I was surprised and delighted by every element of Specimen Days: the precision and freshness of the language, the startling imagery and metaphors, andI was surprised and delighted by every element of Specimen Days: the precision and freshness of the language, the startling imagery and metaphors, and the utterly novel way of looking at the world. Because of the beauty of the prose I was expecting a story about nothing but the plot quickly became intensely dramatic and entirely unpredictable.
Every detail is meaningful, not just decorative, and the motifs that link the three stories are subtle and clever. The changes in register - from historical, to contemporary to speculative - were so assured, my suspension of disbelief wasn’t strained for a moment, despite the audacity of the concept.
It is wry, funny, insightful and disturbing and provokes thought on an incredible range of contemporary issues including poverty, immigration, race, media, pollution, development, loss and death, without ever feeling preachy or didactic.
This book is so wonderful, and Maggie Shipstead so disproportionately talented for such a young writer, that I can hardly bear to write about it.
It'sThis book is so wonderful, and Maggie Shipstead so disproportionately talented for such a young writer, that I can hardly bear to write about it.
It's a satire about class in the USA, specifically the moneyed, educated New England set, but the issue of class is so lightly handled it took me a while to notice it was even there.
I was too busy enjoying the story, which unfolds over the days leading up to a wedding, which the bride, her parents and bridesmaids, and the groom and his family spend in their holiday houses.
There is a large cast of characters, and Shipstead skillfully moves the spotlight between them, revealing just enough to make them feel real and human, but not so much that we lose the thread of who's at the heart of the narrative. And that is Winn - the bride's father, a flawed character whose snobbery and pretentiousness become more and more evident as the book progresses.
There are lots of great individual scenes - from the slightly awkward to the downright excruciating, and the overall feeling of this book is of being in the hands of someone far older, wiser and more experienced than her 28 years. Bravo!...more
Rave! Rave! Rave! Gush! Gush! Gush! I've been criticised for being stingy with my stars but this is getting the big five!
Firstly, I love a character-Rave! Rave! Rave! Gush! Gush! Gush! I've been criticised for being stingy with my stars but this is getting the big five!
Firstly, I love a character-driven speculative fiction, and Howey's characters were so well-drawn. I was absolutely rooting for the goodies. And I HATED the baddies; they made my blood boil.
The story was highly original and carefully thought out, and revealed gradually, in a way that was rivetting. The action is very well-paced and full of suprises.
Howey's world-building skills are second to none (except, maybe Frank Herbert, because let's face it, he's the king). The society in the silo was so richly detailed, and so plausible; I never doubted its reality for a moment.
This is speculative fiction that would be enjoyed by readers who don't usually like speculative fiction. It is quite simply, a thrilling story, well-told. The fact that it is self-published makes it even more of a triumph.
Godamn Dave Eggers and his insane talent. He has totally nailed it with this book. I read it in one sitting, til 2am, and I am giving it the big FIVE.Godamn Dave Eggers and his insane talent. He has totally nailed it with this book. I read it in one sitting, til 2am, and I am giving it the big FIVE. In my library, they sort books by genre, but there are some books where the genre is not immediately apparent and these they lump into odd categories like ‘relationships’, or the not-at-all helpful ‘allsorts’. A Hologram for the King was in the relationships section, and it is about relationships, but it is about so much more than that. It unfolds on both a macro and a micro level simultaneously, in a way that makes me sick with jealousy because I know I will never in a million years write anything this good. And yet you can’t hate him because even though he’s the wunderkind of contemporary literature, he doesn’t even have a proper author shot – just some snap someone took of him somewhere with some other guy in the background. Humble! You know how sometimes, when you’re reading a book, you think, How does the writer know so much? It is not about research, it is much deeper than that – it is a kind of insight so much more profound than the average person possesses. I felt this when I was reading Elliot Perlman’s The Street Sweeper and I felt it acutely in this book. If I had to put a sticker on this book, the sticker would say ‘everything’ because it is literally a book about everything. It is about the paradoxes of ‘foreign’ cultures, the global financial crisis, and international business relations in the face of the decline of the US empire and the rise of Asia. It is about status, and wealth and our sense of self, about ageing and change, about being a parent, and being a son, and fear of sickness, and death. And yet it never lectures, or bashes you over the head with dogma, and it is told in the cleanest, straightest prose, and it is funny, and compelling and just…everything. ...more
This book was like nothing else I've ever read. I think the less you know about it, the better it will be so I'm not going to say much except that itThis book was like nothing else I've ever read. I think the less you know about it, the better it will be so I'm not going to say much except that it was funny, sad, honest, dark, frightening and utterly original. ...more
In The Street Sweeper, Elliot Perlman weaves a number of narratives together against the backdrops of the Holocaust and the Civil Rights movement in AIn The Street Sweeper, Elliot Perlman weaves a number of narratives together against the backdrops of the Holocaust and the Civil Rights movement in America. Perlman has the gift for telling a story you think you already know but making you feel it as though you are hearing it for the first time.
