A few quotes from Mark McIntire, Philosophy Professor, Santa Barbara City College:

“The narrative is both intimate and seductive, carrying the reader along vistas of psychology, science, philosophy, theology, and literature through the history of ideas. Each of these maneuvers is playfully accomplished, brightened by humor.”

“It’s an exhilarating flight of reason, logic, science fiction and fancy.”


Sophie Schenkel, age 14, 2020:

“Your book was so good! Even though I had to stop and look up words, I felt smarter as I kept reading it. I felt like I was transported to the occult realm with all the characters.”

“Percy was a great character. At the beginning, I thought she was going to reveal that she was Sage. She was mysterious and clever and I think you portrayed her very well.”


Dayle McKinney, 2019: Imaginative, Insightful and Brilliant

“I couldn’t even wait until finishing this amazing book to submit a review. Primarily because I can’t put it down. I first noticed this book on the Archway Publisher’s Best Sellers List. The author is a philosophy professor and he must be a darned good teacher because he makes the deepest of philosophical concepts easy to grasp even for someone like me who has never been to college except to take art classes. And he does it in the most creative of ways by making it a thoroughly engaging story while also being autobiographical. The best of both worlds, fiction and non fiction combined. The fun part is that you don’t know exactly which is which. I find myself wanting it all to be true so I can undermine my old belief systems with this incredible new view of reality. I understand the Party Line concept perfectly because we had one we shared with all our neighbors when I was a girl growing up in California. Now I must get back to reading Mr. Gagnon’s book! Thanks for this treasure!”


Michael Bartsch, 2019: Great Science Fiction!

“The Party Line is a great read. With the pacing of a mystery story, this science fiction novel follows the personal journey of its young narrator as he seeks to comprehend and deal with the sudden loss of a dear friend. In his quest, he gains access to the aethereal world. In this world, he encounters new laws, new rules and – new dangers. As the narrator labors to understand the connections between the aethereal and the mundane, he hopes to make sense of his loss. Along the way he engages in stimulating, thought provoking philosophical conversations: the existence of God; the nature of free will; the causes of suffering and many others.”


Jeffery D. Miller, 2020: A Magnificent Book!

“The Party Line” is a magnificent book! The author, Dennis Gagnon, had a huge undertaking to successfully weave so many thoughts and ideas into such a fabulous fictional plot. At first, I thought Gagnon was going down the same didactic path of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” but I’m glad he didn’t. This book is much better than Pirsig’s. Although the deep themes of the book are erudite, the concepts are accessible and understandable, eye-opening in many instances, and downright funny in others. Gagnon’s writing style is conversational and flows with ease from page to page, carrying the reader along for a fun, suspenseful ride.”


William Munger, 2020: A young man helped by a mysterious girl tries to save a friend under attack by a hidden dream world

“Dennis Gagnon has written an original, fast-paced, first person novel in which the narrator, seeking insights beyond his ordinary high school life, inadvertently places a close friend in mortal danger and then struggles to save that friend—this urgency drives much of the action.

The story works because it is a fresh take on an adolescent trying to understand how the world works—and the reader, knowing no more than the protagonist what looms ahead—is pulled along the well-crafted tale, with unexpected twists and turns that both drive the story and illuminate the moral and philosophical questions of the protagonist. The weaving together of high adventure, moral dilemma, ancient myths, and timeless philosophical questions creates a broadly enjoyable reading experience.

The narrator is a high school junior in a sleepy California coastal town who has a deep interest in eternal questions of free will, the nature of reality, philosophy, and religion—seemingly innocent explorations. His nightly meditations lead him to stumble onto a dangerous primordial dream world of the subconscious run by powerful beings, both benevolent and malevolent. To save his friend and his friend’s soul, he must swiftly gain understanding of this hidden world, which is as arbitrary, hierarchical, and dangerous as our ‘awake’ world.

The novel interweaves the mounting fear and guilt the narrator feels regarding his friend with his intense need to navigate the hazards of ‘the party line’ web of consciousness of connected minds, which now inadvertently includes him. A mysteriously resourceful girl shows up and introduces him to a sage whose obscure philosophical questions contain critical knowledge he must decipher. Along with adventure, drama, humor, and the ever-present sense of urgency, well-delineated characters drawn from mythology and philosophy help move the story along on multiple fronts, while providing the occasional opportunity to catch one’s breath.

The narrator stumbles along, has inspirations, hits dead ends, finds help when he needs it, and never gives up. The author writes dialogue, creates scenes, and incorporates unexpected elements that work well together to advance the story.

