A completely mind-warping novel in which people patiently take turns to speak in improbably fully-formed stories about their bizarre pasts; seeminglyA completely mind-warping novel in which people patiently take turns to speak in improbably fully-formed stories about their bizarre pasts; seemingly ordinary characters suddenly turn out to be crime-fighting superheroes, some of them aliens; people melt and disperse into the air. Dear Cyborgs interweaves two plotlines: the initially down-to-earth tale of a boy losing touch with his childhood best friend; and a convoluted tale of good and evil narrated by one of the aforementioned part-time superheroes. The chapters are punctuated with indecipherable riddles, all addressed 'Dear Cyborgs'. There are always stories within stories in this book – a detail that turns out to be key to understanding it. We have the characters' monologues, recalled memories, dream sequences, imagined conversations, many 'origin stories', and even an extract from a novel one of the characters (who may be a fictional construct in the first place) is reading. Political protest and civil disobedience serve as motifs throughout all of them. There are odd yet endearing moments of modern realism, when the more fantastical scenes are grounded by a mention of a couple meeting on OkCupid, or someone's friend-of-a-friend being a blogger. I kept having to flick backwards and reread several pages to remind myself whether what I was reading was supposed to be real, imagined, a dream, or fiction-within-fiction.
If I had to sum it up in a sentence: Communion Town meets I Hate the Internet in an alternate universe. I don't know that I understood all of it, but I did like it, very much.
Completely lost interest in the first novella, but adored the first few pages of the second. I will definitely be returning to this, but only to readCompletely lost interest in the first novella, but adored the first few pages of the second. I will definitely be returning to this, but only to read 'The Hunters'....more
I love that this is the YA fiction that Generation Z get to grow up with, about fan culture and internet friendships and the enormity of loving somethI love that this is the YA fiction that Generation Z get to grow up with, about fan culture and internet friendships and the enormity of loving something when you're still young and pure enough for that to be something bigger than an individual. Like (it seems) so many stories currently being written by young female authors, it nails the discourse and vernacular of fan communities in a way that may well date very quickly, but here and now it feels exhilaratingly fresh, accurate, affectionate. Snappy and adorable and great fun to read.
An urgent, erotic fable, this novel is propelled forward by such an irresistible force that it's difficult to imagine how it would work if you didn'tAn urgent, erotic fable, this novel is propelled forward by such an irresistible force that it's difficult to imagine how it would work if you didn't read it all the way through, breathlessly, in one long swig. If you're going to read this, do it in a single sitting, alone.
Jane and Bill are in their forties and have been married for a few years. They're very much in love, but Jane feels no desire towards Bill, and their relationship is mostly chaste. Enter Lilah, an erotic whirlwind, a petite squirming bright-red-haired nymphet/whore of a woman (well, actually she's not a woman, at least not a human one) who crowbars her way into a quiet night at the pub and gets herself an invitation to the couple's home. What happens next? A smörgåsbord of sex, emotional drama, and – most intriguingly – scenes that slip into something not quite reality.
The Tryst is extremely sexual (open it at any page and you have about a 65% chance of seeing the words 'cock' or 'cunt' – or both), but not in a transgressive way: in fact the sex is very conventional in the sense that it's primal, like Lilah's influence makes everyone regress to their essential natures, their basest animal instincts. Each of the three main characters takes their turn narrating, with Lilah's story – foul-mouthed, funny and littered with anecdotes from her long, long existence – naturally the most compelling.
I received an advance review copy of The Tryst from the publisher, Dodo Ink.
Exquisite is a headfuck of a thriller that resembles a number of literary novels I've read* – and in some cases loved – if their most theatrical elemeExquisite is a headfuck of a thriller that resembles a number of literary novels I've read* – and in some cases loved – if their most theatrical elements were ramped up, put in a blender, and distilled into the now-familiar formula: two narrators telling different versions of the same story, an obsessive relationship that goes too far, and more twists than a bag of fusilli.
Bo Luxton is a successful author, albeit one whose star is on the wane. In her early forties, she's married with two little girls, living a serene, picture-perfect life in her sprawling Lake District home, and if she's never exactly felt passionately for her much older husband, well – who cares? In every other way, she has the life of her dreams. Sorting applications for a writers' retreat she's running, Bo comes across one she finds unexpectedly stirring: the work of a Brighton-based writer named Alice Dark. Alice lives in a Brighton bedsit and spends most of her time with her waster boyfriend; her life is going nowhere, and the retreat is her last stab at establishing a creative career. Long story short: Bo and Alice hit it off, a relationship develops, and then it all goes wrong and their accounts diverge dramatically. Clearly, someone is lying.
