Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Book of M

Rate this book
Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2018)
Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.

Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.

As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

485 pages, Hardcover

First published June 5, 2018

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Peng Shepherd

6 books2,445 followers
Peng Shepherd is the nationally bestselling author of The Cartographers, The Book of M, and The Future Library.

Her second novel, The Cartographers, was a USA Today bestseller, a national Independent Bookstores bestseller, and was named a Best Book of 2022 by The Washington Post, as well as a Pick of the Month by Good Morning America, Amazon, Apple, Real Simple, Buzzfeed, Bustle, and Goodreads, and was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

Her first novel, The Book of M, won the 2019 Neukom Institute for Literary Arts Award for Debut Speculative Fiction, and was chosen as a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, Elle, Refinery29, and The Verge, a Best Book of the Summer by the Today Show and NPR On Point, and has been optioned for television.

A graduate of New York University's MFA program, Peng is the recipient of a 2020 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

She was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she rode horses and trained in classical ballet, and has lived in Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, London, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York, and Mexico City.

When not writing, she can be found planning her next trip or haunting local bookstores.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
4,131 (23%)
4 stars
6,545 (36%)
3 stars
4,951 (27%)
2 stars
1,660 (9%)
1 star
475 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,132 reviews
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,296 reviews120k followers
July 7, 2022
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me… --- Psalm 23
But what if you were walking through the valley of the death of shadows? Who or what might be with you then? If, as Macbeth proclaims, life’s but a walking shadow, what becomes of the poor player when even the shadow has walked?

Peng Shepherd - from her site - Photo by Rachel Crittenden

There have been two major periods in my life when I kept a journal. The first was when I was fifteen and could not remember what I had done on all of the New Years’ Eves of my brief existence. It ended badly. I dipped into journaling again in my twenties, during my dating life, only in fits and starts though. Looking at those now-ancient texts is how I know that I really did go ice-skating once in Rock Center, something I still cannot actually recall. Pre-personal-computers, so no accessible files to download, only scraps of writing in small notebooks. I went at it more seriously for a few years when my first marriage died, decades later. Better data retention this time. Those documents are all storehouses of memory. Not that my memory is so feeble that I recall nothing. But the texture of times long past can succumb, along with details, to the erosive force of age. I can go back whenever I wish, which is very seldom, and get at least a taste of who I was before I became who I am today. And if those documents all faded entirely, I would not keel over and expire, but I would be damaged.

photo by Pol Pol Ubeda Hervasof Barcelona

We are more than the collection of our memories. It is the events in those memories that help shape who we are, but who we are is a living thing, not a construct. If I lose far more memories, I may have trouble recognizing faces that should be familiar. I may lose capabilities I take for granted. I confess to dreading that possibility. But I would still be able to throw together a decent sentence, I expect, although I cannot say for certain. It seems likely I would still enjoy listening to classic rock and movie soundtracks, as that would require no retention of actual skills. My senses would perk up when a Mets game appeared on the tube, (although if I was still able to recall the state of the team in 2018, I might yearn for a deeper forgetting.) I would find comfort in a fluffy feline curling up on my lap or by my side, and I would still thrill to the amazing light that dawn and dusk use to beautify the sometimes stark reality in which we live. It is not just the elderly in Peng Shepherd’s novel who succumb to a bleak forgetting. The entire population of the planet is at risk, with vast swaths succumbing to deep memory loss. Not only do people lose recollections of events in their past, their memory deteriorates to the point of threatening existential functioning. Forgetting who they are, where they live, where they were going, forgetting to eat, there is a widespread and rapid erosion of core capabilities, of innermost being. They often become violent and dangerous. It begins to happen when they lose their shadows.
I just knew that I wanted to write a book that had something to do with shadows because, you know, they’re just cool. They’re eerie, mysterious and there’s a lot of different art, and stories and beliefs about shadows in different cultures. But I did not have anything more than that. I just knew I wanted to write about shadows. I started googling things about shadows and then I saw something about Zero Shadow Day and that was the rabbit hole. - from the Red Carpet Crash interview
We follow four primary characters, Orlando Zhang, his wife, Max, an unnamed man referred to as “the amnesiac” (residue of an auto accident), who is later called The One Who Gathers, and a young Iranian woman, Mahnaz Ahmadi, an Olympic-level archer, studying and competing at a Boston university.

image from Researchgate.net

Out of the blue a man in India loses his shadow. In short order this condition spreads across the planet. Weird and alarming, but not necessarily menacing. Interesting gives way to oh, hell in short order, though. The loss merely foreshadows loss of memory. It kicks in faster for some than for others, and progresses with variable speeds, but the implications are fairly immediate and dystopianly dire. What if makers forget to make? What if repairers forget not only how to repair, but what their work is at all? What if the shadowless forget their names, their history, forget, even, that they are hungry, or where they live? Big mess time.
So Zero Shadow Day, it's a real actual day in India where every year on a certain day, everyone's shadows actually do disappear for just a few minutes. It sounds completely fantastical but it's a real thing… I think humans have been fascinated with shadows for a really long time, but I didn't have a story until I started researching and then when I came across Zero Shadow Day it was just — I mean that was it. The idea sparked and I started writing. - from KJZZ interview
photo by Pol Pol Ubeda Hervasof Barcelona

