The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch

IMG_2677In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. The charismatic Jean De Men has led the survivors to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. But the survivors are not unchanged, evolution has been turned on its head: the survivors have become sexless, hairless, pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin.

Jean de Men is not just charismatic though, he is crazy. He turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule – galvanised by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her.

This is a hypnotic book whose characters live on the edge of desperation and are all the stronger for it. It encompasses great themes, what it means to be human, whether humanity can recreate the planet it is so busy destroying, the fluidity of sex and gender and how love is tied by neither, and the role of art.

This has been a hotly anticipated book, and now I’ve read it I think it will be I a hotly anticipated film. It is wonderful, not just for the fantastic images and epic struggles within, but for the love between Christine and Trincula (who instantly became one of my favourite characters ever written) and the love between Joan and Leone.

Five Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Anna by Niccolo Ammaniti

1cover109251-mediumAnna is 14 and looks after her little brother Astor in the house behind the fence, the rooms are piled high with rubbish, except for their mother’s bedroom where her skeleton lies perfect on the bed.

She goes out to scavenge for food and medicine regularly, not too difficult a task in a world that’s been devoid of adults since a mystery illness swept through Italy killing all of them. Now, a few years later it seems that whatever caused the adults to die is still killing the children as they leave adolescence.

Then Astor leaves the house one day when Anna is scavenging, even though she has impressed on him how dangerous it is. She has to find him but what else will she find?

Because of last year’s Black History Month challenge I realised how unintentionally narrow my reading is, since then I’ve tried to read more authors from around the world and part of that is reading more translations too. This book by Italian author Niccolo Ammaniti, previously a winner of the Strega Prize, seemed a good place to start.

It is beautifully written (and very well translated by Johnathon Hunt). The scenario of a dystopian future society populated only by children is bound to draw comparisons with Lord of the Flies but this has considerably more humanity, Lord of the Flies is a novel fuelled by fear. This novel is driven by hope.

There is desperation and violence but there is also love and kindness. Anna is a complex and interesting character, but easy to feel sympathy for. She remembers her parents and realised that those memories are fading for her brother. She longs to cross the water I to see if there are any adults alive elsewhere but the hope is too precious to her for her to risk it being destroyed by reality.

Definitely worth reading, it gets 4 Bites from me.

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

IMG_2667A longed for child is born, but his mother’s waters aren’t the only ones breaking as London is submerged below floodwaters.

Days later, she, her husband and their baby have to leave London in search of safety. They head north, often sleeping in their car or finding solitary spots away from other humans in a newly dangerous country. As their baby grows they find and leave new families, trying to work their way to either an old home or new seeking.

Their baby thrives against all odds, not knowing anything of the world before he doesn’t know its loss. His parents find things much harder.

This is a beautiful poetic read. It shares the sense of dislocation and a narrowing of the world that most new mothers experience. It is written in the first person from the perspective of the mother, and it shows the world beyond her baby in snatched, out-of-focus glimpses whilst her child takes up most of her vision.

The only thing problem with that is that because the world beyond her baby seems to be just a dream to her there is rarely any sense of urgency or fear, she’s living in a world where food is scarce and civilisation is scared but she seems at most wearingly accepting. It’s a believable emotion for a lot of the story but there should be a few spikes of fear.

The writing is a joy though, haunting and lyrical. I look forward to her next book.

Four Bites

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

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Does the vanishing of the Bees really indicate a coming ecological collapse? This book follows the lives of three people whose lives are interwoven with the domestication of bees and their disappearance.

In England in 1851 we meet William, a biologist and seed merchant, trying to gain fame by building a new type of beehive. Jumping forward to 2007 and in the USA is George, a beekeeper fighting an uphill battle against modern farming, and hoping his son will follow in the family footsteps. China is the home of Tao who hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees in 2098 when the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao’s young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident—and is kept in the dark about his whereabouts and condition—she sets out on a grueling journey to find out what happened to him.

Well. There was a lot in this book for me to love but before we dip into that can we just have a moments appreciation for that cover! What a thing of beauty!

So what’s your preference? Historical fiction? Dystopian? Contemporary? Why choose? With this you’ve got it all! And unusually all three sections are written in first person with authentic sounding voices and a real sense of time and place. But all that is worth little without a good story to tie it together. Luckily this has four good stories, each arc could’ve been extended to a standalone book but I think they are better interwoven. They support a story that twists up through each of them and arches over them to create something better.

It got me thinking, the Bees angle is good but that’s not all there is too it, there’s also a lot about family.

Four and a half bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

32622470Nadia and Saeed first meet at an evening class. They live in an unnamed city in an unnamed country “still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war.” Their relationship is at once modern and yet conservative, and each is still learning about the other when the fighting intensifies. Militants wage war on the government and people are killed, or disappear. Whole neighbourhoods are razed to the ground. Saeed’s mother is amongst the dead, and this horrific event leads Nadia and Saeed to discuss the risks of staying in their home city and the possibility of finding safety elsewhere.

All over the world, doors have opened. Doors of darkness which lead to other cities, other countries. Swathes of people have begun moving west, and Nadia and Saeed decide to join them. Risking their lives to travel through the doors, they arrive first in Mykonos, then London, and join fellow refugees settling in abandoned houses in the capital. But building a life and a home proves to be much more difficult.

