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.Continue reading
February is six days old, and here’s the first Saturday of the month and Six Degrees of Separation. Check out the meme hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best if you want to join in. This month, in a return to normal things, we’re starting with a book I haven’t read, Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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
Rating 3 stars
Michel Faber’s sixth novel inhabits a future that feels close enough to now for daily life to be the same but far enough away for interstellar travel to be possible. It’s a place where the endgames of capitalism and climate change are playing out. Continue reading
Rating 2.5 stars
Written in 1977 and set in the then-future of 1994, Philip K Dick’s A Scanner Darkly considers a world split into Straights and Dopers. Continue reading
I have 149 books that I own on my to read list. 78 of those are physical books that teeter in a pair of piles in front of one of my bookcases. When I read that Sandra (A Corner of Cornwall) and Paula (Book Jotter) are doing the 20 Books of Summer readathon hosted at Cathy’s blog 746 Books (I thought my to read pile was bad!), I decided this was the thing that I needed to focus my mind and get 20 of those books read. Continue reading
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
Rating 5 stars
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