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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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

Touch

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Read 07/12/2018-22/12/2018

Rating: 2 stars

Touch is the second novel by Claire North, one of the pen names of Catherine Webb. I hadn’t heard of her in any of her guises, but a colleague saw me reading one of the Wayfarer series of books and thought I might like Claire North.

Its 423 pages took longer to read than they deserved. It was a grind at times. The central character has the sort of transient existence that makes it hard for them to have anything they care about, and the things North decided they would care about didn’t grab my attention. 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

The Current

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Read 10/11/2017-12/11/2017

Rating: 2 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Read Around the World Challenge.

Eighteen months ago, Weezelle over at Words and Leaves interviewed Yannick Thoraval about his novel about climate change, The Current. I downloaded a free copy from his site, because I liked how he came across in his answers to Weezelle’s questions. I especially liked his perspective on self-publishing.

I read bearing in mind that this is a self-published novel, that despite employing a team to help polish the work in the way an independent publisher would, it might not feel like a traditionally published book. Continue reading

The Giant, O’Brien

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Read 02/03/2017-04/03/2017

Rating: 3 stars

The Giant, O’Brien is Hilary Mantel’s reimagining of the story of Charles Byrne, an 8-foot tall Irishman who travels to London to seek fame and fortune but ends up becoming the quarry of John Hunter, the doctor whose collection of medical curiosities, accumulated under the aegis of promoting the development of scientific knowledge, form the basis of the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. Continue reading

SS-GB

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Read 26/02/2017-02/03/2017

Rating: 3 stars

The BBC is showing an adaptation of Len Deighton’s alternative history espionage novel SS-GB. We’re two episodes in, and I’m enjoying it. The storyline seems a bit opaque at times, though.

I decided to buy the book this weekend. I had a book token from Christmas and it was in a half price deal at Waterstone’s. My mum liked Len Deighton’s books, too.

By about a quarter of the way through it became obvious that, for dramatic tension as well as condensing 377 pages of story, the TV adaptation has moved the action around a bit and dropped some of the detail that would help make sense of the story. In the novel, the reasons behind certain things that weren’t yet fully clear, and confusingly so, two episodes into the TV adaptation are more apparent earlier on.

I was hooked into the book pretty quickly. It’s the first Deighton novel I’ve read and I like his writing. He’s very crisp, with an eye for detail that is subtle but pleasing. Exposition is dropped casually into conversation or included as background narrative. The premise is an intriguing one, and I enjoyed reading Deighton’s introduction to the book that explains how he came to choose it. Making a police officer the main protagonist means the story is cleverly framed as a traditional murder mystery, but gives Deighton the scope to also bring in speculation about an alternative outcome to the Second World War and to have an espionage subplot running through the book as well. Continue reading