There is a dystopian, magical realism element to this book. The world it is set in is not completely our own: doors allow people to move from country to country in the blink of an eye; London is a city divided, where migrants shelter in houses abandoned by their owners whilst the refugees themselves are abandoned by humanity. Like all good fiction, it holds up a large mirror to our own world and the story it tells is one which is being played out across the globe right now. This is a book about what drives people to make the journey and what happens once the journey is done. It’s about trying to settle into a new country when the country itself is trying to reject you. It’s about the impact this has on a relationship. It’s about being forced to leave your home and giving up all you were just to stay alive.

It would be easy to read this review and imagine a heavy book, full of despair. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The writing is beautiful. Elegant, yet simple. Vignettes of the lives of fellow travellers who have passed through the doors are dotted within the main story of Nadia and Saeed. They are never more than a few pages long and we never learn the names of these characters, but their stories are full of hope which is the lingering emotion left after the last page.

4 Bites

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

Those Left Behind by Various

One of the greatest (superficial) disappointments of my life was the cancellation of the TV series Firefly written by Joss Whedon. It was a a space western drama series set in 2517 and concerned the lives of the 9 crew members of the Firefly Class spaceship ‘Serenity’ and even though that description makes it sound a little lame, I absolutely loved it. As did millions of ‘Browncoats’ across the world. Sadly this wasn’t enough for the studio, and they cancelled the series after only 11 of the 14 episodes produced were broadcast. You could argue for days about whose fault it was (*cough*foxnetwork*cough*) but the millions of fans were left with no closure on any of the story lines.
Three years later, fan pressure had led to feature film being made and Serenity was released in part to wrap up the plot threads left hanging by the cancellation of Firefly.

We fans are never satisfied however and continue to want moremoremore! We were rewarded for our nagging and petulant whinging with a series of graphic novels to full in yet more gaps in the story lines!

TLBThose Left Behind by Brett Matthews, Joss Whedon and Will Conrad (artist) was the first of these and dealt with a couple of significant plot points. I won’t delve into the story because of the eternal battle waged against spoilers- I’m urging you all to rush out and watch Firefly so I certainly don’t want to ruin it for you!

The artwork in this graphic novel is good, the characters all look like they are supposed to and Conrad does a decent job of capturing the space cowboy vibe of the TV series. Story wise, this is a child of the TV series more than the film i.e. more crime than moral obligation but it rockets on at a good pace whilst still managing to explore the interpersonal relationships of the crew.

The script work/dialogue fit in with the established canon of the film and TV and it occasionally feels like an episode of the TV series. For example, in times of high emotion, the characters slip into Chinese in the same manner as on the screen. It’s familiar and conforting to feel like you really are reading about what went on in between the series and the film.

It’s absolutely not one to be reading without having seen the TV series first and frankly, if you aren’t a fan of Firefly (I can’t believe this is the case but…) then there is nothing here for you.

I however am a huge fan so I really enjoyed this!

3.5 bites

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption. I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

Blackout by Marc Elsberg

 

Click for Waterstones
Click for Waterstones

I found this thriller totally plausible, shockingly relevant and very frightening – my sensitivity to the scenarios being somewhat enhanced by waking up that same day to find much of the world experiencing a cyber-attack – spread through the use of the WannaCry ransomware. So severe was the problem that the UK convened a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee as 48 out of 248 NHS trusts in England and organisations across nearly 100 countries found themselves under attack.

The premise of the book is that society throughout the developed world is totally dependent on energy, not just for the light in our homes or the fuel in our car but for everything. Food distribution, water pumping, sewage drainage, removal of dead bodies and of course medical needs are the top of the priority list for most of us – but without energy in the form of electricity everything stops. The plot is simple. A small group of disillusioned techie experts launch a cyber-attack designed to bring down the energy generating and distribution systems across Europe and America. They want to change the political face of the developed world and what better way to disrupt society, create panic and ultimately trigger a public uprising against the established order can there be? What is terrifying is the speed with which their anticipated outcomes start to happen. Within 24 hours there is general disorganisation and mild panic, 24 hours later there are food shortages, within a week price extortionists are selling basic food stuffs for hundreds of times their value. The combination of hunger and thirst, the lack of medicines, no drainage, no communication networks and, before you know it, society is on the verge of collapse. To add to the confusion the hackers have made full use of inadequate security and corporate dependency on phones and emails, to ensure they can monitor and misdirect the Interagency attempts to control the disaster.

The hero, Manzano, is a mature Italian exhacker with principles and a curious nature. He is ably supported by an indefatigable young American reporter named Lauren Shannon and the well-connected Sophia Angstrom who works in EUMIC, the pan European organisation for communications and aid coordination in the event of catastrophe (you understand why they shortened it to EUMIC!). As always those who are on the outside of such organisations in times of crisis can be seen by the authorities to be a source of the trouble and poor Manzano quickly finds that his initial contribution to a solution draws down attention that is less than welcome. The story also follows a couple of characters as they wrestle with the difficulty of wanting to keep their family safe but they have no way of knowing whether their decisions will achieve what they hope. The action zigzags around the various emergency control centres across Europe that are working day and night to resolve the crisis as security analysts, engineers, investigators and police co-ordinate their efforts.The characterisations are adequate for the story and at no point does Elsberg make it overly dramatic – which works in its favour.

The book is a gripping read. Fast paced and extremely well researched; and it is this research that sets it apart from the usual disaster / breakdown of society type films. (I am not a techie person but I was quite fascinated by why the power plants couldn’t just be started up again). This book isn’t just a bit of light escapism unlike a Dan Brown novel, instead it is thought provoking and makes for uncomfortable reading. The moment I finished it I passed it to my husband to read and he experienced a similar response. I was really unsure quite how to rate this book but have given it 4 bites for its sheer plausibility.