Orlando (Ory) and Max were at a wedding in Virginia, a woodsy area, pretty exurban, when the event first becomes a thing. Ory is ok so far. Max, well, she lost her shadow pretty early on. Ory is determined to help her keep her memories for as long as possible. They have a code they use with each other, a kind of password exchange, based on when they first got together. Not knowing the response would be an indication of a serious loss of self. It is a moving mechanism that encapsulates their bond. Max fears that she will become unstable as her memories slip, and might become dangerous, so leaves their sanctuary, hoping to spare her beloved the harm she might cause him. Also, they have heard rumors of something going on in New Orleans, something that might offer a beacon of hope to the shadowless. Max heads south. Once Ory discovers she has gone, he determines to follow and find her. One of the things he did to help her retain her capacity was give her a tape recorder. It is through the voice-entries she makes there that we hear her story. We meet the amnesiac when he is still recovering from the accident that caused his massive amnesia, follow his interactions with his doctor, and his meetings with the first victim of shadowlessness and see his transformation into The One Who Gathers. Naz must contend first with contacting and then dealing with family members back in Iran, and later, with staying alive, and following the siren call south. Arrows will be shot.
…it seemed to me like, obviously shadows and memories are very different things, but on some kind of a very deep level, they both feel like, kind of integral and permanent parts of you as a person and if you were missing, you know, one or the other, would you still be yourself? I think the book asks that question a lot, you know, what can you lose and still be you? What would make you not you anymore? So they seemed to fit together really well, even though they're very different things. - from the KJZZ interview
Image from DavidBordwell.net

The use of magic is hardly unprecedented in dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels. In a piece for Tor.com (Five Books About the Apocalypse) the author notes a handful of them. But still, we are used to there being at least some attempt to assign the cause of our group demise to an identifiable, and presumably preventable or curable, agent. Viruses (viri?), nano-tech gone wild, alien invasion, global warming, loss of reproductive capacity, weirdness in the space-time continuum, the list of possibilities goes on. The inclusion of magic shifts the narrative significantly. Usually, we have scientists, or experts of some sort or other, racing the inevitable clock to figure out how this or that particular form of misery got started, and how to stop and/or reverse it. But when the source is non-scientific, the usual story line changes significantly. Magic just is. You may be challenged to figure out its source, or how to use the magic, but it is presented here as a fait accompli. No backsies. But shadowlessnes comes with a surprising side-effect, a strange form of magic.
Interviewer - …the memory aspect strikes much closer to home and I’m sure it will for a lot of readers, aging, dementia, Alzheimers and such. Did you recognize that as you were writing this?

PS - I did, not at first. And the further I got into it, especially upon revision, reading the whole thing and seeing how everything fit together, I really did see the parallels.
- from the AZPBS interview
A core element here is that The Book of M is a love story. Max leaves Ory in order to protect him from what she expects to become. (a Trump voter?) Ory is determined to follow her, to find her, and at least share her final days as herself. Their love and determination are quite moving, as Ory’s quest, in particular, moves the narrative along. What would you do to help the love of your life, before they become a mere shadow of their former selves? So, a love story, but also a road trip of self-discovery (self-forgetting?) and a quest. Ticking a lot of boxes here.

One cannot have an entire book about missing shadows without calling in at least a mention of Peter Pan. In a much larger way the saying an elephant never forgets comes in for some attention. A motif that permeates is varieties of communication. Is it possible, for example, for one consciousness to share memories with another consciousness, even though the two did not experience the same event? Are books means of communication alone or can they hold more? What about audio recording? And where does the essence of the thing recorded, in whatever form, diverge from the person who recorded it? There is no mention of a shadow economy. Small bits of the eerie are inserted here and there. Unexplained strange things occur just out of sight, (Ory heard something inhumanly heavy cross the interstate, walking over the top of it instead of below.) adding texture.

Peter and his wandering shadow – image from Buzzfeed

The primary characters in the book are drawn well enough. I would have liked a bit more on their individual histories, but my ARE comes in at 484 pages, and it is understandable that we are given what we need to sustain interest and keep things moving. While I can enjoy the unknowable when used as a Maguffin, I do prefer that authors make at least an attempt at explaining why such-and-such happens. But the joining together of fascinating concepts is magnificent. It may be the dystopian love story that keeps things moving along, but the strength of this book is the ideas. It is immensely creative. I would also take the combat scenes seriously. Before she opted to pursue writing as a full-time gig, Shepherd worked for Aegis Defence Services.
One of the things that I did was go to Iraq. I was in Baghdad and Basra and then up north in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. There were some pretty tense situations there. It was such an amazing place, so amazing, but yeah, there were some really tough situations there and actually, there was a moment, there was a rocket attack that happened very close to us and that was actually the moment that made me really decide that I should write this book and really go for it…. It was like, you have to try. You have to do the thing that you have wanted to do your whole life. You got to do it now. (presumably before the incomings landed too close) - from the KJZZ interview
Whether looked at in the full light of day or glimpsed in the gloom of a darkened room, it is eminently clear that, lest you forget, The Book of M is an engaging, imaginative, exciting read and is destined, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to be one of the most memorable books of the Summer.

Published – 6/5/18

Review first posted – 6/29/18

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter, Instagram, and FB pages

A short story by Shepherd – Wolf Eyes

A wonderful story of her relationship with the book Perchance about time travel

-----Video - Arizona PBS - Arizona Horizon - 28:00 - by Ted Simons
-----Audio - Red Carpet Crash - 11:25
-----Audio plus transcript – KJZZ – 91.5 - Arizona Native Makes Novel Debut With 'The Book Of M' - 7:21 – by Steve Goldstein

A fun article on Zero Shadow Day (ZSD) from The India Express - Zero Shadow Day: How shadows played hide & seek with Chennai kids - by Sowmiya Ashok

-----Memory – Betty Buckley
-----Me and My Shadow - Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.
-----I Remember it Well – Hermione Gingold and Maurice Chevalier
-----Remember Then – The Earls
-----Remember - the Shangri-Las
-----I Will Remember you - Sarah McLachlan
-----Remember Me - Benjamin Bratt
-----Try to Remember - Jerry Orbach
----- I'll Always Remember You - Hannah Montana

-----Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men?
Profile Image for Adam Dalva.
Author 8 books1,558 followers
March 16, 2018
Shepherd has crafted a gripping, multi-faceted debut here, a dystopic future novel that goes well past the expectations of the genre. I admired the textual experimentation of this measured book, as various symbols, fonts, and perspectives try to get across the lives of the characters, who mix emotional heft with sudden, rapid action. The leads, Ory and Max, are wonderfully drawn and make for an excellent emotional core.

