Whatever else it is, Threshold is surely the record of a voyage – a book of experience in some quite old-fashioned, powerful sense. It’s replete with the indicators of retrospection, confession, autofiction. Some of the adventures leave the reader with a faint bad taste in the mouth. Possibly they’ve been designed to. “I used to live for hate but now I am often frightened of it,” runs a line on page two, an admission both endearing and disconcerting enough to propel anyone through a book. Sometimes he trolls the reader so expertly it works, sometimes so obviously it doesn’t; sometimes he seems to be effortlessly trolling himself. In the end, whatever you decide about the fictionality of the terrain or the kind of trip Threshold might have taken you on, you also decide that “Rob Doyle” was a worthwhile spirit guide. He’s good at aphorism, though he claims to have disowned it along with Cioran; he’s very good at the comedy of self-aggrandising self-deprecation.
Doyle’s novel is a humorous delight – and more thoughtful than the previous scene might suggest. Dublin-born Doyle is a former philosophy student and his novel delves into the mind of a young writer (and slacker) who is travelling the world, thinking about Buddhism, modern society, meditation and drugs. Lots of drugs. You learn a great deal about magic mushrooms, hallucinogenic plants, ketamine and DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) as you experience his tumultuous pilgrimage.