2018 publishing just keeps on getting better and better. There’s already so much to look forward to not mention Ponti by Sharlene Teo, Circe by Madeline Miller, a new novel by Haruki Murakami and now it’s time to add Suicide Club by Rachel Heng to your lists.
There’s already been a lot of buzz about this book online so I considered myself very lucky to get a proof copy of this one. I mean the cover alone, I know don’t judge… but totally judge, this book looks striking. Plus having your debut novel published by Sceptre is ridiculously cool.
Set in the near future humanity is on the brink of immortality, well the elite are on the brink of immortality. Lea surrounds herself with the right people, has a high powered job, hasn’t eaten sugar in years, exercises everyday. One small mistake puts her under the surveillance of the ministry and slowly her perfect life starts to unravel.
I got about five chapters into Suicide Club when I realised what I was reading was a big deal. Heng’s novel had touches of Black Mirror in the sense that she had created a future that wasn’t farfetched, it was completely acceptable and imaginable that people would modify their bodies to extend their life expectancy.
One of the first themes that Heng explores in her novel of near immortality is how society grieves. The grief obviously lasting a lifetime but when that lifetime is hundreds of years.
Suicide Club has really stuck with me. I finished it a few days ago and I can’t stop thinking about this book, I can’t get into any other books. My mind keeps going back to this book! There was a lot I really connected with this book, I loved Heng’s writing style and the story was original.
I can’t recommend this enough and believe me, Suicide Club will be HUGE.
Suicide Club by Rachel Heng is published by Sceptre Books on 10th July 2018
For the past couple of weeks we’ve had a reoccurring picture book, most books are on a rotation otherwise I’ll slowly go insane reading them but The Last Chip by Duncan Beedie has been picked out every night.
The Last Chip is the story a very hungry pigeon called Percy. Little Percy does everything he can to go in search for the smallest scraps of food but is constantly met with disappointment.
I can’t praise this story enough, Beedie’s first two picture books were such a delight so we were ecstatic to get a third book. The Last Chip is a thoughtful story about perseverance and kindness. This is the sort of picture book that make your toddler a more considerate person. It’s the first picture I’ve come across that really tackles poverty in a tasteful way but doesn’t divert from being a lovely story that everyone will love.
Like with The Bear Who Stared and The Lumberjack’s Beard Duncan Beedie’s are gorgeous. I really can’t wait to read whatever Duncan Beedie writes next, his books have entertained my daughter for HOURS.
Grab a copy, read it about 20 times, be a better person.
10% of the profits from the sale of this book go to The Trussell Trust, supporting a network of 425 foodbanks across the UK.
The Silent Companions popped up on the proof list for a second time, it had caught my eye the first time but I had just read The Wicked Cometh and didn’t fancy another book set in the 1800s. When it popped up again I knew I had to request a copy, @smokintofu from What Page Podcast had raved about this book and two other booky people had recommended The Silent Companions so I was ready to dive in.
Set in 1865, the recent bride and widow Elsie Bainbridge goes to see out her pregnancy in peace at their country estate, The Bridge. The Bridge is resented by locals and up in the locked garrett Elsie come across the two-hundred year-old hand painted wooden statues – the companions.
The Silent Companions is really REALLY good. It’s eerie from the off, the start of the novel reminded me a little of See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. Elsie is a wilful character, she’s quite no-nonsense but as the book progresses you see more tragic side to Elsie. The starts going in a bit of a Woman In Black direction quite early on and there’s one part of the book that went a little Final Destination and gave me actual chills.
Purcell’s writing has great pace, she keeps the tensions going with every page. There’s sections of the novel that take place in the 1600s and Purcell keeps the pages turning and weaves her timelines together perfectly. The line “Perhaps you don’t belong in an at all.” plays in the back of your mind while your reading Elsie’s story and I found myself trying to constantly guess the outcome of the novel. You’re given hints at the start as to where the story will end but there’s more than a few unexpected dark twists.
I was reading this book on a dark, windy night and credit to Purcell her story was so good it made me question every creak in my house. The Silent Companions took me all of two days to read and it was one of the most enjoyably, twisty books I’ve read in a long time. It’s a gothic delight which will leave you shivering.
Definitely one for the long winter nights.
I’ve been bedridden with a gross chest infection. It’s been the worst, but also the best because I’ve actually had time to read. I’d just finished The Wicked Cometh on Tuesday evening and was raring to start another book.
Weeks ago I requested a copy of the new James Smythe novel I Still Dream which is due out in April 2018. It was a real judge-a-book-by-it’s-cover moment when I first saw the proof, there was a little sticker on the front saying “Cloud Atlas meets Black Mirror” so I was completely on board.