In this world, if someone's shadow disappears, they will soon be consigned to forgetting all that they knew, turning into mysterious, frightening figures. The book opens with Max losing her shadow after two years of hiding with her partner Ory, and Ory desperately trying to enact a system of rules to protect her. This Robinson Crusoe section is wonderful, but after the two are, inevitably, separated, they each wind their way through a strange America that seems totally understood by Shepherd. This is an iceberg book whose logic and world-building are apparent at all times. There are many supporting characters who play into the action and exposition, and I admired the ambition of this book for jumping into so many different voices and perspectives until everything collapses together at the finale.

In its control and logic, it reminded me of Auster's "In The Country of Last Things," and St John Mandel's "Station Eleven." Most of all, unlike some books of this ilk, the author's talent on the line-level invested its characters with real urgency and feeling. More than the global span or the unusual premise, the prose will stick with me:

"I’m not ready. I’m not ready, I’m not ready, I’m not ready. I refuse to forget. It took all of me, but I refuse to let it have the last thing,which is you. Ory. I remember you. I remember your name. I remember I touched your face, on your eyebrow above your scar; I remember a football; I remember night and a mountain; I remember you gave me this speaking machine, but I don’t know why; I remember a darkroom, and writing numbered rules by candlelight, and you cried—why did you cry?"
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews27 followers
October 3, 2018
Library- ebook - overdrive

I seldom read dystopian novels, but in the past few years - having read a few other wonders: “Station Eleven”,
“California”, etc.,
I had a hunch this book might be ‘one-of-the-special-one’s’.....”It was”!!!!

For starters, the first chapter was one of the best first chapters of ‘any’ book I’ve read in a long time!
The first sentence immediately grabbed my attention....holding it tightly until the last line. I felt punched in the gut with the last sentence in chapter 1 ....
( and worried)
I became ‘attached’ to the characters Ory and Max, fast!!! Soon I was attached to Naz and ‘The One Who Gathers’. They search for a cure - love - connection - and hope.

The eerie universe the author has created is original and fascinating!!!

“Zero Shadow Day” is a ‘real’ phenomenon which occurs in Mumbai twice a year. It takes place when the sun is at a 90° angle to the earth surface or when the sun is just overhead. This moment makes a persons shadow disappear for a few minutes.
In “The Book of M”....people have a shadow —but as the world is collapsing, people start losing theirs. They lose their memories, too...(not all at once)...but like with dementia and Alzheimer’s....a little at a time.

There are chapters about characters who have already forgotten everything before “The Forgetting began”...
It made me wondered about love -how they experienced it with their memories completely gone. The realism was always right on the edge making this a very powerful read.
It’s amazing how captivating and emotional this was.
I felt terrified at times - and the agony of surviving with minimal resources.
But, it was the sadness that lingered most. When so much is taken away - an aching feeling of love remains.

“It’s said that your shadow is your most trustworthy travel companion. It never leaves your side. But that’s not ‘always’ true.”

A beautifully written- debut- gripping and heartbreaking
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
March 23, 2022
fulfilling my 2020 goal to read (at least) one book each month that was given to me as a present that i haven't yet gotten around to reading because i am an ungrateful dick.

i’m an even bigger and more ungrateful dick than usual, neglecting this gifted book for as long as i did. A) it was phenomenal, so i was doing myself a disservice, but more importantly, B) this was a gift from my GR secret santa back in 2018(!), and when i finally picked it up, i found this stuck between its pages and it broke my heart a little:

to make it EVEN WORSE, not only did i not read it for two years, but it turns out i forgot to even POST A THANK YOU MESSAGE in the secret santa group when i received it. i am a monster.

but enough about me and my failings.

you know who didn’t fail? (prepare yrself for a graceful segue): peng shepherd.

this book is ridiculously good. it’s a savor slowly/gets under your skin kind of book. and it’s a frickin’ debut! it’s a refreshingly unique spin on the done-to-death post-apoc scenario: all of a sudden, across the globe, people's shadows begin to disappear, and shortly thereafter, they begin to lose their memories. which is all bad enough, but when people forget—say—that a market exists, the market that has disappeared from their memories also disappears in reality. someone forgetting that deer don’t have wings on their heads manifests head-wing'd deer into the world.

the book angels who guide my reading habits no doubt made me “forget” to read this until it just so happened that i was commissioned to write a piece about memory for an upcoming print issue of f(r)iction, and had been researching how memory actually works vs how hollywood thinks it works, so this made for a perfect dovetail of work and leisure reading. but even though i am now an expert on brain science, there’s a lot to this situation i don’t understand—neither the peer-reviewed medical articles nor the film industry trade journals ever mentioned the connection between shadows and memory, let alone the range or specificity of the shadowless' influence on the world. but focusing on how it all works isn’t a good use of anyone’s time. the storypleasure isn't in the situation’s plausibility. if you just sink in and let the possibility of it carry you through the unfurling slowpocalypse, you’re in for some exceptionally good, emotionally charged speculative fiction.