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.

He, She and It by Marge Piercy

he-she-itI was thrilled to discover Marge Pierce when Woman on the Edge of Time was recently re-issued. I loved it (read more here) so when I saw that Ebury was re-publishing Body of Glass as He, She and It I jumped at the chance of getting a review copy!
This is another dystopian novel, originally published in 1993 it is once again a little scary how many of the things predicted in this already exist. Marge Pierce was clearly keeping on top of the latest tech when she wrote this!

She writes about the middle of the twenty-first century. Life has changed dramatically after climate change and a two week war that utilised nuclear weapons. The population is much smaller and concentrated mainly in a few domed hubs. But some things don’t change and Shira Shipman is a young woman whose marriage has broken up, on top of that her young son has been awarded to her ex-husband by the corporation that runs her zone. Despairing she has returned to her grandmother’s house in Tikva, the Jewish town where she grew up. There she is employed to work on socialising a cyborg implanted with intelligence, emotions – and the ability to kill.

This is quite a different book from Woman on the Edge of Time, in some ways it’s a mirror image of it. Here the whole book is set in the future but there is reference to the distant past through a story told to the cyborg, whereas the other book has a woman travelling from now to the future. The futures are also mirrored – this is truly a dystopian vision whereas the other was utopian. But what doesn’t change is the quality of writing which creates an envelope around you so you feel completely immersed in the world.

Although this is a deeply moral tale, asking us to question what makes us human and how we treat others, it is also a cracking good story! Full of tension, corporate intrigue, blackmail, badass modified humans, bombs, and of course a mother desperate to be reunited with her toddler son.
Back when it was first released it won the Arthur C Clark Award. Definitely worth reading!

5 Bites!

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

cover97841-mediumTom Barron will never measure up to his genius dad. If he’s honest with himself he’ll probably never measure up to his self-sacrificing mother either. It’s always annoyed him that she does so much for his dad and had so little appreciation but now she’s just died it annoys him even more.

Still, at least his dad seems to be trying to do something for him now by giving him a job. He’s to be an understudy chrononaut.

His father has developed a time machine and plans to test it by sending someone back to the moment the world got unlimited power in 1965. The 2016 Tom lives in is very different from ours.

But even though Tom is only the understudy and not supposed to be traveling, events somehow unravel and he accidentally changes the past and ends up in our 2016. Can he put things right? And when he realises his own life is so much better in our 2016 will he be selfless enough to do so? After all in his 2016 there is no poverty and no climate change, but in our 2016 Tom has love.

This book is incredible! I LOVED IT! The cleverness doesn’t stop for a second but Tom Barron is such an ordinary (slightly disappointing) bloke that it never feels too complicated or cloying. The characters and their dilemmas are in turn fascinating and mundane and they react both rationally and irrationally just like we all do.

But beyond the great characters, fabulous plot and terrific writing is something more. This is a book that makes you ponder! And there is nothing I love more than a book that makes me do that!

5 Bites … and if I was handing out awards this book would be getting them!

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

IMG_1614In a not too distant future, America has fallen. A coup has led to the overthrow of the government and the suspension of the Constitution. Democracy is replaced with theocracy, and America has become The Republic of Gilead. This is now a land governed completely by men, and in which women’s rights have been stripped away completely. Forbidden to read, to go out alone, women have few roles in society. With increasing sterility in this new world, the Republic have introduced a biblical way to increase the population. Women known as Handmaid’s are introduced to the households of high ranking officials and their wifes. Their role is to take part in a sexual ceremony with the official and his wife. A Handmaid who has a child is protected from being sent to the Colonies where “unwomen” are exiled. However, any child born is the property of the official and his wife.

Our protagonist is Offred, handmaid to a man known only as The Commander, and his wife who Offred believes to once have been a singer known as Serena Joy. Through Offred we learn about the new regime, it’s practices and punishments. We also get flashbacks to Offred’s past: to her previous life with her husband and daughter, through to life in the Handmaid’s training programme and her friendship with fellow Handmaid, Moira.

Sales in Atwood’s modern classic have soared in the months since the election of Donald Trump, and it’s easy to see why. The premise has become ever more believable, as has the insidious way in which women’s rights are eroded within Gilead. At the start of the revolution, on finding her bank account frozen. Offred’s husband doesn’t rage or take to the streets with her. Instead he promises to look after her, seemingly happy to be the knight in shining armour protecting his woman. In Gilead, men have complete control over women’s bodies, their reproductive rights and lives in general. Executive orders signed by Trump show how easy it is for this to happen in this world too.

It is an uncomfortable read, and so it should be. It deals with an uncomfortable subject. However, it’s flawlessly written. Offred’s voice is intentionally clumsy to start with, a side effect of being forced into silence for so long. But it becomes more fluent as the book progresses. This is an essential book, and can be found in the ‘current affairs’ section of your local bookshop!

5 bites

PS- If you love The Handmaid’s Tale, you might be interested to know that a new TV adaptation starring Elisabeth Moss as Offred will be released on US streaming service, Hulu on 26th April. Keep an eye on our page for a UK release date!

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories by Many Wonderful Writers!

