Villager

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Read 08/05/2022-12/05/2022

Rating 5 stars

Villager is Tom Cox’s first novel. I’m not going to call it a debut, because the author has a wealth of writing already in his back catalogue.

Cox is a writer of place. His books 21st Century Yokel and Ring the Hill explore landscape and folklore, mixed with Cox’s eye on the world and its margins. His short story collection Help the Witch marries that sense of place and love of folklore with fictions that open the door a crack to the other places hidden just behind what we experience as real.

His writing in Villager is a beautiful leap off from the coiled force present in some of the longer pieces in Help the Witch. There is folklore here, but also Bildungsroman, speculative fiction, diary writing and cultural reference points that span Mary Oliver, Mike Leigh, Oliver Postgate and Public Enemy. The story sprawls over time and place, slipping through the margins and brushing up against its own past and future. At its heart is a collection of songs written by an itinerant musician, and one ancient song in particular that echoes through the narrative. Continue reading

Fauna

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Read 01/05/2022-03/05/2022

Rating 4 stars

David Hartley’s collection Fauna gathers together twelve short stories that explore the relationship between humanity and the rest of the living world while also imagining a variety of futures that have tilted in favour of one side over the other. Continue reading

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.

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

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