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3.36  ·  Rating details ·  94 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Barry James is detained in a quarantine facility in the blistering heat of the Great Karoo. Here he exists in two worlds: the discordant and unforgiving reality of his incarceration and the lyrical, snowy landscapes of his dreams. He has cut all ties with his previous life, his health is failing, and he has given up all hope. All he has to cling to are the meanderings of h ...more
Kindle Edition, 226 pages
Published April 1st 2017 by Pan Macmillan South Africa
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Average rating 3.36  · 
Rating details
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Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marcus Low is a gifted writer who is a Cape Town based writer and public health specialist. I love finding out how a novelist finds the idea to write their novel and this novel Asylum inspired by Marcus Low that was by the incarnation of patients with drug-resistant forms of TB in SA in 2008. How the story is well written is that it's keeps the reader wondering what is dream and what is real. Barry James is determined coughing up blood. With the suspect of water supply causing infection boiled o ...more
Kim Friant
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A dystopian story of quarantine and death. Enough said. Of course I was going to read this book and I’m so glad I did! A hospital quarantining a group of men with a dangerous and untreatable strain of lung disease. Yay, hospitals! At first, I felt like I had no idea what was going on. However, the more I read, the more I understood. While there is some action that takes place, it’s a very philosophical and emotional read. There’s also a bit of conspiracy sprinkled in. Overall, it’s an interestin ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I can certainly see why Asylum has been shortlisted for the 9Mobile Prize for Literature as it's equal parts compelling and frightening. It has been mentioned by other reviewers that they found the story quite confusing and that differentiating between Barry's dreams and his reality was difficult because they were often blurred together; I think that this was intentional on the part of the author and would like to think that Mr Low was making a point about the tenuous distinction between reality ...more
Apr 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fairly short novel, I read it in one sitting a few days ago. And I just can’t make up my mind on it 🤔 I enjoy bleak dystopia’s, this one is well written, from the journal entries of our main characters fragile mind.

It reminded me a bit of Fever Dream by Samata Schweblin, not in an “if you liked that, you’ll like this” sense, but (for me), it had that sense of uncertainty to the narrative, the blurred lines between reality and dreams, this sense that I’m missing something (because we ar
Linda Hill
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Barry James is in quarantine in a secure unit isolated from the rest of society.

Now, I usually eschew dystopian fiction because it’s not my preferred genre, but Asylum has persuaded me that I am missing a thought-provoking and somewhat disturbing area of fiction. I can’t say I enjoyed Asylum as that would be the wrong description, because I found it perturbing and unsettling, but I loved the vivid and disquieting quality of Marcus Low’s writing. Indeed, although this is a slim book, I think it w
May 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
I certainly quite enjoyed this short novel, but I’m not sure it amounts to very much, being neither particularly original nor particularly gripping. It’s the story of Barry James who has been incarcerated in a quarantine asylum somewhere in the Great Karoo due to a virulently infectious disease afflicting the country. There’s no cure so death is probably the only way he will ever leave. As therapy he is encouraged to write down his thoughts and memories and it is these journals that comprise the ...more
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this story really difficult to get in to. Thankfully it was quite short but despite this, the lack of obvious characterisation made this plot become disconnected from me as a reader, thereby lessening my enjoyment.

The writer uses pathetic fallacy extremely well in this novel. The stagnant, oppressive African heat reflects directly onto the plot and eventually the reader. I think this didn’t help with my enjoyment because it created a very lethargic, dream-like reality and one that signif
NerdyChic BookWorm
What a truly wonderful first book of 2021 to get my teeth into.
This novel, written by Marcus Low is a dystopian but not as we know them. The author has taken the genre and flipped it on its head and it my opinion, only made it better.
The story follows Barry James, a 32 year old SA male who is quarantined in a facility in the depths of the desert with a group of other men who are all suffering with a contagious and uncontrollable lung disease.
The novel is set out as journal entries written by Ba
Juliet Bookliterati
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Asylum by Marcus Low is a new genre for me as I haven’t read the Dystopian Genre before, but after reading this I may read more. Sometime in the future the diaries of Barry James are found and are a piece of social history as they are the only written history of the Plague of 2022 and what it was like to be in the Asylum. Barry’s diary entries make up the majority of the book but there are chapters from further in the future that asses his writings as a piece of historical testimony.