TheDjinnFallsInLove
Click here to order from Waterstones

We all know of the Djinn, immortal beings can grant wishes but epitomise the moral of being careful what you wish for as your wish may have unforeseen consequences. This collection of tales bring us stories of Djinn in many parts of the world in the past, the present and the future. They are everywhere. Outside your back garden, on street corners, in the mosque, behind the wheel of a taxi, on mars, surrounding you on stage. Sometimes the divide between them and us is paper thin, their humanity more painful than our own, sometimes their omnipotence allows us to believe they are miles from us instead.

There are stories here from bestselling, award-winning and breakthrough international writers. Honestly when it comes to the quality of the writing you’ll be hard-pressed to know which is a breakthrough author and which has won awards. The standard is consistently high. The cultural diversity of the authors should be praised to with writers from a large variety of backgrounds, reading this is likely to lead you to discovering at least a couple of new favourite authors.

That being said there were of course stories I preferred. And part of the joy of a short story collection is that you can flick over stories that aren’t right for you at the moment without any guilt! You can’t really skip chapters in novels in the same way.

For me the ones that didn’t appeal were the futuristic ones. I think that’s a failing on my part though, or on my mood or expectations. When it comes to Djinn I want to read about magic, glamour not a grey cargo hold. I may revisit those stories in the future though when I’m feeling more open minded! If you’ve read them and think I’m an idiot for skipping them don’t hesitate to tell me!

My favourite stories were Kamila Shamsie’s “The Congregation”, the first story in the collection and a heart-achingly beautiful tale of a young boy finding his brother. Neil Gaiman’s “Somewhere in America”, a stand-alone extract from American Gods. Claire North’s contribution is the most reminiscent of 1001 nights so of course I loved it. But I was stopped in my tracks by Amal El-Mohtar’s prose-poem “A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds” which reminded me immensely of The Book of The Dead – one of my favourite books ever. Kirsty Logan’s “The Spite House” is really clever yet pulses with heart and anxiety. And Sophia Al-Maria’s “The Righteous Guide of Arabsat” is a vibrant, authentic and eventually scary look at a man’s fear of female sexuality.

Pick it up, rub it, and make a wish.

4 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Mr Eternity by Aaron Thier

img_2360Two young documentary makers have heard there is an old sailor in Key West who says he is 560 years old. They go to meet him with minds prised open against the cynicism 2016 is steeped in. If they do make a documentary about him, it won’t be mocking – it will be hopeful.

The old sailor, who tells people his name is Daniel Defoe, seems to be in the prime of his life. But if so it’s been a very long prime. Because then we’re introduced to him as the antagonist in a vengeful woman’s tale. He is in South America in 1560 when the Spaniards have destroyed the Aztec and Inca civilizations. Then we meet him again in 1795, a friend of John Green, a man passing for white in the plantations of Bermuda.

But the story of Daniel Defoe doesn’t end there. We meet him again in 2500 in the future Democratic Federation of Mississippi States. A time when the cities of the Atlantic coast are underwater, the union has fallen apart, and cars, plastics, and air conditioning are relegated to history. Then he is an advisor to the King of St. Louis.

Although many things change through the centuries, other things remain constant, and it seems like being on the edge of ruin is one.

This review is probably one of the hardest I’ve written. Not because the book is awful or impossible to figure out when you’re reading it (though I was a little confused at first! Just because it’s somehow really hard to explain. It is a great concept and it’s well executed but I wasn’t quite sure what the message was – was it that the world is always on the edge of extinction so there’s no point worrying about climate change etc. Or was it exactly the opposite? That it really is about tme we stepped back from the edge?

Part of it’s charm is that although Daniel Defoe is always an important character, he’s not the main character in any of the stories. But this is also part of the books failing, we never really know what Daniel thinks.

It is worth reading – but you’ll have to keep your mind open and make it up for yourself!

3.5 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Find Me by Laura van den Berg

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Click to Order from Waterstones

In a hospital in Kansas there are a select group of patients that all seem to be immune to the epidemic sweeping Amercia. A sickness that begins with silver blisters and memory loss and ends with death has devasted the United States but these patients and their unorthodox Doctor might hold the key to a cure.

One of the patients is Joy. Before she came to the hospital she had a disatisfying job and an addiction to cough syrup. She’d never had much of a life having been in care and foster homes throughout her childhood so she’d figured a few weeks in hospital would be an easy gig. But it isn’t long until their isolation leaves all the patients longing for the outside.

Joy is an interesting protagonist, her flaws and vulnerabilities take centre stage and really are what push her forward in this strange adventure.

This is very much a book of two halves though, I enjoyed the first half set in the hospital, Laura Van Den Berg’s odd, almost dream-like writing style works well set against the institutional structure and feels right expressing Dr Bek’s treatment. But the second half of the book where Joy is trying to travel across the country it seems to lose it’s way a bit. Particularly when she meets another healer with a similar methodology to Dr Bek. It feels a bit repetitious and as the book ended just as she was about to find (or not find) the person she was looking for , it also felt a bit pointless.

I can be a fan of the ambiguous ending when it’s done well, but in this case because there was so much meandering in the second half of the book I really felt it needed a solid ending.

3 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

The PowerOne day, Allie discovers she can inflict an electric shock with just her hand. Her adoptive father, who has been sexually abusing her for years, finds himself on the recieivng end.

In the UK, Roxy Monke, daughter of crime lord Bernie Monke, finds she has the same power – but it’s not enough to save her mother from the men sent to kill her.

