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The Gatekeeper

3.18  ·  Rating details ·  146 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Winner of the 2016 Epigram Books Fiction Prize
Winner of the 2018 Singapore Book Award for Best Fiction and Cover Design
Shortlisted for the 2018 Singapore Literature Prize for Fiction

Young medusa Ria turns an entire village of innocents to stone with her gaze. She flees with her older sister for the underground city of Nelroote, where Manticura's quasi-fantastical sapient
Paperback, 312 pages
Published March 2017 by Epigram Books
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Average rating 3.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  146 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
[Prefacing this review to say that my honest review is 4 stars but putting it as 5 stars to make up for the trolls deliberately rating this book low with racially-charged comments like there's too much malay flavour or bullshit like that.]

In writing about the experience of the marginalised, in entering into that often tumultuous discourse, so much is put up for debate. The form is often one of the ways the author can gain control over how the discussion is set. In this case, writing it in this
Jason Erik Lundberg
I'm the editor for this novel, and am therefore incredibly biased, but I don't care. I LOVE THIS BOOK. It's a phenomenal work of literature, and a fascinating examination of the impossibility of running from your past. Not to mention the fact that Aliah has created a fully fleshed-out secondary world based partly on contemporary Singapore and partly on Greek myth. The two main characters, Ria and Eedric, are alive both on and off the page, with all their flaws and aspirations on full display. ...more
Kirat Kaur
Nov 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Fantastic elements in literature can sometimes serve the dual purposes of escapist awe and allegorical meaning-making. Nuraliah Norasid's debut novel The Gatekeeper manages to do both in fresh and interesting ways. It melds fact and fiction to bring us a fantasy world grappling with the double-edged nature of economic progress, focusing on who and what gets exploited when that happens.

In The Gatekeeper, protagonist Ria and her sometime lover and sidekick Eedric face constant threats to their
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
So when is Netflix doing this?
Sep 26, 2018 rated it liked it
As the winner of the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016, this book had sparked my curiosity for some time but it was only recently that I got around to reading it. I can't deny that the beautiful cover had something to do with me picking up the book in the first place. I was fascinated by Nuraliah's use of the local to fashion her urban-mythic world of Manticura. While others may have found her mix of Malay, Singlish and English combined with her own constructed languages to be an issue, I felt ...more
Shelby Sekar
Oct 15, 2017 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this. The writing is very easy to read, without being simple, and it genuinely seemed like it was going to be a very interesting story. I really liked some of the characters and could see how all of Ria's experiences ultimately led to the pain and hurt she felt. But I have to admit, I did get bored halfway, and when it finally started to pick up again (in emotion and action), the book was over. Maybe it was set up to lead to a sequel but I felt kinda dissatisfied at the ...more
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
I try not to review books I don’t finish. But some books are so terrible that they serve as a prime example of how not to write. The Gatekeepers by Nuraliah Norasid was the winner of the 2016 Epigram Books Fiction Prize. The prize ‘promotes contemporary Singapore creative writing and rewards excellence in Singapore literature’ by awarding the winner $25,000. While it seems to be an impressive achievement for a debut author, when I read the story it felt like I was jamming a block of dry granite ...more
Sep 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: singlit
An anything but typical story of boy meets... Medusa? Set in the way distant future, The Gatekeeper takes place on the mythical island country, Manticura, strife with racial tensions between the invading humans and the indigenous species of Scereans, Tuyuns, Feleenese, and Cayanese who are driven to live underground in poverty due to a growing wealth gap and their inability to “fit in” to the society that the humans have developed. This thinly veiled metaphor for Singapore probably had a lot of ...more
Eustacia Tan
Feb 21, 2018 rated it liked it
My first book for 2018’s SEA Reading Challenge is from Singapore! It’s called The Gatekeeper and it’s a fantasy novel heavily influenced by Malay culture.

Obviously heavily inspired by Singapore, the novel takes place in Manticura. It starts when the young medusa Ria experiences betrayal and in her panic, freezes an entire village of people. Since this makes her a criminal, her sister Barani and her run to the underground city of Nelroote. When the war comes, Ria becomes the Gatekeeper of the
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
As a Singaporean, I appreciate the fresh writing style and perceptive insights into the psyche of the marginalised. But I cannot quite appreciate the hybrid structure, the literary ambience and atmosphere of the novel, in terms of mixing local vernacular and thought patterns with western mythic icons, archetypes or mindset. Somehow I find it difficult to digest. Also the second half of the novel is quite over-written, not sufficiently intriguing. Look forward to better writings from Norasid. ...more
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
I enjoy reading the novel, I mean the first half, as I could not finish it. A bit too long for me. The language is fine, crisp, laconic, memorable, something like Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. The first part is also fast-paced. But it kind of trails off. The characters, the vernacular and the fantasy figures did not engage me too much. Hope to see better writings from the author, maybe with another stronger plot and storyline.
Uncle CMS
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
First, praise to Nuraliah for her smooth writing and fluid language. Her command of English and her vocabulary, descriptions, and metaphors and trope are commendable.

Having said that, I gave this novel a 3.5-star rating. It was a good read though there isn’t much of a story arc; no protagonist overcoming difficulties, a little character building (between the sisters) but no inspirational moral. Just a story of two medusas—their childhood, their love interests, their killing sprees and their
May 25, 2018 rated it liked it
I loved the worldbuilding in this book, though perhaps unfortunately I ended up loving it more than the story itself in the end. The "default" setting of a lot of immersive fantasy is some sort of alternate Medieval Europe, so it was refreshing to dip into a fantasy world not only inspired by Asia but full of modern technology, seamlessly interwoven with the fantastical aspects. The history, language, culture(s) and lore of The Gatekeeper's world are built up and woven through the story with ...more
Denise Eng
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
When I first saw this book, I wasn't keen on it, though I was drawn to the cover design.