2022, not to
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
The best dystopian fiction exploits our anxieties, worry and guilt - about the future and the past.  It makes us think about what could have been, and, if handled at the right pitch, fictionalises prophecies of what could be. Dystopians grab your worries and drag you in, and dump you afterwards leaving you wondering what is to become of our society.

Asylum does exactly that.

'Outside my window the world has died.'

These are the opening words of Barry, an inpatient at a quarantine facility. He's got
Pamela Scott

I had a great time reading this book and got completely absorbed in the story. I love finding out where writers get their ideas and was delighted to learn Asylum was inspired by the incarnation of patients with drug-resistant forms of TB in South Africa in 2008. This made the book seem more authentic and at times I felt like I was reading a memoir. This is one of those books that you struggle to set aside once you start to read it. The book gave me a sever
Cen-sational Reads
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Happy Bank Holiday Monday go you all.
Having been asked to participate in @legendpress latest book blog your for Asylum by Here is my opinion of it.
Where to start with this book. Its quick read but at the same time it is dark and did send shivers up my spine. It certainly kept my interest.
It's based around life in an asylum with also dealing with being quarantined from a deadly illness.
It's a frightening read yet compelling and the same time. I was hungry to know more of what was going to hap
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-challenge
Sometimes the smallest books pack the biggest punch and that is certainly the case in this memorable 206 page book by Marcus Low.

Barry James is an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances. He has been detained in a quarantine hospital for 3 years with a mysterious plague like illness that affects the heart and lungs. Barry has all but given up hope of re-joining the outside world. But then there is a chance to escape.

Set in the near future, this smart, engaging story is a real page turner. Ba
Bristolian Books
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've been on a little bit of a dystopian themed journey this year, so when the opportunity arose to read an advance copy of Asylum, I was very keen to be involved! So thank you to the publisher for an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

And wow! Described by the Sunday Times as "The most credible dystopian novel I have ever read", I can confidently say that this one did not disappoint!

We follow Barry James, who is quarantined in the not too distant future, in a medical facilit
Between The Pages Book Club (Gemma M)
So this is a first for me reading the dystopian genre. I absolutely loved it. An easy, short read which I could easily have devoured in one sitting. It is told through Barrys journals while he is in a quarantine camp.
At first I thought well surely much can’t be happing being stuck in there… I was wrong. I felt sorry for Barry and the gentlemen within the camp however, there was friendship, hope and a little love within those walls. They just wanted freedom, a life and adventure which they eventu
Nicki Markus
Asylum is in some ways a difficult book to rate. I enjoyed the psychological aspects of the tale and the dystopian situation in which the story was set, which presents a world that could all-to-easily become reality. However, I felt the pacing let things down. The opening was very slow and meandering, and the action only really picked up about two thirds in. I'm glad I read it, as it raised some interesting points and offered a fascinating psychological study of someone in a difficult position. ...more
Karina Szczurek
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Could not put it down!
Kim Ebner
May 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
Please visit my book blog at:

The entire time that I was reading this novel I kept thinking about the review I was going to write. During my reading of this book I was unsure how I felt about it, and I'm still slightly unsure now. It had its moments, but overall, I'm feeling a little underwhelmed.

I was really excited to read a thriller by a new South African author. As most of you know, not only am I a huge fan of thrillers but I'm also South African, and so this book t
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
This dystopian novel is set in the near future, in 2023. Barry James is being quarantined in a secure facility located in the hot, arid Karoo desert of South Africa. He and his fellow patients are suffering from pulmonary nodulosis, a lethal disease called the “new plague.” Barry has been confined there for over three years; in that time he has cut all ties with the past because “looking back is madness.” He is just waiting to die.