this book would get along well with The Stand, but it would be best friends with Station Eleven—both center around how what’s left of humanity copes in the aftermath of a devastating global phenomenon: what values persist, what aspects of civilization hold people together, what happens to forgotten culture, science, people, and both are beautiful explorations of connection, loss, grief, and the tenacity of the human sprit.

the scope is macro and (comparatively) micro—the phenomenon's effect on the whole dang world, and on one specific couple—max and ory—who are separated when max loses her shadow and takes off without telling ory, intending to spare him the pain of watching her forget him, and to avoid causing irrevocable harm by forgetting something important. naturally, ory rejects this noble sacrifice and tries to find her.

they are but two of the characters whose journeys take them through an increasingly unrecognizable world, but they are absolutely the heart of the novel, and their story is beautiful and heartbreaking and unexpected: who they meet along the way, what else they lose or try to hold onto, where their experiences overlap or their paths nearly cross, how the landscape around them shifts as it is changed by other people’s forgettings; all shades of serendipity and coincidence and how to endure the unendurable—how much of themselves a person can lose and still keep going. it is simultaneously hopeless and optimistic and it is perfect for the nowtimes.

it's so good. so so good.

i did not weep, but my stony heart felt things.

i await The Cartographers impatiently. i promise i won't let it gather dust on my shelves.

now i'm off to apologize to a secret santa!!

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Emma.
976 reviews976 followers
July 15, 2018
Just like Peter Pan, the people in Peng Shepherd’s novel, The Book of M, are having trouble with their shadows. For reasons that never become known, shadows are disappearing, sometimes from an individual, sometimes whole cities at once. Told by four linked characters, with a multitude of diverse experiences threaded through their stories, this book follows their course through a world fundamentally changed by destructive magic.

If you’d asked me any time during the first half of this book what the final star rating would be, I would have said 5. Easily. There is an intriguing introduction to our main narrators, their distorted normality revealing that in the ‘now’ of their world something is very wrong. Flashbacks within each tale take the reader to the start of it all, when shadows were first lost. Initially, people are stunned, but excited- it’s a whole new phenomenon, something inexplicable and even wondrous. One shadow gone, then a group here, and another there. It’s newsworthy and everyone’s talking about it. Scientists are baffled. Religion is called into play. Anyone who’s anyone has an opinion and wants to know more. At this point, so did I. The situation is perfectly pitched, so realistic in the way each new piece of information is passed around the world, from person to person, with video clips uploaded and scrutinised, all kinds of rumours whispered. When things start to go wrong, when people without their shadows begin to forget, the tentative panic and fear is equally genuine. Just like an outbreak of some unknown virus, people are quarantined and studied. Then the overriding question, ‘why is this happening’ shifts to ‘how can we stop it’ as the violence and terror overwhelms everything.

What becomes clear is that The Forgetting is more than just memory loss, the inability to remember what was or what is allows the shadowless to create their own reality. And it is chilling. If a shadowless doesn’t remember a whole marketplace? Well then, it’s gone. What happens when you can’t remember how to use your front door? Eventually it disappears and you remain, stuck until you waste away in a box of your own creation. And if you forget to breathe? Death. The picture of a world destroyed builds with each horrifying possibility, many of which stopped me in my tracks because I’d never considered it could go like that… This new place is a twisted, nightmare reality of clashing memories and monstrous creations. Of course, the author plays fast and loose with any notion of rules. What about all the people that remembered the market? If you can forget a place or person and it disappear, why would not remembering you need to breathe kill you, since not breathing would be the new reality? Anyway, who cares, this bit was brilliant. Especially as all the usual pathways of societal disintegration in dystopian fiction is exacerbated to a ridiculous and wildly fun degree by this one hook.

Then at the halfway point it loses its cohesion. All of a sudden, it felt slow and I had to force myself to pick it up again. Each narrator’s story descended into a surreal dreamscape, with only tenuous links to their original goals, and their sense of urgency to do whatever the hell it is they wanted to do lost its power. In fact, the whole book from this point was convoluted and bloated with unnecessary sidelines that read like creative writing exercises, shoehorned in to fulfil the requirements of the final battle for New Orleans. Yes, an actual magical battle. The book morphs from dystopia to fantasy, from humanity facing a crisis to a city ruled by a blind man with an elephant shadow. Seriously. And that doesn’t even cover the kick in the teeth by the way it all ends for the ‘M’ from the title. The sheer randomness feeds into the mounting feeling of pointlessness and disappointment.

More than most dystopian fiction, this aims for literary adroitness, and for the most part, achieves it. Parts are exquisitely written, with focused attention to the tiniest details of character and place. But just because you’ve allowed magic into your world, doesn’t mean you can go crazy with it. The author lost sight of both the characters and the plot in her desire to play tricks. Any time you wonder at the logic or likelihood of path taken, the answer is MAGIC. But the essential problem with disconnecting people from themselves, each other, and the world around them is that you remove the emotion that goes alongside. By the end, even by halfway, there was none left. Ultimately, this is a book about forgetting that will be easily forgotten.

ARC via Netgalley
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.6k followers
January 3, 2019
goodness me. its safe to say that now i will never be able to hear the phrase ‘blue, fifty-two’ without getting all kinds of emotional. if you know, you know. sigh.

this story gave me massive ‘station eleven’ vibes. it poses similar questions about the meaning of humanity in the face of the unknown, if hope can be the key for survival, and most importantly, how far one will go for those they love. i absolutely adored reading about ory and max - their relationship, separation, continued connection, and journey towards each other is really the highlight of this book. although the concept of disappearing shadows and memory loss is unique and beyond fascinating, the characters and what they mean to each other is really what makes this book worth it. and i honestly wish it had more page time instead of the focus being on the circumstances that caused them to separate.

i know its a personal preference, but im not a massive fan of when sci-fi and fantasy genres mix in the same story. i think it should be one or the other, but not both. the combination of the two makes for a very convoluted story because so many elements have to be included and maintained. and i definitely think other aspects of the story suffer a bit because of that. there is just so much focus on the loss of shadows, the forgetting, and the magical side effects that accompany both, that the characterisation didnt live up to its potential. which is a shame because that is the part i connected with the most, not to mention the part that gives the entire story purpose and meaning.

regardless, this is still a really great story and an impressive debut. i read on the authors profile page that there has been some discussion regarding a follow up book. if a sequel gets published, i will definitely be picking it up!

