"Dog vs. God. In an iconoclastic story, Dog demolishes the foundations of Western civilization."
"An engrossing, brillantly crafted read...
In his ambitious novel, Journey to Virginland: Epistle 1, author Armen Melikian serves up a searing commentary on the earth and its inhabitants through the canine eyes of 'Dog.' Dog offers a controversial, Kafkaesque, and somehow matter-of-fact narrative of life...
Melikian’s prodigious writing talent and ability to show the world’s history in a different, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic air, creates an entertaining ride into warring religions, warring cultures, warring sexes, and the histories and raison d’etre behind each...
Melikian is an astonishing writer who teaches his reader about the world and the human condition through tragedy and humor."
"The world seems like a giant storm of everything wrong with the world and not a whole lot right. Journey to Virginland: Epistle 1 follows young Dog as he embarks on a journey through America and the chaos of the post 9/11 world where he looks for what it means to be human and the constant changes one must undergo to maintain a connection to one's sanity through it all. With plenty to ponder and plenty to entertain, Journey to Virginland is a fun and enlightening read and is quite the recommendation."
Midwest Book Review
"Journey to Virginland is one of the most creatively, philosophically, culturally, semantically, and thematically ambitious novels I’ve ever read in my 35 years of professional life. In the best sense, I’m reminded of George Orwell’s classics, and other authors of similar stature, though there is no true parallel possible with a novel and trilogy as unique in concept and execution as Journey to Virginland."
Paul McCarthy, Prof. of English
25 years Senior Acquisitions Editor at Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, and Doubleday
"The author has moved ahead of the zeitgeist. I appreciate the author’s considerable intellect and his creation of a world vastly different than our own (despite its ironic similarities) with an emphasis on theological considerations. The self-confident writing is of a high quality and despite the irreverence of the material shows respect for the usual conventions of grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. The novel is ambitious and it certainly breaks new ground, which is something more writers ought to do. Without exploration literature would be only a boring repetition of previous writings and not keep pace with contemporary and always changing mindsets… Gurdjieff suggested that students read Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson three times in a lifetime. I don’t know if this is the type of work Melikian intended to create."
"If I were to adopt Dog's speech patterns, I would say that the novel is experimental, because its structure is detached and loose, and controversial.
The use of language is lowbrow, but also very stylized, which, for me, is one of the novel's best aspects. Linguistic virtuosity is the novel’s most interest-generating trait. The book is at its best when Dog is doing something – meeting his woman friends or other acquaintances – and then yoking these actions to reveal the book's pervasive meta-ideologies.
In its disenchantment, nonconformity, and linguistic fireworks, Journey to Virginland is of unquestionable merit."
Matti Kangaskoski, Finland
Literary Journal KRITIIKKI
"Full marks to Mr. Melikian for trying something new. The writing is experimental, and there were passages in the book which did capture my interest and attention. So what it's all about?
Set in a dystopian future it chronicles the main character, Dog's search for meaning and acceptance in a world of oppressive regimes and even more oppressive religious hierarchies. The story's imaginary locations: Paradise, Satanland, Leninland and, of course, Virginland (there are many more) are dependent on your own philosophical bent, and easy to marry up with current world countries.
Dog trips around quite a lot but doesn't strike it lucky; he is neither accepted by, nor accepting of the places he visits or the people he meets. The message I got from reading Journey to Virginland was: the thing wrong with society is society itself.
Journey to Virginland could be the next bestseller. Give it a try, it's certainly different."
Janet Walker, Australia
"It is not every day that one is shaken to the core, and ultimately enlightened, by a particular work of literature. I owe experiences of this order to Malraux’s Metamorphosis of the Gods, Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, Lao-tzu’s Tao, and now Journey to Virginland."
Kardash Onnig, author, sculptor
"What an amazing piece of work! Reading it, I was reminded of Notes from Underground and the narrator's assertion that 'reason is nothing but reason and satisfies only the rational side of man's nature.' In other words, the only way to survive the post 9/11 world is to be a child of unreason. Luckily we've got Dog for that, a kind of Céline for modern times, setting off every moral compass and hyprocrisy like a stick of dynamite. Here's a personal favorite of mine:
'They love the dead, hate the living. They kill to love--a nation of unfulfilled necrophiliacs.'
This is from a description of Paradise, but it could very well be anywhere today. I think what's most fascinating and enduring about the novel's cosmology (And what a cosmology it is! Equal parts Animal Farm and Finnegan's Wake!) is not what separates East and West but what they have in common. A life in Satanland may not carry the threat of constant insurrection, but you will die a little bit each day.
Orwell wrote Animal Farm at a time when Stalin was at the height of his popularity in the West. Nobody knew about the Gulag and he was largely considered, next to England and France, one of our chief allies. Fortunately, Orwell blew the top off that one. It's difficult for people to see the truth, but sometimes a work of literature holds up a mirror and forces us to look. I believe Journey to Virginland is one of those works."
