Six Degrees of Separation: From Beezus and Ramona to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

It’s May Day! Beltane, if you will. I wish I’d been clever enough to do a folk horror Six Degrees of Separation this month. Kate, who hosts the meme at Books Are My Favourite and Best, has chosen a children’s classic, Beezus and Ramona, for the first book in the chain. Read on to see how I end up in a submarine with Captain Nemo.

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Six Degrees of Separation: from The Handmaid’s Tale to Red Dust Road

I’m a day late for November’s Six Degrees of Separation. I’m blaming my anxious refreshing of the Presidential election count page on The Guardian website yesterday. This month, Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best has given us a sort of free pass on the starting book. We’re starting our November chains with a book that ended a previous chain. For anyone new to Six Degrees, the general concept is explained here.

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Imaginary Cities

Read 01/09/2020-27/09/2020

Rating 3 stars

Darran Anderson’s Imaginary Cities is a weighty tome that tries to pull together all manner of writing, thinking, visual representation and design theory on space and specifically on cities. It’s inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, a book I haven’t read. It’s also that very rare thing – a book I don’t really know how to review. Even taking into account that I don’t really write standard reviews.

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Barn 8

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Read 12/07/2020-18/07/2020

Rating 5 stars

Book 6 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge.

I’d read a lot of praise for Deb Olin Unferth’s novel Barn 8 on social media and in the press and I finally decided to take the plunge.

It is as good as people say it is. This is my first encounter with Unferth, although this isn’t her first book. Continue reading

Ice

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Read 20/04/2020-26/04/2020

Rating 5 stars

Ice is a post-apocalyptic dystopia full of frozen emotions and Kafkaesque happenings. It’s a difficult book to review. The plot is barely linear, cut through with hallucination and adumbration. There’s an impending climate disaster that influences the action, but at heart it’s an examination of the worst of human nature. And yet it’s not entirely grim, either. Continue reading

I Who Have Never Known Men

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Read 13/09/2019-20/09/2019

Rating 5 stars

Jacqueline Harpman’s I Who Have Never Known Men is filed under Sci-Fi at my local library. I’m not entirely sure why. There’s a vague hint that the characters, who are incarcerated in an underground bunker for the first part of the novel, are no longer on Earth. It felt more dystopian than Sci-Fi to me, more akin to The Handmaid’s Tale, futuristic and speculative.

The novel was first published in French in 1995. An English translation followed in 1997. Vintage has reissued Ros Schwartz’s translation this year with an excellent introduction to the novel by Sophie Mackintosh. She, too, suggests that it’s a Sci-Fi work, but also relates it to Herland. Mackintosh’s intro draws out the key strands of the story and makes a case for the significance of Harpman’s book far better than I can. We are agreed that it’s a masterpiece. Continue reading

Dendera

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Read 29/05/2019-02/06/2019

Rating 2 stars

I first found out about Dendera at an author event at my local Waterstone’s bookshop. I’d gone along with a friend to hear Sayaka Murata speak about her novel Convenience Store Woman. For me, the presence of Yūya Satō and discussion of his novel was incidental. The host of the event thought otherwise, talking more to Satō and with more interest in Satō’s book. Satō came across as an affable chap, pleased with his sort of morality tale, sort of horror story, and I thought I’d give Dendera a try. Continue reading

The Word Exchange

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Read 06/05/2019-16/05/2019

Rating 3 stars

The Word Exchange is a speculative science fiction mystery suspense that imagines a world in which electronic devices have become indispensable, replacing the need for deep thought or retention of information, to the extent that the people plugged into these devices are easy to manipulate. Sound familiar? It’s only five years old and already it feels as though the world Alena Graedon has imagined is more than a few steps closer to reality. Continue reading

The Power

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Read 22/12/2017-28/12/2017

Rating: 4 stars

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