4 stars
Profile Image for j e w e l s.
309 reviews2,373 followers
August 31, 2018

Audio production: Outstanding!
Story: hmmmm. Loved the first half, major Bird Box vibes mixed with a good dose of Station Eleven.

Around the 50% mark, I realized I wasn't even connected to the characters and I was forcing myself to keep reading/listening. I think dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories actually only work for me if they avoid the way-out fantasy realm. This book strays into mystical realism/supernatural stuff and that's not a good fit for me. I have a hard time with sci-fi/fantasy (I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO CALL THIS GENRE, HELP ME!) unless it is a really spectacular story like Dark Matter.

I see why so many people have raved about this book, but I can't say I loved it. I did admire the beautiful writing and gorgeous book cover!
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews671 followers
September 9, 2018
New York City lies in ruins, Chattanooga is burning, Washington DC is a war zone.  Power grids are down.  People are losing their shadows, and with them, their memories.  New Orleans beckons.  A one-eyed amnesiac, the power of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, lakes that come and go as they please.  There is magic out there, as evidenced by singing trees, conversant tattoos and wolves.  As your shadow tethers you to earth, the value of memories has never been higher.
Profile Image for Hannah.
592 reviews1,053 followers
June 16, 2018
I love books that are not easily classifiable – and this is just that. It is speculative fiction but also incorporates a feeling of magical realism, it is a romance (and it is really not), it is just absolutely lovely. I adore the premise above all else: at some point in the not so distant future people start losing their shadows and with them, slowly but inexorably, their memories. First the small things but then bigger and bigger things until they forget to breath. With the loss of memories come weird powers: if a person without a shadow remembers something wrong, that thing becomes just so. Peng Shepherd uses this to create achingly beautiful scenes that edge on unsettling.

The book is told from four perspectives:

- Orlando Zhang (Ory), whose wife has just lost her shadow and left him behind, is single-minded in his pursuit of his wife,
- Max, his wife, is losing her memories and keeps recording herself speaking to her husband to make sure she does not remember him wrong,
- Mahnaz Ahmadi, an Iranian archer, is stuck in Boston, far away from her family and most importantly her younger sister.
- The Amnesiac has lost his memory in an accident and as such has a unique understanding of memory loss and its effects on sense of self.

My favourite parts by far were those concerned with Max – her journey into forgetting is mesmerizing and her resilience is wonderful. Spending time in her head made what was happening on a grander scale much more personal and affecting. I also loved spending time with Ahmadi – I love sibling relationships anyways and hers just made me weepy. The Amnesiac’s story at points had a feeling of fairy tale, which obviously I adored. My problem lay with Ory (and his perspective encompasses the bulk of this book) – he did not feel like a fully formed person to me. For most of the book he is single-minded in his pursuit of Max, never pausing, never considering her as a person in her own right, to be honest. I have some spoilery thoughts that might explain this but even so, I never really got along with his point of view – even though some of the most stunning scenes were from his perspective.

Overall, I adore the way Peng Shepherd structured her book – I am often a huge fan of multiple perspectives and here they are handled expertly and with a brilliant sense of timing. I thought her language flowed beautifully and her imagination is just breathtaking, many scenes unfolding cinematically in the best possible way. Her use of imagery and colour really added to this already wonderfully layered story.

I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

You can find this review and other thoughts on books on my blog.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,368 reviews544 followers
June 21, 2018
Where did the shadows go? Ory wondered. He didn't even care about the why any more. Only the where. The why was inexplicable. Ory didn't believe in magic, but he knew in his heart that what had happened was nothing that could be understood by humans. It was no natural disaster, no disease, no biological weapon. The best name he'd ever heard for it was curse. Because in the end it didn't matter who you were. No one escaped – either because they were someone who lost their shadow, or because they were someone who loved someone who lost their shadow.

In The Book of M's future world, through some inexplicable and magical process, people start to lose their shadows, and with them, their memories. This “Forgetting” is tragic but also dangerous: sometimes when a shadowless person realises that they have forgotten an important memory, that distant person or place simply disappears. And sometimes when a shadowless person misremembers something, people and objects and places can be transformed into monstrous, nightmare versions of themselves. This all sets up a familiar zombieland us-vs-them scenario with the unaffected constantly reassuring themselves that they still have shadows as they choose to avoid or fight the shadowless, but with no set rules for how a person transforms (it's not a contagion, spontaneously occurs, and doesn't affect everyone in a group) and with unbounded magic that some of the shadowless eventually learn to harness in deus ex machina plot-meddling, the “magic” supplants “logic” to the detriment of the narrative; when anything could happen, I stopped caring what did.

The Red King was the size of two men, over ten feet tall, wearing a scarlet cloak of a hundred layers and haphazard armor made from whole, bent steel doors. A human skull could fit inside each scarred, crimson hand. Red dripped off him from everywhere, leaving trails behind him.

