Author: Mondyboy

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch

Lidia Yuknavitch’s post apocalyptic novel The Book of Joan opens on an orbital platform known as CIEL floating above a mostly radioactive Earth. The event that devastated the planet also fucked with humanities morphology leaving people pale, hairless and without sex. Christine is one of these people, and like the thousands of other survivors who escaped to CIEL, her* life is monitored and regulated by the insane Jean de Men and his followers. Christine, though, doesn’t take well to subservience and in an act of rebellion has started grafting her story and the story of Joan on her skin. It’s an account she hopes to share to others on CIEL. Who was Joan? Well she was the “child-warrior” who fought a final, epic and apocalyptic battle against Jean de Men’s forces. The very battle that destroyed the majority of life on Earth… The Book of Joan is at its best when it’s exploring Christine’s world up on the orbital platform, in particular the desire to be loved and take part in the act of love even if the appropriate equipment is missing. That last bit in particular is a major taboo on CIEL where –   Chief among the CIEL offenses are any acts resembling the act of sex, the idea of sex, the physical indicators of sexuality. All sex is restricted to textual, and all texts are grafts....

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Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

Since We Fell is not one of Dennis Lehane’s better novels. Like all his work it’s compulsively readable, there was never a point when I didn’t want to turn the page. But it’s most certainly a novel of two halves, where the first half, tonally and in terms of content, exists in a separate reality to the rest of the novel. The plot goes something like this. Rachel is a broadcast journalist who is sent to Haiti following the countries catastrophic earthquake in 2010. Embedded in the country Rachel witnesses anarchy and lawlessness where women and young girls are prey to marauding men. At one point Rachel tries to intervene which doesn’t end well for the Haitian girl she was hoping to save. On return to America – reluctantly I might add – she finds herself on the outer with her network and then out of a job when she has a mental breakdown on-air. Rachel becomes a shut-in, frightened to venture out of her house. And while her husband, Brian, is loving and sympathetic Rachel is even beginning to doubt whether he can be trusted. The first half dealing with Rachel’s search for her biological father (a subplot that loses steam at the halfway mark), her evolution as a journalist, her experience in Haiti and her eventual breakdown is fantastic stuff. Lehane’s depiction of Rachel, her refusal to...

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Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

There are very few writers who could pull off a short-story – let alone a novel – that features a three-storey flying bear with a rapacious appetite for human flesh. Unfortunately Jeff Vandermeer isn’t one of them. Kidding. Of course he bloody well is. This is a man with an imagination so fertile, so fecund, it’s a miracle his brain hasn’t sprouted an apple tree. With Borne, Vandermeer applies his prodigious faculty for creativity to the post-apocalypse genre. In a nameless and ruined city we are told by Rachel, our first person protagonist, that the bear, his name is Mord, is a product of genetic experimentation conducted by an organisation known only as the Company. Mord was never meant to be that tall or destructive, but now he essentially rules what’s left of the city and the Company headquarters. Rachel is a scavenger who follows Mord not because she has a death wish but because when he’s on the move, rampaging through the ruins, he often leaves behind bits of Company bio-tech. Rachel shares this valuable detritus with her boyfriend Wick who once worked for the Company and now spends his time mixing up a brew of choice narcotics that, when ingested (or stuck in your ear) make you forget your past or, better, yet, how fucked up things truly are. It’s on one of these scavenger hunts that...

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The Silent Invasion by James Bradley

James Bradley is a mate so it’s certainly possible that my thoughts about The Silent Invasion are biased. Except I know that’s not the case. I didn’t love the book because James wrote it, I loved the book because it’s an intense, exciting and politically aware young adult novel about the possible end of the world – at least as we know it. Set in the near future the human race is facing extinction as large swathes of both humans and animals have been infected by spores from space. Once infected the human, or animal, goes through a change, one that… well, it’s not made clear, at least in this book, what the end-state is, but the suggestion is that they become part of a hive-mind, an alien intelligence. When our protagonist, Callie, discovers that her sister, Gracie, has been infected by the spores she decides that she’d rather run away with Gracie than have her taken away (and probably killed and dissected) by the authorities. Their destination is the Zone, a quarantined place that has been subsumed (we believe) by the spores. Generally, flee-capture-escape-flee type narratives bore me to tears. Bradley gets away with it partly because The Silent Invasion is a short novel, which mitigates the possibility for boredom – Bradley maintains the tension from go to woe and it’s no certain bet that any of our...

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Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

It’s astonishing how much detail, plot and character development Vivek Shanbhag packs into his novella Ghachar Ghochar. Published for the first time in English and beautifully translated from Kannada by Srinath Perur, the book is an epic family saga told in less than 30,000 words. On the surface it’s a rags to riches tales as a family just surviving in the suburbs of Bangalore suddenly comes into money after one of the brothers establishes a successful spice company. Almost overnight they go from an ant-infested shack – as aptly described in the blurb – to a mansion which they fill with all sorts of mismatched, but expensive, furniture. This whip-lash transition from poverty to wealth leads our narrator – the younger son – to observe: It’s true what they say—it’s not we who control money, it’s the money that controls us. When there’s only a little, it behaves meekly; when it grows, it becomes brash and has its way with us. Dig a little deeper and the book is a meditation on self worth. For the younger son, who has never had much in the sense of ambition or lofty dreams, this influx of cash is both a blessing – he can sleep in and wallow in his laziness – and a curse – when he marries his wife, Anita, she expects him to get up and go to...

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  • The Costa Prize nominations have come out and, it would appear, I’ve read three of the four Novels nominated (any a… https://t.co/UYC8GaOorf
    about 2 days ago

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