Later on, when I was considering the way local authors and literature was being treated, I felt drawn to giving this book a try. I am a fan of fairy tales, myths, and legends, and was interested in how this book might portray the well-known legend of Medusa.

I must say, it was well written - much effort went into building a world of racial tensions, mixed-race relationships, racial discrimination (particularly
May 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: local
Ria and Barani are the Medusa sisters. They ran away to Nelroot almost a decade ago, to escape from the crime that Ria committed, as a child (less than 10 years old). She turned her whole village to stone because the man that her sister liked did not keep his promise.

Fast-forward to a decade later, Eedric found the entrance to Nelroot and out of curiosity, he went it. There, he met Ria. Well, he was supposed to be stoned but he lived and befriended Ria. Things started to go wrong when Nelroot
I was pretty excited when I saw this book on the mrt and found out what it was about. Partly because it is so rare to see books writren by local authors. The cover was very telling. When the story started I could not get into the writing but the singlish and malay felt familiar, things I hear around me. I think it was unique to use Medusa, a greek myth and fuse it into an Asian setting, specifically Malay.

The things said in the book had me wondering if they were alluding to Singapore such as
Tan Clare
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wow. Not sure how I feel exactly about this book.
Firstly, kudos to the painstaking efforts of the author to setup the background context of the story (i.e. the timeline history of Manticura, Tunyunri lingo appendix). Really, hats off for the effort. All this gives the novel a feel which you usually wouldn't find here, and it more common in fantasy and or historical fiction. The historical background, cultural and societal setup of Manticura seems to be inspired to parallel that of Singapore.
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kim Tong Lim
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This novel won the Epigram Books Fiction Prize for 2016. The story was set in 5050 - 5117 CE, three-thousand years into the future. It is an era when human and non-human live together. Not unlike today, where there are different races, wars to grab territories, there are politics, different languages are spoken, and people escape to the underground to avoid the authority.

It is familiar and yet fantasy as we look into the future through the mind of the author. Nuraliah Norasid kept me reading
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the worldbuilding - the fantastical elements in the novel; about Ria being a Medusa. I loved the start of her story in the village and not fitting in.

I wasn't that keen on Eedric's story - I guess it was interesting to read about his sense of not fitting in and his search for belonging as well. On the other hand, he feels rather immature and sheltered by his life of privilege / his father.

Ria, on the other hand, seems a little flat - she's also a misfit, and isolated. But her deciding to
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Elements and the characters produced in this book is unique ,mixing fantasy creatures with a usual modern day world is hard to picture but this book made that work. Being able to use malay language as one with english effortlessly making it look like the flow is there, although some readers might not understand malay they will be able to refer to the terms at the back of the book as it is not a complex words.

I am still not sure as to what happen to eedric ,i guess he’ll be in prison for the
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I started out being unimpressed by the book as I found the amalgamation of English with Malay and Singlish slightly jarring in the beginning. Yet, as the adventures of Ria progressed, it was this melting pot of different cultures manifested in the broken sentence structures and Malay words that helped root the content and flesh out the characters. A good read for someone new to the SingLit scene (like me).
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
An interesting read for me, as an overseas student. The prose is smooth, and concise and well-written. Some parts are thought-provoking on the existential plight and inner turmoil of the marginalised and those social rejects. But I did not quite like the fantasy and mythic aspects which did not quite jell with other socio-political and metaphorical aspects. In the end, some parts are over-written and not strong enough. Not as resonant as some other shortlisted winners.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Some sections of this novel are psychologically penetrating, and emotionally resonant, perhaps coming from the author's own experiences in racist situations and the language subtly used by those of races different from her. Many sections are not credible and are over-written. The novel can be condensed in some parts. I didn't like the characters, as they seem to be derived from Western mythic icons or archetypes. Did not resonate with me.
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: singlit
actual 4.5 stars.

i meant to finish this earlier but i got sidetracked. the worldbuilding is fantastic and i loved it, and the writing is smooth and good. at the same time though, i can't but feel as though something is lacking in the story, although i don't know if it's a result of having read it over a long period of time. in any case, still something i would highly recommend.
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
I am not a fan of strange creatures and mythic characters, unless the symbolic themes are discussed and presented strongly and provide food for thoughts and reverie. This aspect does not come out adequately for me and in this sense, it does not appeal to me. Although some of the story lines are fresh and perceptive.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Interesting beginning, although not credible for me and the reptilian creatures are quite superfluous and do not jell with the metaphor of the main story. The middle and ending parts are quite boring, and over-written. Should be shorter by 50%. Not as good as the other shortlisted winners
May 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
I feel bad for this book getting racist trolling. No author or piece of work should be subject to that nonsense. As a social commentary it’s a nice little allegory of the state of societal race relations in Singapore. As a piece of fiction though, it’s just plainly a lousy read.
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
A fresh and interesting read, but somehow an unrealistic atmosphere and over fantastic presentation of the powers of the protagonist do not attract me. Also the second half fades away into boredom and dullness. Just my personal taste.
May 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
May not be fair to compare Gatekeeper or other singaporean novels with Ponti (which is so much better). Every literary output has its merits and uniqueness. One issue is: The Gatekeeper will probably sell less than 5000 copies while Ponti will sell many more copies.
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Nuraliah binte Norasid is the winner of the 2016 Epigram Books Fiction Prize, for her debut novel The Gatekeeper. She holds a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing from Nanyang Technological University, and works as a research associate at the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA), where she studies marginalities and the confluence of religious ideas and secular society. ...more
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