Soon after hundreds of teen girls find they have the same ability and that they can wake up the latent ability in their mothers and grandmothers. Suddenly – the world has changed and the power to hurt is in women’s hands.

To say my little feminist heart was excited to read this is an understatement! I couldn’t wait to see how this question would be examined and what conclusions this book would come to. But before we ge to that let’s just look at it as a story.

Naomi Alderman is a good writer. There are a couple of clever stylistic twists but mainly she just gets on with the job of telling the story so it flows very quickly and pulls the reader along … even when there are moments that you might not want to read or only to read through your fingers!

The characters are great, I particularly liked Tunde, the young Nigerian lad who falls into becoming THE expert journalist on the subject by chance but takes the opportunity and runs with it. But all the characters are well written and easy to empathise with.

That’s partly why I ended up not really liking this book. It’s powerful, but it’s message seems to suggest that power corrupts everybody. That if women were more physically powerful as men we’d abuse that power just as much.

It’s a theory that does have a certain amount of validity, but nonetheless it’s one that my heart can’t accept. It’s also one that I think is dangerous in the current climate. There are too many ‘mens rights activists’ that already think we’re in a war and that feminists all need a lesson. This could become ammunition for them. After all, most of them aren’t brilliant at distinguishing fiction from reality.

3 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Second-Hand Bestsellers – Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm

You may remember that following my confession a few months ago about picking up bargain books at second-hand stalls I  made a bit of a challenge out of my vice.The criteria I set are:-

  • Each book must be bought secondhand for no more than £1
  • Each book must claim on its front cover that it is a bestseller, award winner
  • 12 books – one per month for a year

This is my Book #2. Do feel free to join me and share your second-hand bestsellers in the comments!

Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm- published 1977.

‘The Hugo Award Winning Novel’

Tagline – PLAY GOD: It’s the most dangerous game of all

Hugo Award Winner Locus Award Winner Click to go through to Amazon
Hugo Award Winner
Locus Award Winner
Click to go through to Amazon

Wow! This short book of just 250 pages is a brilliantly thought through vision of a post-apocalyptic rebuilding of the human species. A new society where a child is will never feel lonely or left out and is always one of a number of identical brothers or sisters. The idea of group telepathy was not new in 1977 and indeed was explored in John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos published in 1957.

The story starts shortly before the apocalypse and is set in the beautiful Shendoah valley. Famine and drought are causing international incidents, resources are being hoarded and countries are closing borders. Radiation in the atmosphere is high, pandemics are killing thousands daily and most countries are experiencing zero population growth. Those with foresight are realising that the masses cannot be saved and that human species is on the brink of extinction. The Sumner family is blessed with several brilliant thinkers, lots of wealth and plenty of fertile secluded land. The elders have planned ahead and stockpiled medical and computer equipment, generators, food, building materials, animals, seeds and tools and most importantly gathered together people with skills.

David has been studying in the field of cloning and when tests show that all the men have become infertile the full value of his research becomes clear. At first cloning of humans is vital for the survival of the species but in time sexual reproduction of the species is seen as inferior and those few clones who turn out to be fertile are removed from the society and used as breeding stock to carry the cloned fetuses.

Cloned and cloned again for the continuance of the particular skills of their forebear each new batch of identical sisters or brothers share an emotional and psychological bond bordering on telepathy that proves ultimately to make them not individual thinkers but one part of a functioning whole. In Wilhelm’s novel these groups of children are not sinister creatures with the ability to control the minds of normal humans as in The Midwich Cuckoos but groups of identically skilled beings. Specialism stifles diversity, the individual consciousness is lost as the group consciousness develops, and consequently free thinkers, unique skills and the ability to produce random ideas are eradicated from the new generations.

What makes us human? This becomes the central theme of the book as the decades pass and the new society realise that their continuing reproduction and therefore their very survival will depend on obtaining resources from the ruined cities. To leave their safe valley and go foraging hundreds of miles away in bombed out cities and radiation poisoned landscapes requires skills that these generations were not bred for. Their new utopia is in grave danger.

This book is not dark and violent as many dystopian novels are. It’s more subtle in its depiction of good and bad choices. At the end Mark, who is not a clone although both his parents were, says “You won’t understand this. No one’s alive but me who could understand it. I love you, Barry. You’re strange to me, alien, not human. All of you are… but I didn’t destroy them because I loved you.”

This novel is concisely written, not a word is wasted and yet Wilhelm’s descriptions of the desolate cities and the deep forests lack nothing. It is meticulously thought out and challenging. Presented in 3 main time frames she develops various protagonists as the new generations are introduced and the contrast between the individual and the collective deepens.

This book blew me away. I may not be a lover of sci-fi (though since the cloning of Dolly the sheep in the 1990s cloning has ceased to be fiction and has become a fact) but nevertheless I was immersed in this vision of the future. I can see why it won two awards and I recommend it whole-heartedly for anyone from YA up.

I wish it was longer – that’s my only complaint. I have to give it 5 bites

 

 

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.

The Gradual by Christopher Priest

cover88297-mediumChristopher Priest is apparently one of the UK’s greatest writers – on the cover just there you can see that the Sunday Times considers him a ‘Novelist of Distinction’! I’d never heard of him before this book let alone read him. When I looked him up when I was about halfway through this I found he’d written over 15 books including one which was turned into the award winning film The Prestige. It just goes to show how easy it is to miss even best- selling authors!

Anyway this book is starts in a country called Glaund, a cold and controlled country locked in a permanent war. It follows the life of Alesandro Sussken, a composer whose older brother is sent off to fight, leaving his family bereft.