Curt Finch, author,
"As with all books that question social, cultural, and religious mores, Armen Melikian’s Journey to Virginland is certain to offend some readers. For the most part, what has been handed down in the form of beliefs and customs goes unexamined, and is embraced as a matter of convenience, identity, and survival. Therefore it takes an open-minded individual to accept the author on his own terms, and to listen without feeling the need to argue with him or change him in any way — in other words, to go ahead and enter his vision or dream. It is not necessary for the two of them to agree. Only madmen are unwilling to entertain the possibility that they do not know everything — madmen, and those whose lives have taught them to be wary, jealous, bitter, competitive, and afraid.
There is, of course, another side of the matter: namely, how well — how inventively, imaginatively, effectively — does Journey to Virginland meet the demands of literature? And equally important, does it live up to and transcend its own demands, and ultimately surprise its author? Because if the writer is beyond surprise, and therefore unable to laugh at himself, his readers will sense it from the beginning. A book that is merely clever and cunning will appeal only to clever and cunning readers. A book that is human, on the other hand, is apt to be treated as a worthy document, friend, and companion.
So what kind of book is this? Most assuredly, Journey to Virginland possesses the requisite humor that serious art must possess if it is also to be human. Likewise, we find in it a compelling sense of urgency: in essence, the time to think and act is now, because nothing less than our self-understanding is at stake:
The choices are literally between transcendence and self-destruction, even through revolt. And as long as there are oppressors in the world of men, the fake currency of saviors will be in high demand.
Ethnicity, nations, religions, politics are, in effect, surface phenomena; we need to dig deeper than that, to the heart of things, and this book, at turns feverish and poetic, and always refreshingly unapologetic, leads us in that direction. Satire and wordplay flow freely in this outsider’s narrative, this twenty-first century life of the artist as a young dog. To the degree that they are obstacles, they yet serve as their own kind of visual-rhythmic accompaniment. After all, as a cursory glance at old English texts reveals, language is a living, changing thing. And so to a degree, conventional meaning is both transitory and a drug. To rely on it exclusively is to be defined by words themselves, and to be enslaved by them. The danger becomes even greater when we approach the old religious texts. Venerable, hoary institutions, beware.
Ultimately, there is no need to compare this novel, or anti-novel, to other books. To those widely read, several will suggest themselves. Melikian is obviously among that number, and cannot believe his work is without influence or predecessor. But Journey to Virginland is different enough, energetic enough, challenging enough, and informative enough to carry its own weight. In the end, Armen Melikian has not only written this book; I think it has written, and will go on writing, him."
William Michaelian, author
"From the first page I was pulled in and intrigued by the oddities I was reading. Not a typical romance, mystery or even suspense novel – this book takes a look at things from a level I’ve never went to. From the viewpoint of Dog – we see a fictional world that mirrors our own in many ways.
Imagine complete blatant honesty without worry of censorship about religion, sexuality, war, politics and relationships, and you will have a good idea of the book I am speaking of.
Journey to Virginland holds a raw bit of honesty for each of us. Whether it be your take on the political situation – our military – the ridiculous “wars” we have fought in recent years or simple relationships with the opposite sex – you can find a niche in this book to sink your teeth into. Following Dog through the 3-year journey that is upside down and opposite of what we generally see (or admit to seeing) was eye opening and motivating. As a Christian – the theme was harsh at times and boldly made me swallow my pride and admit wrongness in areas. I fear some would consider it blasphemous in the conversations between Dog and God or Dog and Satan – but in all honesty – I feel it’s MORE honest and real than the faux “prayers” we see commonly spouted. One passage regarding “Paradise” and the changes therein struck me deeply:
'Truly there has come into being a society which is of no use to imperialists. Paradise has gone from an ‘open museum’ to an open orduretum. The lotus withers, dogs suffocate, life goes kaput.'
How true these words are in reference to our supposed Paradise. Again – I am shocked to read a book of this honesty, this caliber literately, this brilliance in today’s time. Highly reviewed by scholars and authors worldwide – I know it has impacted and will impact lives. I only wish it could become the “Twilight” of this time – a book that sweeps across the social classes and impacts everyone opening their eyes to the destruction WE have created in our world – the lies we have covered up and the hypocrisy that plagues what use to be Christianity and Faith.
I can honestly say this was a read I wasn’t prepared for and was floored by. It has left me reeling with thoughts/ideas/plans/desires for my life and future in respect to how I treat the world around me – how I view our government and political situation but especially how I look at my God and my example as a true Christ Follower. This book gets 5 stars from me!
Katie Hale, book blogger
"I strongly recommend owning and reading this fascinating book. Journey to Virginland has something 'irregular' to it, a powerful pull which cannot be explained merely by the fact that the novel tells a great story in a perfect pitch. It has the charm of a serious but readable textbook, the appeal of apocrypha, the simplicity and sophistication of an epic... and it is alive — every time you come back to it, it starts to expand in multiple directions and dimensions..."
Sev Black, Artist
"Every once in a while a book comes along that shakes up the foundation of what we know to be true. Armen Melikian accomplishes just this in Journey to Virginland. 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 with 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."
Long Beach Book Examiner
"A book unlike any other... A very intelligently written, original work of fiction... A book quite out of the ordinary."