The Street Sweeper begins with the story of Lamont Williams, a young African American man, and Adam Zelegnik, a history professor from Colombia University whose lives are seemingly worlds apart. The stories of these two men are underpinned in surprising ways by the stories of two men who lived decades before: Henryk Mandelbrot, a holocaust survivor, and Henry Border, a psychologist who recorded the experiences of Jews liberated from death camps after the Second World War.
The connections between the four stories emerge gradually and with great suspense. Despite the many plot strands and continual movement between past and present in the action of the novel, Perlman handles the shifts of chronology and point of view with such dexterity that the reader is never left behind.
The novel draws subtle parallels between the racism against African Americans in the USA in the mid-century, and the racism against the Jews in Europe which eventually led to what is now known as the Holocaust. There are some harrowing scenes in the novel, of both clashes between black and whites in America and of the Nazi death camps. The novel sheds light on the fact that in the years immediately after World War Two, most people did not want to know about the atrocities suffered by European Jews, while to the survivors, nothing could have been more important than for people to understand the indescribable horror of what they had experienced.
Perlman obviously did an enormous amount of research to write this book and displays great skill at using real historical events to create a riveting and deeply emotional narrative. The Street Sweeper is an incredibly achievement for Perlman and the questions it asks about history, about humanity are as relevant today as they have ever been. I cannot praise this book highly enough. ...more
Permission to gush, please! This book is a masterpiece! I enjoyed Look at Me, and The Keep even more so but this to me is a book by a writer working aPermission to gush, please! This book is a masterpiece! I enjoyed Look at Me, and The Keep even more so but this to me is a book by a writer working at the height of her powers. I found it absolutely electrifying.
To me the greatest strength in Egan's work is her ability to get inside people's heads, especially into the dark corners. She has a sort of x-ray vision when it comes to neurosis and this really resonates with me. Her characters are so exposed, their insecurities so pathetic and yet so relatable.
It feels very contemporary. Probably you have heard about the chapter written as a PowerPoint presentation. Sounds like a gimmick but it completely works. In fact, I found it one of the most moving chapters of the book.
I loved the approach of writing each chapter from a different character's point of view, and shifting back and forth in time. It kept me intrigued, like doing a puzzle without having seen what the end result is supposed to look like.
It is sad, and funny (my favourite combination). It is disconcerting at times, and yet somehow uplifting. Nothing I can say here will really do it justice. You must read it! ...more
Peter Docker’s The Waterboys is both a historical novel and a speculative fiction, an adventure story and a contemporary myth or ‘dreaming’. The relatPeter Docker’s The Waterboys is both a historical novel and a speculative fiction, an adventure story and a contemporary myth or ‘dreaming’. The relationship between indigenous Australians and white settlers is made so new in Docker’s telling that the shock and horror of it hits you as if you are learning it for the first time.
Set simultaneously in the future and in a reimagined past, the novel tells the story of a young whitefulla named Conway, who has taken on the ways of the blackfullas. In a not too distant future in which whites control the nation’s water through a military-style corporation, Conway and his spiritual brother Mularabone are part of a movement waging guerrilla warfare on the whites, stealing the water and returning it to Country, where it belongs.
At the same time, Conway’s ‘dreaming’ takes him back through history, a member of Captain Fremantle’s crew, sailing into the Swan River for the first time. In a deeply moving retelling, Conway’s dreaming of these events sees Captain Fremantle throwing off the mantle of Empire and embracing the way of life of the Nyoongar people who meet him off the boat.
In both content and scope the novel is thrilling. The action sequences are fast-paced and exciting and are beautifully balanced by the poetry of Docker’s descriptions of the way of life of the Countrymen, and their profound connection to the land. There is terrible brutality in the story but there is also much humour and tenderness, especially in the relationship between Conway and Mularabone. The complex ties of family and kinship are explored both through this relationship and through Conway’s relationship with his biological brother, and the gradual revelation of the brutality of their shared history.
Though The Waterboys grapples with immense concepts – time, destiny, human nature, Docker never loses control of the material. It is an important novel but also a deeply satisfying read. ...more