Alesandro is inspired by the Dream Archipelago, a string of islands that no one can map or explain.  He creates symphonies named for them, a somewhat subversive act as  all knowledge of the  islands is forbidden by the junta. Then he is invited on a cultural tour of them, an opportunity too good to miss but one that will not only change his perceptions of his country, but will lead to him losing years of his life too.

This book is written in first person, so Alesandro is telling us his story directly. It feels like he is telling it at a bit of a distance, not as if he’s overthe pain of his brother leaving and never coming back, more as if he’s perpetually distracting himself from it. Often this muffling of the main characters pain would make a book less exciting and harder for the reader to connect to, but in this case it reflects the dream-like quality of the mysterious islands.

This was an interesting read, it plays with time and travel in an unusual way, what made this really special though was the music, I’m no musician but like most people I recognise its expressive power. This book pays homage to that.

4 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Roofworld by Christopher Fowler

imageLondon in the 1980’s has a secret people never see. A refuge for the misfits and outcasts of society that towers above the dirty city. But Roofworld, with its complex laws and codes and decaying system of cables and wires is at war. And if evil wins it will take possession of the city below next.

Robert is looking for the author of a little known book to try and buy the film rights from her, sadly he is a little too late, she was murdered during a robbery the week before. But he does meet Rose, who tells him about her daughter who she thinks has been kidnapped and is being held in Roofworld. They get pulled into events up above – not always the perfect scenario for Robert as he  discovers he’s not good with heights!

This was Christopher Fowler’s first book – he’s gone on to become quite the prolific author having written more than 40 books including the ‘Bryant & May’ series. He specialises in unusual plots and peculiar happenings set in the real world so he’s a good bet for fans of Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch.

And this is certainly an unusual plot full or peculiar happenings! If I was rating this on plot alone it would definitely get 5 bites! If I was rating it  on writing alone it would probably get  bites too – even though he’s written so much this book was still peppered with lovely lines and fresh metaphors that made me feel like I was there.

The only thing this falls down on is the characters, they’re not awful, but they feel a bit lazy. Robert seems like a slightly less interesting version of Richard Mayhew – the protagonist of Neverwhere (written by Neil Gaiman in 1996 – though I’m not suggesting there was any plagiarism going on), Rose is cool but we never get beneath the surface and the police characters are very formulaic. The two dominant characters fighting it out on the roof tops could be fascinating but we don’t really get to learn much about them until too late.

I have to say that this would make a cracking movie though, or a graphic novel, but as a novel I can only give it 3.5 bites – readable, and fairly enjoyable but not earth-shattering. I’m interested to read some of his more recent works though now.

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

cover87393-mediumWoman on the Edge of Time was first published 40-years ago, it became a classic, painting a picture of two possible futures and how even the most downtrodden could fight for the happier one. Connie Ramos, a Mexican American woman living in New York. Connie was once ambitious and determined, she started college, but then she had her dignity, her husband, and her child stolen. Finally they want to take her sanity – but does she still have it to steal?

Connie has recently been contacted by an envoy from the year 2137 who introduces her to a time where men and women are equal, the words he and she are obsolete having been replaced by the word per (short for person). All forms of sexuality are celebrated as are all racial genetics. It isn’t quite a perfect world, there are minor jealousies and tensions between lovers and a war still being fought on the outer boundaries, but to Connie it’s a revelation. Now she’s been unjustly committed to a mental institution, and they’re putting electrodes into her brain, when she tries to reach the future next it’s entirely different, a horrific place for women to live. Does Connie hold they key to which becomes our future and if so does she have the strength to turn it?

Today Ebury Publishing have released a 40th anniversary addition, a new generation get to meet Connie. I have to applaud them, they’re having a great month for feminist literature, just a couple of weeks ago they also released Shappi Khorshandi’s Nina is Not Ok and now this!

To my shame I missed this first time round, I don’t know how, I’ve read a lot of feminist literature but this passed me by. I’m so glad to have read it. I have to admit that when I first started it I was in a dark place and the first few pages with their bleak portrait of exploitation was more than I could take. I had to set it aside for a couple of weeks. If I’d known where it was going I wouldn’t have, just a few pages later it blossomed and it would have lifted me right out of the funk I was in.

I can’t express how much I loved this book – it’s definitely one I’ll re-read and one I want passionately for you to read too. This isn’t just a ‘feminist book’, it’s also a brilliantly written sci-fi classic. It’s interesting to read this with fresh eyes in 2016, still over a hundred years away from the two possible predicted futures, and see our progress towards them. When Marge Piercy wrote this the idea of wearing computers as watches or using gender neutral pronouns was pie-in-the-sky as was the thought of the majority of women having plastic surgery. Reading it now it seems like it could’ve been written just yesterday. We’ve still all got choices to make – which future will you fight for?

5 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

imageThe next huge YA crossover book! Those adults that loved Philip Pullman’s writing and JK Rowling’s world creation will love this.

It opens with a quote from Dickens’s Dombey and Son: “Those who study the physical sciences, and bring them to bear upon the health of man, tell us that if the noxious particles that rise from vitiated air, were palpable to the sight, we should see them lowering in a dense black cloud above such haunts, and rolling slowly on to corrupt the better portions of a town. But if the moral pestilence that rises with them could be made discernible too, how terrible the revelation!”