I Still Dream is the first novel I’ve read by James Smythe, I’m not sure why I’d left it this long to read one of his books as he’s always come highly recommended by other booksellers.
At the age of 17 Laura Bow has invented Organon. Organon begins as a sound-board or kind of responsive journal for all of her teenage dilemmas, everything Laura is experiencing she’s offloading to Organon.
As she grows Organon grows.
The first chapters of I Still Dream will give anyone born in the 80s the most cringeworthy flashbacks. I instantly fell into Laura’s life, I was one hundred percent there. Laura’s experience of the coming technological revolution is written with perfection. Out loud I sighed “oh my god” when reading Laura’s inner debate about the comparisons between the quality of using Sony cassettes or Maxwell ones. Just trying to stifle the noise of your modem booting up was every teenager’s nightmare in ’97. Smythe’s writing was grounded, real and oh too reminiscent of going to a rubbish secondary school in the 90s.
The book takes an unexpected jump forward and your realise you’re in for the long-ride. I was a little sad to leave teenage Laura behind, she didn’t give a shit and I just wanted to read about her sitting in her room programming Organon.
It’s been so long since I’ve read a novel so quickly. I think it’s wrong to compare I Still Dream to Cloud Altas because Cloud Atlas can be a real slog sometimes, this book isn’t like that. Every page holds so much, if you want to put I Still Dream alongside a David Mitchell book put it alongside The Bone Clocks. There’s a lot of comparisons you make between Holly Sykes in The Bone Clock and Laura Bow but Smythe’s character feels more reserved. Laura’s compassionate and protective, unfortunately not always to the people around her but to Organon she’s maternal. She’s grown Organon from the piece of code that began it all but she’s guarded when it comes to who’s hands this software is in.
This book is a brilliant technological adventure that dabbles with the morals of artificial intelligence and privacy but also tells the story of the human experience. The latter half of the novel is almost anxiety inducing, it holds a mirror up to surveillance and how much of our lives are there for everyone to see. Smythe’s book is about choice, compassion and knowledge and what we do when we pass these things on to AI. You see both sides of the coin, good and bad. Going forward we’re integrating AI into our day to day and people like me who aren’t necessarily tech-minded don’t see the depth of the information that these programs are learning. This book sheds light on a fascinating part of our future.
Anyway, this has been one of the best books I’ve read all year and I can’t wait for everyone to get their hands on this outstanding novel next. Regardless it’s a fascinating book about artificial intelligence or just a fun novel about a Kate Bush song?
If you enjoyed Ex-Machina or Black Mirror (especially the episodes The Entire History of You, Be Right Back and San Junipero) you have to read this novel. It’s every bit as thrilling and touching as you can get. I’d also recommend Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark, Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari or Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom for further reading.
THIS IS DEFINITELY MY NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR.
The United States of Absurdity by Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds illustrated by James Fosdike is one of the funniest books I’ve ever come across.
I was only introduced to The Dollop a few months ago by one of my best friends. I’m somewhat of a podcast addict, I love Night Vale, My Favourite Murder and Hamish & Andy. When I first listened to The Dollop is wasn’t feeling it, then my friend said “Listen to the Rube episode.” after that I was hooked.
Earlier this year the hosts of The Dollop announced they were releasing a book, obviously I couldn’t wait.
I don’t even know where to start when taking about this book as it’s so obscure. If like me you have no interest in American history whatsoever, this is the book for you! Every page of The United States of Absurdity is hilarious. Dave Anthony and Garry Reynolds have plucked some of the most ridiculous stories from America’s past, by the time you reach the end of this book you’ll be left fathoming how as a race we are still alive.
Have you heard of Oofty Goofy or Ten-Cent Beer Night? No, of course you haven’t, but they’re amazing stories you need to read to believe!
The illustrations by James Fosdike are great and a little traumatising (check out The Stomach Men page for nightmare fuel).
This book is worth every penny and I really hope they decide to do a sequel.
I reckon about a third of my life is dedicated to books and another third to my toddler but that last third is taken up by gaming. I’ve always had a console, my mum got me a Sega Megadrive when I was tiny and I haven’t been without a console since. I’ve never considered myself a gamer as growing up it was always a mild interest but in the past few years I’ve fallen in love with RPGs. I love the epic sprawling ones that take way too much to complete like the Final Fantasy games, Kingdom Hearts, Bioshock and the Tales series.
This week I finally caved and got Persona 5. I’ve played the others and I avoided getting this one as I knew it’d take over my life. I only started Persona 5 a few days ago and I’m already nine hours deep, it was while I was playing I was mulling over why I got so absorbed in these types of games and it’s obvious: they’re great stories.