After Barry attempts suicide, a psychologist suggests that he ke
Jessica Hinton
Those who enjoy dystopian fiction will no doubt be drawn to this one, as I was - which promises a nearby dystopian future in which an unknown respiratory illness has ravaged humankind and many sufferers are being kept in quarantine. Along with our protagonist, Barry James, we are not privy to what has happened in the outside world, so it is up to the imagination to envisage what society might exist outside of the treatment facilities confines.

This is not a book with a huge amount of action, whi
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Set in a long term quarantine facility in Africa this is billed as a dystopian novel. I am not sure I would exactly describe it as that as although there are difficulties outside the hospital this is not a worldwide or even nationwide pandemic. The book centres around the writings of one man who is in this quarantine facility, the life in there and the occasional glimpse of the outside world. This is achieved through his diaries as well as there being various comments and discussions about the d ...more
May 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley, arc_2019
First off, many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to the e-ARC of this book! Now, time for my thoughts.

Well, this was definitely a different read. The story of a man living with an incurable disease inside a "treatment facility" that is basically a prison. On the advice of his psychiatrist, he starts keeping a journal. His journal not only describes his experiences throughout the day, but his dreams during the night. And, sometimes, the line between dream and reality is
Apr 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Abook about life in an asylum while being quarantine for a deadly disease?! Sing me up, this is the book for me. Or so I thought. Great synopsis and premise, a subject rarely written about.

However, this left me with much to desire. At about 21% through I was not connected to the main character nor was the story unraveling in a intriguing way. Wishing that the author would have had more character development for me to attach myself to the main character.

There is very little background story as
Shahridzuan Azali
Mar 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Personally, it wasn't much of an enjoyable read but it was interesting to get a taste of Barry's mind. The diary-like form worked to the intended effect and, despite his pessimism, I found myself rooting for Barry. Something I don't usually experience for characters of his nature.

The reason this book wasn't really for me is because I'm more of a plot-driven kind of reader; characters come second for me. Having said that, I find this to be worth reading. There's a hint of suspense and sprinkles o
Mar 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I read this when it first came out and was really impressed. I needed to check something so just meant to reread the first chapter to remind myself of details, but got drawn in again by the compelling story and beautiful writing.

There is an added layer of appreciation when reading a novel about a deadly disease while the world is in lockdown over a deadly disease.

In Asylum sufferers of the disease have been quarantined in isolated hospitals. The narrative follows a patient/inmate quarantined in
Layla Rodgerson
May 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
I felt that it had an interesting premise. However, I felt that the writer really could have gone deeper into the plague details. The “prison” escape was a bit weak. The main character was annoying. He didn’t care about his mortality and seemed to be indifferent. Not exactly someone you want to keep reading about. Jonathan’s nickname for Barry was very aggravating. I was sick of reading, “hey, sport” over and over. The end was a major let down! The author really could have done a lot more with t ...more
Polly Krize
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Honestly, I had a hard time getting into this book, and even when I did, I found myself wondering why I did! Incarcerated because of illness, the main character seems to have trouble distinguishing his dream world from reality. I really would not recommend this book, but this is only my opinion.
Stuart Haining
6/10 7%. Surprisingly good reviews for a book I felt to have little substance or interest, neither the depth of characters in Power of One nor the black humour of One Flew Over....,won’t read again.
Anne Goodwin
Barry James spends his days at the window of his hospital ward, gazing out across the scorched Karoo desert. For three years he’s lived behind electric fence, along with other victims of the pulmonary plague that has afflicted the country. But his roommate has an escape plan. Will Barry join him? Is it worth it when even healthy men would struggle to survive without shelter in the heat?
Full review
Quirky: From the Wreck, Asylum & The Pine Islands #review #amreading
Gabrielle V.
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book I didn't really start understanding until I reached the last third of it. And I am SO glad I followed my gut and did not stop reading!
A shout out to @legendpress for publishing this amazing work from Marcus Low! It's been quite a few years since a book made me cry! 📖
It reminds me of a play I saw in our theatre back in Bulgaria a few years ago, called "The Father". Please, check them both out! 💜
My heart goes out to everyone struggling with mental health and their loved ones! 💜
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