The book is told from four shifting POVs: Max (with her husband Ory) has been hiding out in the woods for two years since the Forgetting, but now that she has suddenly lost her shadow, she has decided to run away in order to keep him safe from what she might unwittingly do (Ory has given his wife a tape recorder to help her keep her memories, and what she records on her adventure as her memory falters was my favourite thread); Ory, naturally, is determined to find Max, and he faces constant danger in pursuit of her; Naz is an Iranian-born Olympic archer, training in Boston at the time of the Forgetting, and she faces constant danger in an effort to stay alive; and "the amnesiac” was under the care of a memory doctor when the Forgetting began, and as he met and interacted with the first man who ever lost his shadow, this nameless one might hold the key to a cure. When rumours and graffiti all seem to point to the presence of a mysterious prophet in New Orleans, those with shadows and those without begin a pilgrimage that see the storylines converge.

Later, he came to have many names. The One With a Middle but No Beginning. The Stillmind. Patient RA. Last, most important of all – The One Who Gathers. But in the beginning, he had no name at all.

This convergence made me think of Stephen King and The Stand; and being Stephen King, he can be forgiven for bringing in supernatural elements; for setting up an ultimate battle between good and evil (but even he had his dystopia start with a simple virus). But that ultimate battle isn't really what author Peng Shepherd is going for in The Book of M – and my biggest complaint would be that I don't know what she was going for. Post-apocalyptic fiction can be wonderful for exploring how humans behave once civilisation collapses (as in The Road or Station Eleven), but between an army risking their lives to collect books and a murderous cult trying to “transcend”, I didn't connect with any recognisable motivations. And post-apocalyptic fiction can make for fun and adventuresome storytelling (as in The Passage or The Strain), but there have to be rules: inexplicable transmission and human people suddenly being able to transform reality with their minds drain the tension for me (and those were my biggest complaints about The Marrow Thieves, too; The Power followed rules, so it worked better for me). Okay, let's accept that people can lose their shadows, but how (or why) are memories stored there? I can't accept the basic premise and having more than one character shrug and say it's magic doesn't cut it for me.

Madness, Zhang thought. An army of shadowed people led by a shadowless, who wanted to remove all human shade from the world – against a council of shadowless, led by a living shadow, who wanted to give everyone back their dark twin.

Madness. In the last few dozen pages of the book, Shepherd approaches something like a point: if people's memories – their personalities, if not their souls; a word never mentioned – are stored outside of their physical selves, then what is the body? To avoid spoilers, I'll frame it as: If your best friend became a zombie and threatened a near stranger, but not yourself, could you look into her familiar eyes as you plunged a knife into her heart? If you could wish upon a monkey's paw to raise your child from the dead, but the child returned with someone else's memories, is that still your child? I liked that Shepherd referenced Peter Pan and a Hindu legend about the sun king and his shadow wife, but there isn't a lot of intertextual background for what happens, no scientific explanations, and next to no philosophical exploration after the fact: things happen, magical meddling constantly subverts any logic, and we get to the end. Yes, some interesting things happen, but it wasn't enough for me.
Profile Image for Beverly.
807 reviews292 followers
March 2, 2019
I'm on the fence about this one. There were some great passages and astounding images and ideas, but I was also ready for it to be done. The last battle between the shadowed and shadowless was clever In its use of magic to defeat the enemy. I felt the characters of Ory and Max And Naz were well developed and I really cared about them, but the others like Paul and Immanuel not so much.

The world she created was not that interesting to me, because nothing is ever explained. Why do they lose their shadows? Why are memories contained in shadows? Why does the amnesiac's shadow become an image of an elephant from Indian mythology? Why are the shadowless able to do magic?

The cover was cool, but you don't know who "M" is until the end.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kaitlin.
126 reviews1 follower
May 29, 2018
The first half of this book was a solid 5 stars for me. The plot was so gripping I couldn't put the book down. But then....it took a turn. The latter half of the story just didn't do it for me. It was all over the place and confusing. The phenomenon of shadows disappearing was never fully explained and the whole part with "The One Who Gathers" was a jumbled mess of loose ideas.

The culmination of everything really fell flat for me which is so disheartening because the first half of the book is so well written!

This had all the potential to be a great story but the follow through was confusing and unsatisfying. Bummer.
Profile Image for Karen’s Library.
1,064 reviews163 followers
December 5, 2022
This book deserves ALL the stars!! ALL!! It’s brilliant, beautifully written, and one of the most hopeful post-apocalyptic books I’ve ever read. The Book of M is by far my favorite read so far of 2018. Whenever I think of my favorite all time epic books in this genre (The Stand, The Passage, and Swan Song) The Book of M will now and forever more be in my list.

I’m not sure how to even tell anyone what this book is about. It’s a story about how most people lose their shadow and with it, little by little, all of their memories, until they don’t even remember that they need to eat. Also with the loss of their shadow comes the ability to do magical things, like putting wings onto the head of a deer. But for each magical act, more memories are lost until there is nothing left of the original person.

We follow the journey of Max who after two years has finally lost her shadow and run away, Ory her husband who travels the countryside looking for her, Naz who was an Olympic archer in the time before, and the Amnesiac who lost all of his memories due to an accident before The Forgetting.

I seriously had major chills all up and down my spine as I read the last few pages of The Book of M. My heart!! I am sure I won’t be able to get this book out of my head for a long while and have already caught myself looking for my shadow several times!

Peng Shepherd is a new author that I will be watching out for. If her first novel is this amazing, I can’t imagine how incredible her next ones will be!!
Profile Image for Emily B.
426 reviews421 followers
June 21, 2021
3.5 rounded up. I greatly admire the imagination of the writer. The whole concept of the book is wildly creative and full of fascinating little details.
I enjoyed the style of writing, I love it when each chapter or part are told from a different character’s perspective.

While I loved the idea and story I just found it a bit too long. I felt it could have been spread over more than one book as so much happened in it.

