I follow Nicola Barker on Twitter. She posts infrequently, but when she does it’s usually oddly satisfying pictures of her view from various London public telephone boxes or things she’s found while mudlarking along the Thames. There’s nothing in her feed that suggests she’s an author, and I didn’t know her as a writer until H(A)PPY was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018.
The blurb for H(A)PPY intrigued me. The reader is invited to imagine a utopia in which all knowledge is open, and doubt, hatred, poverty and greed no longer exist. Everyone lives within a System that nurtures and protects, part of a Community that nourishes and sustains. There’s no sickness, no death, no fear.
Sounds good? I wasn’t so sure. I like my privacy. I also like that it’s our differences and individualities that cause the negative things that Barker’s post-post-apocalyptic society has banished. I don’t know that I’d enjoy a world without individuality or opportunities to learn.
This is Barker’s twelfth novel. It seemed like as good a place as any to introduce myself to the writing style of the woman who is mildly obsessed with phone boxes.
It’s slippery at times, the tale she’s written, but it kept me wondering what was going on, curious to find out how it would end. I know how it ends now, of course. I’m saying nothing. I’m glad that I didn’t read any reviews, any judging comments, any opinion pieces before I read it. I imagine it might have spoiled the experience. I enjoyed it greatly. I’d recommend it wholeheartedly. If you want to read it with no prior knowledge, don’t read any further here. My reading experience and my reactions to the book might take the edge off the pleasure of this unusual novel. Continue reading →
My friend Dip lent me this book, as she did the first in the series. She’s just read the third installment which reminded me that I needed to crack on with this one.
A Closed and Common Orbit picks up one of the story arcs from the end of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. Ship’s AI Lovelace has been reset and its box fresh operating files installed into a Human kit body. Lovey is in a shuttle with Pepper, the tech expert and merchant, leaving the Wayfarer behind, and is now an illegal entity learning a new way of living. Continue reading →
Dip lent me Becky Chambers’s debut novel ages ago. It’s been sitting on my pile of books a longish time. I’ve read some pretty heavy books recently and felt in need of a change of pace. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet was just the thing I needed. Continue reading →
I’m sitting in a freezing cold departure area (I can’t dignify it by calling it a lounge) at Dublin Airport, waiting for my connecting flight home. The café, which is more of a hot beverage kiosk, is closed. There is a pillar that invites travellers to use three smiley face buttons to express your satisfaction with the facilities. I might warm myself up by hammering on the red sad face button later.
Naomi Alderman’s Women’s Prize for Fiction-winning novel The Power has been talked about so much, that I felt like I knew it before I started to read it. The book wasn’t the speculative dystopian novel that I was expecting it to be, though. Instead, I found a political crime thriller that is exciting and tension-filled, making for a pacey and entertaining read. Continue reading →