Journey to Virginland tells the tales of Dog. As Dog moves about The Republic of Virginland which is in Dreamland, he makes observations about the people. These observations involve a great deal of reflection and introspection on the culture, philosophy, and politics of the people. As Dog makes his irreverent observations, he also makes a great deal of sense. While some people (well, actually many people) might be offended by his irreverence — especially in regards to religion — I found much of what Dog ponders to be true. And it greatly reflects on the hypocrisy we see, yet choose to ignore, in our own world. This is especially true in how women are both regarded and treated in different cultures. Or perhaps this is what stood out most to me as a woman.
While Dog is living his dream, various historical events are mused over and his thoughts are shared with us. Once again, so many truths are revealed, especially in regards to the hypocrisy allowed by people in regards to religion and politics. As Dog is on a journey of self-discovery, his actions do not always make him popular with others, yet he remains fairly true to himself. His behavior might not always be appropriate, but in the end his self-reflections are pretty accurate. Above all, he admits he is just a dog.
I enjoyed having the opportunity to read a novel that is completely different than anything that I have ever read before. Full of satire and dry wit, I appreciated the author’s creation of Dog. Occasionally, I would find myself getting lost in the meaning behind what was being portrayed, and I would either have to put the book down for the night, or go back and reread a section.
Journey to Virginland is definitely not meant to be read when one is tired! On the other hand, when not tired, I found the novel to be very fast paced, and I would find myself having difficulty finding a stopping place when I had to put the book down. I highly recommend this novel to readers who like thought-provoking, humorous fiction, and that are easily offended religious fanatics.
"This is a book that was a page turner. Not only was the plot intriguing, but it made you think deeply about the underlying philisophical, historical, and symbolic aspects of the book itself.
As a lover of books, this book is one that I believe will stand the test of time. You will be amazed at the prose and how well the book flows. If you are like me and enjoy a great read that challenges as well as entertains, this book is for you!”
Dad of Divas, book blogger
"On a quest to find meaning to life, Dog questions the very foundations of his world. With satire, irony and wit, Dog exposes the lies and corruption of Dreamland and leaves us questioning the fact and fiction in our own lives."
The Genre Traveler
"Melikian’s Journey to Virginland demolishes not only the orthodoxies and modus operandi of the conventional novel, but the multifarious delusions that have defined and continue to define the hypocritical mores and contorted national traditions of colonial peoples which ride upon the hoax of ‘independence.’
Journey to Virginland evokes unexpected parallels with Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. But whereas the latter novel had become, within barely two centuries of its publication, a work beloved mainly by adolescent readers, it is difficult to assume that Melikian’s opus will lose any of its satirical urgency and relevance in the next few hundred years...”
Karen Simonian, author
"I am reading Journey to Virginland with a fine tooth comb, letter by letter, thought by thought.
Accept my thanks. My gratitude. My respect, love, compassion, longing, rapture… Bravo for moving me so profoundly.
Your hero and I are astonishingly alike – it's as though Journey to Virginland were the life story of my twin brother. Though we were apart and unaware of one another, we lived identical lives, day by day, year by year, from one political party to the next, relationship by relationship, pivotal experience by pivotal experience. I feel and have felt everything you say with my fibers. I have led a parallel life, only on a different continent.
I can count on my fingers those tomes that I’ve read as letter, exhortation, revilement, directed at me personally…
Journey to Virginland brings a new voice, an untold story to the world."
Vahe Avetian, author
"Journey to Virginland is a work of universal resonance."
"Melikian lived in Armenia for three years before being exiled for his devilishly iconoclastic writings."
E.U. Politics Today
"Melikian substantially widens the scope of the investigation which Pamuk has undertaken to expose a reactionary cultural milieu that has spawned an epidemic of suicides by young women."
Sabah Newspaper, Turkey
"Melikian's novel, titled Journey to Virginland, tackles a broad array of philosophical, religious, political, sexual, and gender issues".
"Daring, experimental, hilarious.”
Ara Baliozian, author
"I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I decided to read Journey to Virginland.
But what I most certainly did not expect was to find, consistently, one of the most creatively, philosophically, culturally, semantically, and thematically ambitious novels I’ve ever read in my 35 years of professional life.
In the best sense, I’m reminded of George Orwell’s classics, and other authors of similar stature, though there is no true parallel possible with a novel and trilogy as unique in concept and execution as Journey to Virginland.
I am struck by the extraordinary writing, vision, and, perhaps rarest of all, originality, which abounds in every way, and at so many levels and depths of meaning, theme, narrative, etc., that I had to keep slowing my pace, until I could read and 'inhale' each word.
A case in point was the passage containing Dog’s dialogue with the Padre, which I have found positively entrancing. This section’s insights and leaps of imagination, manifested through Dog’s answers, are as revelatory and profound as the basic aspects and elements of his overall perceptions and conclusions about the book’s overarching subjects, which have been gradually introduced and interwoven, from the beginning of the novel to here, where they… explode.
Now that I’ve reached the conclusion, I’m simply in awe. Wow! In the vernacular."
Paul McCarthy, Professor of Literature
University of Ulster, Ireland