I also felt that while the concept of losing shadows and memories was great, it just wasn’t explained enough to really make sense for me. I wanted to know why it happened.

“there's a difference between when the mind forgets and the heart does.”
Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,787 reviews1,627 followers
June 16, 2018
I am really into apocalyptic novels of late and this is an innovative and extraordinary one. It is a truly outstanding debut for an author that I will be putting on my "ones to watch" list. Peng Shepherd, I salute you!

After reading the synopsis, I got unbelievably excited about the prospect of diving into this, having that amount of pure anticipation is a rarity for me. I'm usually cool, calm, and collected. I knew then that it was going to either - live up to my uber-high expectations and blow me away, or disappoint me beyond belief. There are such a lot of writers who create a highly original concept, but fail miserably in their execution, meaning that the unique premise is wasted. Luckily, that was far from the case here.

"The Book of M" is set in the not-too-distant future and tells the story of a mysterious natural disaster that causes people's shadows to disappear, shortly followed by their memories. This phenomenon gives the individual the use of a strange type of magic, but it comes at a high price - each time they use it they will be robbed of a memory. Many try to resist the urge to use this magic power, but for most the temptation is too great. As the victims forget more and more of who they are, reality begins to bend to reflect their fractured recollections, plunging the world into a terrifying, ever-shifting alternate landscape.

This is a surreal and rather creepy read that I enjoyed immensely, although I did find that the pace in the middle section of the book was a little slower than I would've ideally liked. The language flowed beautifully and naturally and I appreciated the multiple points of view. The way Shepherd has structured the novel around these varying perspectives gives you a look at what each character is thinking/feeling at the time. There are some stunning twists involved in the plot too, which caught me off guard! For a debut author the worldbuilding is exquisite and I appreciated that the characters were drawn from diverse backgrounds and were developed well. All in all, this is a superb dystopian thrill ride following the characters as they fight for survival, a haunting and thought-provoking read!

Many thanks to HarperCollins for an ARC. I was not required to post a review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
789 reviews1,185 followers
January 19, 2019
Love You Shadow GIF - LoveYou Shadow Disappear GIFs
"A thing does not have to be said to be real. It just has to be remembered."

Who would you be without your memories? Would you still be you? How much do your memories define who you are?

A Goodreads friend recently dubbed a new genre of books -- "quiet books". These, they said, are "slow action adventures, based more in the mind of its protagonists than in the adventure and action they are slowly experiencing or, often, remembering". That is the perfect description for this book. It's post-apocalyptic, yet not what most people usually think of when they think of that genre. The Book of M, whilst there is action, is more introspection, an exploration of the emotions and thoughts of those who are trying to survive when civilization collapses.

At some point in the near future, a mysterious.... "illness"? (not really sure what to call it) spreads. People begin to lose their shadows, and with them, their memories. As civilization collapses and memories fade, people struggle to survive. The book is written from the point of view of several characters, detailing their current experiences and challenges, and attempting to hold on to their memories once their shadows have disappeared. Sound strange? It is! It seems like something Stephen King could have thought up. It is a gripping story, one that makes it difficult to put the book down. However, I think the book could have been about 100-150 pages shorter because it starts to seem repetitive part way through, then picks up again for the last 100 pages. I love these "quiet books", though I don't think many authors could pull them off, nor are they books for everyone. Peng Shepherd is one of those writers who can pull off a book like this, and pull it off well. Even though this "illness" is unbelievable, the characters responses, their thoughts and feelings, are. I've knocked off one star because of the occasional repetitiveness; otherwise, this would have been a 5 star book. I highly recommend it, especially if you like novels that make you think. It is a story of love, a story of survival, and a story that will have you wondering just what it takes to be you.
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,597 followers
June 30, 2020

Many thanks to Andrew at William Morrow for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review
"Blue. Fifty-two."

I know that I previously said that both a review and a rating was to come. Well, the review is here but not the rating. This book is one of the first books that I will be opting out of rating. I literally spent an entire day trying to decide what to rate this but I came up blank. It just doesn't fit any of the star ratings. Not one of two because I didn't hate/dislike it. Not three because, to me, that implies neutral feelings or a general liking which was not it either. Not four or five because I didn't love/adore it. You see the jam I'm in?

The Book of M follows Max and her husband, Ory in a post apocalyptic world where many people have lost there shadows and are now called "The Shadowless". Once you lose your shadow, you also slowly (or sometimes quickly. It's very random) lose your memory. I loved the science fiction/fantasy of this world... At first.

For the first half of the book, it all felt very straightforward and factual, as every good sci-fi does. But then it slowly descends from science fiction to (in my opinion) high fantasy. I honestly don't think I would have minded it except for the fact that it wasn't really explained how to magic worked which was a huge issue for me.

But aside from the missing explanation, the whole shift to fantasy was not only weird but also confusing. Things were moving really fast. Now, I love fast paced books; they hold my attention and are fun to read. But this book was way to fast. It felt like I was on a skateboard, going down a hill when all of a sudden the hill got super steep and I couldn't stop. To put it simply, the world building has its flaws, yes. That said, it was very creative and unique.

As most science fiction novels do, this book isn't just about scares and magic. As I mentioned, we follow Ory and Max. max has lost her shadow and runs away from Ory, so as to protect him. Ory then chases her across the country, picking up Friends along the way- Whoa, if this didn't have shadowless psychos, it could basically be a road trip novel! Jokes aside, I loved the love shown in this. It was so expertly crafted to make me smile and cry and everything else in between. That combined with the urgency of the shadows and forgetting made this even more readable.