I have known the writer for a long time and lived in the same region of California, so the setting and some of his perspective are familiar to me—but I did not need that knowledge to visualize the action, nor did I anticipate how satisfyingly the story would advance to its end. Try a few pages and see what you think.


Gil Reyes, 2018: Autobiographical fanciful fiction that integrates strands of wisdom and wonder

“I used to think of myself as a soldier
Holding his own against impossible odds
Badly outnumbered and caught in a crossfire of devils and gods.”
From: These Days by Dan Fogelberg (1975)

“All biographical stories, be they self-told or constructed by another, chart a meaningful course from relatively naïve and reckless early experiences to increasing levels of calculation, deliberation, salvation, and the promise of wisdom. The autobiographical form is prone to hindsight bias, revisionism, and self-enhancement, but author and philosopher Dennis D. Gagnon has skirted these hazards by employing an intentionally fabulist allegory to frame the story of his youthful explorations of love, loss, suffering, and transcendence. The result is a blend of true-life persons, places, and events taking place in the material world during the author’s life, with a magical and mysterious realm where the consciousness of the protagonist encounters ethereal figures such as ghosts, demons, monsters, and a goddess. This latter realm shares elements of the psychoanalytic unconscious and Jung’s collective unconscious, along with similarities to the mystical metaphysics of some spiritual belief systems (e.g., Carlos Castaneda’s adventurous tales of Yaqui sorcery and Paul Twitchell’s disquisition on astral projection).

The organizing concept used in this “novel” is that of the “party-line,” herein referring not to the more common and contemporary meaning of a political narrative requiring conformist adherence by all loyal members of the collective, but rather to the antiquated technological compromise of requiring multiple parties to share a common telephone line with the attendant hassles of taking turns and respecting each other’s competing interests. In this instance the channels of consciousness are in continuous chatter as multiple “voices” contribute to the forming of “conversations” that seem to have some level of emergent existence (i.e., the whole is greater than the sum of its parts), and yet are also entirely dependent upon the sum of all contributing voices for their very existence. This may not prove to be a very self-evident conceptualization for many readers to buy into, but it is a central and necessary device for following the story and understanding its progression towards a climactic resolution. That resolution concerns the very meaning of suffering along with many of life’s yin/yang dichotomies of dynamic conflicts and complements, such as truth and lies, fear and desire, or love and hate. This is a grand ambition, to say the least.

As a philosophy professor and erudite scholar, Gagnon is well prepared for such a treatise, albeit cloaked in the informal fictitious guise of the fantasy (as opposed to science fiction) genre. Not that there aren’t some scientific concepts invoked at times (e.g., quantum entanglement), but for the most part the devices of avian/reptilian monsters and disembodied spirits falls more clearly into the magical realm of fantasy. In weaving these disparate threads of philosophy, mysticism, classical mythology, and moralism, the author demonstrates admirable erudition and skill coupled with a gripping storyteller’s art for capturing and holding the reader’s interest through to the end. If there is one word for this work of autobiographical fanciful fiction, it is integrative.

Those who are at all acquainted with the classical works of fiction, especially in the theatre, will know that the ages and culturally perceived stages of our life-course have been brilliantly labeled and described by many sources. Obvious examples include the 3 stages solution to Sophocles’s riddle of the sphinx, describing man as progressing from 4 legged baby to 2 legged adult and devolving to a to 3 legged elder requiring a cane to assist with locomotion, and Shakespeare’s melancholic rendering of the seven stages of a man’s life progressing from infant to schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice (as in wise old judge), Pantalone (pathetically fading of prowess and grasping at wealth), ending in a feeble and decrepit old age characterized by all that was lost. In Gagnon’s retrospective allegory of his last teen year as viewed from the vantage point of his early 60s, life remains a vibrant and hopeful bicameral world of endless opportunities to counterbalance the darker aspects of existence with the light of love and compassion.

Just as the youthful protagonist brings curiosity and courage to an experiment delving into the very nature of reality and relatedness, the aged and learned author reflects and refines while once again experimenting with the new territory of autobiographical fiction. Perhaps some readers will take from this novel not only the enchanting tale and its enclosing moral, but may also feel inspired to personally explore aspects of their own lives in retrospect and share their own unique voices in some expressive form. And in so doing, they might encounter their own “party-line” of distinct and disparate voices that collectively form the dynamic conversations within their own seemingly singular minds. I suspect that Mr. Gagnon would delight in such a ripple effect.”

The Party Line