The story writing and editing of these types of games parallel the best novels out there. Bioshock Infinite for one left me shook and years on I’ll still go back and watch the ending on Youtube just to fathom it once more (and tbh I’m still trying to get my head round it). More recently I’ve devoted a large portion of my life to Final Fantasy XV. I bloody love everything about this game, I haven’t been as emotionally invested in a FF game since FFX which left me in bits by the time I got to the end. The fact that each part of the game is divided into chapters says that you’re not just playing a game, you’re taking part in a story that a team have put their heart and soul into.
If like me you love a game for it’s story you might find these books right up your street.
Lyonesse by Jack Vance – I read the first book in the Lyonesse trilogy about six years ago. I picked up a copy purely because the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks edition has a stunning front cover and I wasn’t expecting much from what sounded like a paint-by-numbers fantasy novel. This book is very epic considering it’s the first in a trilogy, it’s a heady mix of fantasy, fairytale, myth and legend. I’ve not made it round to books two and three yet but I managed to get copies with the original 1986 cover.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – Taylor’s previous series was wonderful escapism so obviously this new novel was going to be just as ace. Strange the Dreamer starts with Lazlo running away from his abusive life and he takes refuge and solace in a library where he becomes to inhabit. Lazlo’s love of books is so beautifully written and as he starts to discover that there’s a strange truth to the books he considered as fairytales you find yourself being sucked into an emotionally deep fantasy. It’s got really brilliant characters and some wicked cool Gods, have a read.
The Dark Tower by Stephen King – OBVIOUSLY THESE BOOKS WOULD BE MENTIONED! I think everyone should read them, not only has King created an epic intricate world that could rival any Final Fantasy game, he also gives readers an amazing journey. Seven books (and Wind Through the Keyhole) which leave you wanting so much more and a cast of characters so rich you can’t help but agonise that you hadn’t read them sooner. This is must for Bioshock fans, the complexity of the story is outstanding. Most of The Dark Tower books read like really cool RPGs and there’s so many chapters and fights that you can’t help but think “this would make an amazing video game”.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – It’s magical realism at it’s finest. 1Q84 is a book made up of three volumes and from the start you feel your world changing around you as you become so completely involved in Aomame and Tengo’s story. When her taxi becomes stuck in a traffic jam Aomame is warned by the driver that getting out of the cab could change reality the world, not wanting to be late for her meeting Aomame gets out of the car. 1Q84 is one of the greatest novels I’ve ever read. It’s long, it’s complicated but it’s as close to perfect as a novel gets. It’s David Mitchell meets FFXV.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer – Now this is a bit of a life-ruiner of a book. It’s weird, really weird and mind bending and amazing and just head-shattering. I finished Annihilation about three months ago and I’m still numbed by the ending. I can’t bring myself to even consider book two in the Southern Reach trilogy yet. The story follows a nameless biologist and her companions as they set out to explore Area X. That’s all you need to know about Annihilation, just go and read it.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman – This is one of the best road stories out there. After being released from prison Shadow ends up travelling across the States with a ‘man’ only known as Mr Wednesday. American Gods is beautifully written balance of travel, mystery and mythology. This is a must read and I’m about to re-read this as I first finished it about five years ago. I just finished the television show (which was brilliant) and after watching I had the strangest sense to play Devil May Cry for the billionth time.
Honourable mention – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
I hope you enjoy these recommends for gamers and give me a shout if you know of a stand out RPG I must play!
Last week I finished reading Parade by Shuichi Yoshida. Villain had been a novel on my radar for a while but the blurb hadn’t gripped me enough to buy it. That’s when I saw Parade, I read the back cover and figured that this book sounded cool.
It’s a fairly short book that surrounds four people flat sharing in Tokyo. I really loved the way Yoshida nails the mundanity of modern life, especially when you’re in your twenties, you live in a big city but it’s lonely as hell. Parade took almost no time to read but I found myself let down by the ending. It’s something you sort of see coming but the build up didn’t feel good enough. Considering you have such a cast of such complex characters and their situations vary so much it seems insane that they know each other, let alone live together.
Having read a lot of Japanese fiction this book didn’t connect with me the way that Kawakami or Minato did. Or so I thought.
It’s currently 3AM and I’ve sucummed to an awful summer cold. All I can think about at this time of night is Parade. I wasn’t going to review Parade as I concluded that it was just a bit ‘meh’ but this book has gotten more under my skin than I orignally thought.
Maybe it’s the Lemsip induced delirium or maybe it’s Yoshida’s subtle writing style. I dunno.
Any way here’s to an averagely enjoyable book that has stuck with me for no apparent reason. Read it… or don’t.