This book, set in an alternative Victorian England takes that premise seriously. Here sin appears as smoke on the body and soot on the clothes. Children smoke furiously from birth and the ruling elite are sent to boarding school to learn to control their desires and contain their sin. They are spotless.

Thomas and Charlie attend such a school in Oxfordshire but then on a trip to London, a forbidden city shrouded in smoke and darkness, they witness an event that makes them question everything they have been told. There is more to the world of smoke, soot and ash than meets the eye and it seems there are those who will stop at nothing to protect it.

There are a lot of great Young Adult stories and many older adults read them too (you’re only as old as the books you read? 😉). But few of them have writing as good as this.  For the first few chapters I found myself stopping and re-reading many sentences, smiling to myself at the simple joy of language used well. But then I became too engrossed in the story and then the damn book went and finished!

I utterly recommend this, it’s got it all, plot, characters, ideas, adventure, love, passion and a great villain!

5 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

imageIn a future where water is rare and the south-west of America is covered with sand. California, and all those still living there, are  stranded.

Luz and Ray don’t want to leave though, they’ve built a perfect personal utopia on each others love.

But when they come across a child they suspect is being abused everything changes. They know they need to find a better life for her.

I love a bit of dystopian fiction. For me it’s the ultimate ‘what if’ game, rooted in reality but branching into an unknown future. Claire Vaye Watkins has had good reviews for this book too – one even compared it to The Handmaids Tale.

There is a lot that’s good about this book, but it isn’t perfect. The author has written some complex and haunting characters and the world she describes is disturbing. Not so much for the lack of water but for the ways people act when they are isolated from a wider society, and either forced or allowed to create their own.

There were bits of this book that I wanted to skip over, and bits that didn’t quite hold my attention. A tighter edit could have shot this up to a 5 bite read for me.

But it is brave and worth reading, 4 bites.

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Book To Film: A Brief Look At Philip K. Dick

Philip K. DickIn the last week or so, the UK broadcaster Channel 4 has announced a new TV series based on the works of Philip K. Dick…

Channel 4 and Sony Pictures Television have today announced they are partnering on a hugely ambitious original drama series based on the short stories written by award-winning Sci-Fi novelist Philip K. Dick.

The ten-part anthology series, Electric Dreams: The World of Philip K. Dick, will be written and executive produced by Emmy-nominated Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Outlander) and Michael Dinner (Justified, Masters of Sex), with Oscar nominated Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Breaking Bad) both executive producing and appearing in the series.

Each episode will be a sharp, thrilling standalone drama adapted and contemporised for global audiences by a creative team of British and American writers. The series will both illustrate Philip K. Dick’s prophetic vision and celebrate the enduring appeal of the prized Sci-Fi novelist’s work.

Bryan Cranston has starred in many big films, such as Godzilla, but he is better know for his leading role in ‘Breaking Bad’.

If you are a big fan of Battlestar Galactica then you should know that Ronald D. More was the main force behind it.  He was also a major contributor to various Star Trek TV series and films.

Seems like the new TV show has some great credentials!

It’s not the first time that Philip K. Dick’s work has been developed in to films. Most of the time, it’s his short stories have been used as a basis for a script.

Let’s take a look at some of his work that has made it to the big screen…

The Man In The High Castle

This 1962 book was made in to a successful TV series in 2015.  It was developed for Amazon Prime and another series is due this year.

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale

This short story from 1966 was developed for film in 1990 and was released as ‘Total Recall’. It featured Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role and was in my opinion a fairly fun film. However, another version was made in 2012 which was much more serious and more liberal with the original story.

The Minority Report

After Blade Runner, this is possibly the biggest film based on a Philip K. Dick’s story. The original book was published in 1956 and made in to a film in 2006 starring Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell.

Blade Runner

You really can’t talk about Philip K. Dick and not mention Blade Runner. It has become a cult film, inspired and influenced Sci Fi films ever since the film was released in 1982. It’s based on the book, ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep’ that was first published in 1968.

A Scanner Darkly

This is the most quirky of all the adaptations of Philip K. Dicks works. Based on the 1977 book, the film was used the technique of interpolated rotoscoping. You can read more about it here. Basically, animators draw over each frame to create an animated look. This in my opinion is the closest anyone has got to the story and the ‘look and feel’ that was originally intended by the author

Bob Toovey
I started reading Sci Fi at around age 8, I've never looked back since. I was highly influenced by my father's reading choices at the beginning. I soon branched out to many different authors and Sci Fi genre's. Early influences include Asimov, Clark, Simak, PKD and other 'golden age' authors. On occasion, I like a good spy book and currently finding early religious history a fascinating subject – despite being an atheist.

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

imageYoung Lalla is lucky. Although Oxford Street burned for three weeks under the new regime and British Museum’s artefacts are vanishing and being replaced by desperate homeless survivors, she has been sheltered from the harsh reality by her parents.

But with the regime getting harsher and food becoming more scarce her father has decided it is time to leave. The ship is not just a whispered dream, it’s real. But it can only carry five hundred people so only the worthy will be saved. To her surprise her father is the ships owner and the architect of the entire escape plan. He’s done it all to save her so her place is assured.  But before long she starts to question her place onboard, and the mission itself.

Antonia Honeywell has written a really interesting dystopian novel. Officially this falls into the Young Adult market but I think this is works just as well for the adult market.

It’s set in the quite near future and in a London that is recognisable and I think that adds to the credibility of plot. The main character is interesting and mostly likeable, but not perfect or omniscient, so it’s easy to stay on her side, even though you might sometimes want to shake her!

