity. As I read this book, I was enjoying the story but knew that this was the type of book in which the ending would make it or break it. In this case, thankfully, the ending made it.

Jennifer Ott has a way with words and weaves them into a captivating story. While there are some minor editorial issues (typos, small grammatical errors, missing words), Ott’s writing and storytelling are both very high quality, and the reader will be drawn into Earl’s world. You’ll find yourself caring for this kind and gentle man on his quest to find what so many of us take for granted, and hoping that he succeeds in finding his way home. This is a short book at only 177 pages, but it holds great depth and knowledge of the human condition within.


What is the future of men who have lost sight of the past?

Earl Hollsopple lived on the edge of civilization in a deserted shack for nearly forty years. His life was one beautiful night of stargazing after another, until a helicopter flies overhead, flashing its searchlights and exposing his meager world. It is a sign; it is time for him to return to civilization. Gathering all his belongings, Earl heads forth and encounters a world he had all but forgotten.

Unknowingly, Earl’s journey parallels another he had deeply repressed, and that is his return from the Vietnam War. The lone survivor of a plane crash, Earl waits for rescue that never comes. He is left to find his way home alone.

On his quests, old Earl and young Earl learn lessons of survival, overcoming isolation and handling conflicts; his travels teach him not just about himself, but humankind. Reaching pivotal points in both journeys, Earl meets fateful loves, leading to destinies that are ultimately intertwined.

Everything in life circles until we are able to answer the riddles that plague man and humanity. Only until we take the journey, solve the problems of our own existence, do we find our way home.



Bio PicsmInspiration comes from watching way too much Monty Python. The abstract and the absurd way of looking at normal life, not only offers humor, but questions many problems in society in a light-hearted manner. If we can laugh at ourselves, if we can laugh at life, problems do not seem quite so difficult to tackle. In fact, problems are not as complicated as they seem; everything is very simple. If you can laugh at it, write about it and read about it, most likely one would think about it.

Author Jennifer Ott has written several satire fiction, Wild Horses, The Tourist and two non-fiction books Love and Handicapping and Ooh Baby Compound Me! She recently published, Serenidipidus and Edge of Civilization. She also is the host of the SuperJenius Internet Radio show on Artist First radio Network.

Jennifer Ott lives in Long Beach, California, enjoys the sun, the sand, the surf and lots of Mexican food.


What inspired you to write Edge of Civilization?
The idea started years ago when my mother was a nurse at a mental institution. She told me that government didn’t offer mental health to returning Vietnam Vets due to funding. Many of these men ended up living on the street and are a good number of our homeless. I was really discouraged that men who fought for this country, would not only be denied help, but be left out on the street. I wrote a short script, “Space Trash” which was a quarterfinalist at Write Brothers contest. It was a couple years later when I watched the movie Excalibur. I was inspired by the character King Arthur. Also one of the themes of the movie was the changing of times (ways of the earth to the ways of man). The movie was very philosophical about the evolution of mankind and somehow my short script, Space Trash, and inspiration of Excalibur merged. I took my character from Space Trash and gave him an “Arthurian” journey.

If you were to adapt your book for the big screen, who would be in your dream cast?
For “Old” Earl, no doubt I would want the actor who placed King Arthur – Nigel Terry
For “Young” Earl, I have unknown actor in mind, but for someone famous, my best suggestion would be Andrew Garfield
Georgina – I would like to bring Joey Heatherton out of retirement. She is very spunky and would be great for that character.
Elisabeth – Natalie Dormer because she is very fiery and strong-minded
Andy – Jennifer Lawrence, she has a strength, yet innocence at the same time. It’s why probably she is so appealing.

Do you agree with the adage “Write what you know”?
Yes, but if you don’t know it; learn it. I’ve done quite a bit of research for the book, because of course I am not a Vietnam Vet. However, I have included a scene that actually happened to me. I was traveling in China and was harassed by a group of leper beggars. That made a huge impact on me and thus became part of a story.

Do you write with an outline, or do you just “wing it”? Do you write from beginning-to-end, or do you skip around?
I write outlines, or map out the story. Edge of Civilization is a big circle. I’d outlined plot and character structure in order to accomplish the full circle this story takes.

What are you reading right now?
Seasons of Change by award-winning author Tumika Patrice Cain. She is my next guest on my SuperJenius Radio, so I need to be prepared. : )

Who’s your favorite author (or authors, if you can’t pick just one – I know I can’t!), and why do you admire him/her/them?
John Steinbeck is my biggest influence. But I was also influenced by Czech author Milan Kundera.

Which five characters from novels would you like to have dinner with?
Characters in John Steinbeck books. They are so unique and crazy. It would make for an entertaining evening.

What was your favorite book as a child?
Diary of Anne Frank.

What three books would you want with you if you were stranded on a desert island?
A survival guide for obvious reasons.
The Creative Way – something to keep me and my mind busy
War and Peace – I’ll have a lot of time on my hands.

What’s an unusual quirk that you have or something unique/interesting about you?
Well, as I mentioned in a previous question. I was harassed by a gang of leper beggars in Ningbo, China. It was the freakiest experience of my life. They didn’t even look human. I rushed back to my 5 star hotel and took several hot showers. Afterward I felt so guilty for reacting so foolishly. When I returned home I started donating to the leprosy mission. It was the very least I could do.



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One thought on “Edge of Civilization by Jennifer Ott: Book Review and Author Interview

  1. Thanks for providing this review- I think this is something that my husband might be interested in..

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