Exquisite teems with uncertainty. There are two unreliable narrators in the shape of Bo and Alice, each with their own reasons for painting themselves in a flattering light (I found the innocuous discrepancies the most intriguing). Both women come from abusive backgrounds, and there are uncomfortable hints that they are grasping at each other for what's been missing from their lives: Bo sees in Alice the youth she never got to enjoy, while for Alice, Bo is a maternal figure. There are chapters seemingly written after the fact, from an unknown perspective, by someone who's serving a prison sentence for an undisclosed crime: is this narrator one of our protagonists – or is it one of their works of fiction? Throw in suggestions that Bo has had an inappropriate relationship with a student in the past, and that Alice has a history of getting obsessed with female tutors, and you've got all the ingredients for a sensational potboiler.
There were parts of Exquisite I adored. Bo's life in the Lake District is given such romantic appeal, it's enough to make you want to up sticks and move there overnight. It's hard to put my finger on what made me like but not love the book: perhaps I read it too soon after Based on a True Story, which has a VERY similar plot but is so much better in every respect, and The Upstairs Room, to which it bears little resemblance plot-wise, but the characters are so similar that I actually kept getting them mixed up and having to check which details had come from which book. I also kept noticing errors: there were some really obvious spelling mistakes, and the age difference between the two women appeared to be a little bit elastic.
The final twist-or-is-it-a-twist-oh-god-do-I-actually-care-at-this-point? is... confusing, and oddly rushed – more exposition would surely have made the payoff greater. I'm just not sure about that ending; I felt a little puzzled afterwards, but, by that point, also not entirely sure I cared what became of either Alice or Bo. While I enjoyed this book, I must confess I am confused as to why it's igniting such rapture in other reviewers when it is so much like so many other half-decent psychological thrillers.
Fluffy is a bunny who doesn't realise he's a bunny. Michael is his 'dad'. Michael is involved in a 'relationship' with Fluffy's nursery school teacherFluffy is a bunny who doesn't realise he's a bunny. Michael is his 'dad'. Michael is involved in a 'relationship' with Fluffy's nursery school teacher; actually she's more like his stalker, but he's too anxious and awkward and to tell her to get lost. When there's a lot of exposition to be delivered, the narration is taken over by a sentient dust particle, who sometimes has arguments with his rival, a sentient flake of dandruff. Fluffy is an absurd, funny and incredibly heartfelt graphic novel which combines innocent, childlike humour with grown-up themes: the struggles of single parenthood; loneliness; problematic family and romantic relationships. It made me smile and tugged at my heartstrings, and Fluffy is as annoying-yet-adorable as a cute little bunny who acts like a 5-year-old kid would probably be.
An unhappily childless couple take a holiday in Verona, hoping to distract themselves from the heartbreak of the many failed fertility treatments theyAn unhappily childless couple take a holiday in Verona, hoping to distract themselves from the heartbreak of the many failed fertility treatments they have endured. They are, however, beset by peculiar occurrences from the moment they arrive, as well as finding themselves strangely drawn to a particular church and its distinctive stained glass window... Verona seems to riff on both Daphne du Maurier's 'Don't Look Now' and the ancient religious horrors found in many of M.R. James's stories. It is subtler and, in my opinion, more effective than Abbot's Keep, the other ghost story I've read by Ashforth, and apparently his most widely read. It doesn't induce electrifying terror, but there were definitely more than a few moments that gave me chills. If you like this sort of thing then I'd certainly recommend it, and I'll be investigating the rest of Ashforth's stories at some point too.
The art in this graphic novel is spectacular, but the story, I'm afraid, I found disjointed and at times downright incomprehensible. It's about a younThe art in this graphic novel is spectacular, but the story, I'm afraid, I found disjointed and at times downright incomprehensible. It's about a young girl, Karen (who's obsessed with monsters, thus depicts herself as one) investigating the mysterious death of her neighbour. But it's also about the history of that neighbour, Anka, as told by the character herself in a series of recorded interviews: she's a Holocaust survivor, but her 'saviour' forced her to become a prostitute at the age of 12. It's about Karen's family – her mom, and her brother Deeze – and her mother's illness and her brother's possible relationship with Anka. It's about Karen's friends, who appear as monsters too, and at least one of whom may not actually exist. It's about Karen's burgeoning sexuality and her complicated feelings about her ex-best friend. It's about art history and mythology. It's about the big societal events of the time (the late 1960s). It's about a bunch of Karen's neighbours. And some other people from the neighbourhood she lives in. And probably some other stuff I've forgotten as well.
At the beginning of My Favorite Thing is Monsters, I loved the look of the thing, so intricate and colourful, but couldn't get much of a handle on the story. That's okay, I thought, it'll start making sense of itself soon. But it didn't. There are so many subplots, digressions and secondary characters crammed in that it becomes confusing and exhuasting (there's also a hell of a lot of text, some of it really difficult to read). I couldn't figure out what I was meant to care about, which meant I ended up not caring about anything. Of course I know this is a collection of issues of a comic; perhaps it would have made more sense if I'd rationed it out, read one section a week. But the fact that the end of the book is not the end of any of the million plotlines is yet another thing that makes it feel unsatisfying.
I wish I could adore this like most others seem to. I just found the storytelling too messy, and I have zero desire to read future volumes. One more time, though: the art is gorgeous.