The purchase or the ship along with setting up stores for it and assembling the passengers isn’t focused on in the story, but that too is made believable by the telling of just a few details, the knowledge the reader is given of the surroundings chaos and by the character of Lalla’s father, if anyone can pull something like that off he is the man to do it!

This book doesn’t just tell a story though, it asks questions about how we live our lives, both in the world and personally. Questions that don’t have easy answers and the author doesn’t patronise us by providing her own.

4 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book b through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

imageJohanna Sinisalo might not be well known in the UK yet but mark my words she will be!

She is exceptional both in her ideas and in her execution of them. I won’t lie, when I first read the blurb of this book I was intrigued, but I was also worried. Here is what it says…

“The Eusistocratic Republic of Finland has bred a new human sub-species of receptive, submissive women, called eloi, for sex and procreation, while intelligent, independent women are relegated to menial labor and sterilized so that they do not carry on their “defective” line. Vanna, raised as an eloi but secretly intelligent, needs money to help her doll-like sister, who has disappeared. Vanna forms a friendship with a man named Jare, and they become involved in buying and selling a stimulant known to the Health Authority to be extremely dangerous: chili peppers.”

I worried that it might either be a rip off of The Handmaidens Tale, or worse (much worse) 50 shades of grey.

Thankfully it is neither – it might share a little if the same DNA as The Handmaids Tale, but it is a completely different story. It also has a little of the DNA of 1984 and A Brave New World. It is a child of a great dynasty but Sinisalo brings her contemporary experiences to the table too. Vanna is a brilliant character, and you’ll really care what happens to her. Finland as an “eusistocracy”—an extreme welfare state—that holds public health and social stability above all else, is believable, and just as sinister as any other controlling state. I doubted that using Chili peppers as an illegal stimulant and possibly hallucinogenic drug would work, but by the end I was tempted into trying them myself!

This book blew hot panic and intense melancholy through me. Read it.

5 hot bites!

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

image“Word (wurd)

noun

1 A human relic, now obsolete.

2 archaic A discrete unit of meaning that when synthesised with other such units may make a small scratch in the skin of time.”

In a parallel New York books, libraries, and newspapers have already become historical items. Much as in our own world, most communication and entertainment is streamed to handheld devices known as Memes.  These devices are smart enough to dial the doctor before we know we’re sick, or prompt us with words we can’t recall. Of course not quite everyone is in thrall to them, Anana has endured numerous lectures from her father -the chief editor of what is going to be the last ever edition of the North American Dictionary of the English Language.

Then, just days before her father’s dictionary  is due to be released, he vanishes.

Anana, having recently been dumped by the popular and successful Max, turns to her bookish colleague Bart  to help. Soon they are embroiled in a bizarre mystery but can the find the answers they need before they, and the rest of North America, succumb to the growing “word flu” pandemic.

Ok, you all know I’m a book fiend! I devour them so quickly I should have a permanent case of book indigestion so I found the thought of ‘word flu’ fascinating. But I’m also a bit of a device fiend! I’m rarely seen without my phone or iPad near me even if I’m not using them. So I was also a little hesitant to start this, I was listening to the AudioBook version (on my phone of course!) and I was a bit worried it might turn into a 16 hour lecture on the perils of modern technology!

I was hooked by this though. It is clever, really clever, but at the same time it’s full of human foibles, unrequited love, complicated family relationships, sinister conspiracies, clumsy get rich quick schemes, scholarly superheroes, city life, nicknames and everything else the human condition entails. I found myself listening to it at every available opportunity.

It’s written for the young adult market, and I’d definitely recommend it for over 13’s, but it’s another one that bursts right out of that genre and can easily take a  place at the table next to any thriller.

Sink your teeth into it. You won’t regret it!

5 bites

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Tube Riders by Chris Ward

 

Click the picture to buy from Amazon
Click the picture to buy from Amazon

It is 2075 and Britain is now Mega Britain. Cut off from the rest of Europe and under the sole control of a man known only as the Governor. He rarely appears but rumours of his extraordinary powers keep the populace in check.

But teenagers must still blow off their frustrations so in the abandoned London Underground station of St. Cannerwells, a group of misfits calling themselves the Tube Riders meet regularly. They are a group of orphans, but together they are a family of sorts – Marta is their leader, a girl haunted by her brother’s disappearance. Paul lives only to protect his little brother Owen. Simon is trying to hold on to his relationship with Jess, daughter of a government official. Guarding them all is Switch, a young man with a flickering eye and a faster knife, who cares only about preserving their legend as they play their dangerous game with trains.

Everything changes the day they are attacked by a rival gang. While escaping, they witness an event that could bring war down on Mega Britain. Suddenly they are fleeing for their lives, pursued not only by their rivals, but by the brutal Department of Civil Affairs, government killing machines known as Huntsmen, and finally by the inhuman Governor himself.

Chris Ward has a good idea for a novel here and he executes it well to an extent. There is plenty of action with characters facing danger at every turn and surviving as much by luck as by skill. The characters are drawn well enough for us to care about them and their reactions are believable.

The only place this goes wrong is that the author tells the story from too many different points of view. His omniescent narration swoops down into pretty much every speaking role! Luckily he does this well enough for it not to be confusing but it does at times mean he’s doing too much telling and not enough showing. This would definitely have been better and even more compelling if he had limited the viewpoint to maybe three of the main characters or maximum five, not twelve.

A good read though – 3.5 bites.

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.