Finally, I want to touch on the last quarter of the novel. It was a convoluted mess. Now, I do want to note that I was shopping with my mom (which ended up being super fun, actually) so I wasn't completely focused but I still got the idea. As I said, the shift from science fiction to fantasy was not enjoyable but that shift combined with the too-fast chaos of everybody running around, POV shifts, and magic, just left me overwhelmed and confused.

Overall, this isn't a bad novel. If I had to choose between good or bad, I would say good. That said, I still won't be giving this a rating because I simply can't come up with one. This book had a lot wrong with some aspects, especially the ending. Even so, it was beautifully and expertly written by someone who definitely knows what they're doing. If you can deal with the bumps, be sure to pick this one up! Happy reading!

Bottom Line:
No Rating
Age Rating: [ PG-13 ]
Cover: 3/5 ~ Characters: 4/5 ~ Plot: 2/5 ~ Audio: 4/5
TW: Amnesia, Murder, Terror, Suicide
Reps: [Mental Illness]
Publication Date: June 15th, 2018
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction

| Goodreads | Blog | Pinterest | LinkedIn | YouTube | Instagram
Profile Image for Renee Godding.
613 reviews573 followers
March 29, 2019
5/5 stars

”If only we were elephants. Then we could help each other…”

Fantasy/Sci Fi- apocalyptic novels have always done their best to terrify us with wild concepts of rising dead, killer robots and monstrous mutants walking the earth. Yet it’s often the simplest and most realistic of concepts that manage to get under my skin the most.
Have you ever realized how wonderfully valuable our ability to remember is? Or how fragile and fallible it could be? What would happen if the entire population, and even the physical world around you suddenly lost that ability?
Peng Shepherd takes that concept, and cranks it up to eleven in one of the best books I’ve read this year.

I usually give a short synopsis on what the books about here, but in this case I’m going to skip over that. Not only does the cover text do a great job on its own, but even if you go in fairly blind like I did, the first chapter will sweep you up and have you excited to find out for yourself.
Peng Shepherd does an amazing job of building a world and (for lack of a better word:) “magic system” revolving around memories, elephants and shadows that works better than it has any business to, being how bizarre it sounds when I put it down like this. The entire thing is so well thought out, and makes so much “sense” in the context of the world that my suspension of disbelief was almost complete. When I was reading, for all I knew this was already happening on the other side of the world. It just hadn’t reached me yet.

We see the story through the eyes of 4 characters:
- Orlando (Ory) Zhang, a devoted husband on a journey to find his wife who has recently lost her shadow.
- Max, Ory’s wife, whose side of the story we hear through tape recordings she uses as a kind of dairy, to keep her from forgetting.
- Mahnaz Ahmadi, stuck in Boston after the events that transpired, far away from her family in Iran.
- The Amnesiac, a man who lost his memory before due to brain trauma, and offers a unique perspective on memory and memory loss, as he meets with “patient zero of the forgetting”.
All of their perspectives have their own distinct voices, and I enjoyed all of them. I have to say I enjoyed Ory’s perspective the least, which is a shame as he narrates the majority of the novel. He seemed a little single-minded and flat in his character: his only goal being to find his wife, no matter the cost. As this was the only complaint I had with the novel as a whole, I can easily forgive it though.

The Book of M was all in all, one of (if not my nr. 1) favorite book of 2019 so far. I was conflicted between wanting to speed up my reading to find out how this would end, and wanting to slow down, just to be able to savour it longer.
It reminded me a lot of Station Eleven, one of my all-time favorite novels, in that sense without being too similar. It’s the type of slow-paced postapocalyptic, that I just gobble up, so if you (like me) enjoy that: this is a must read! Highly recommend!

Note on the Audiobook:
I started this novel on audio, but switched to the physical copy about 20% in, due to a problem I had with the narration-speed.
The novel is narrated by two voice actors: a male that narrates Ory’s and The Amnesiac’s parts, and a female who narrates the perspectives of Max and Mahnaz. Although this was great in concept, I had a problem with the huge difference in speaking pace between the two. The male voice actor spoke painfully slow for my liking, to the point where I had to put the narration on 1.8 to 2x the speed to get a tolerable speed. The female however (especially as Max) speaks fairly fast, leaving me to have to switch the speed of the audiobook after every chapter.
It’s a minor complaint, but possible helpful for those audiobook fans out there.
Profile Image for Dianne.
559 reviews910 followers
August 1, 2018
“The Book of M” is a dystopian apocalyptic novel that is, at its essence, a love story about Ory (a man) and Max (a woman).

Peng Shepherd has based her debut novel on a real life event called “Zero Shadow Day,” which occurs annually in India. On this one or two days, at noon, the sun is directly overhead and, unless you jump, you cannot see your shadow. In Sheperd’s story, starting in India and then spreading over the globe, people begin losing their shadows permanently. When a person loses their shadow, they begin to lose their memories. The more memory is lost, the greater the pull to “forget.” As the shadowless lose their memories, they acquire a strange new power – they can alter the physical environment so that it fits their altered or half-forgotten memories. Deer sprout wings on their foreheads instead of antlers, guns shoot thunder and lightning, and kites in the sky become sharp instruments of death.

Ory and Max have taken shelter in an abandoned resort in Great Falls National Park in Virginia. Originally, a wedding party stayed on at the resort in hiding after the shadow disappearance epidemic hit the U.S. Over the past two years, the other wedding guest have left the resort leaving Ory and Max to their own devices. Ory periodically heads into Arlington to scrounge for food – game is hard to come by and although it’s dangerous to enter the now lawless cities, they need supplies. They are down to their last jar of spaghetti sauce when Max loses her shadow. Ory is terrified to leave Max alone while he looks for food in the city. What if she forgets everything and leaves or starts to alter their reality? Eventually, driven by necessity, he leaves Max with a small tape recorder around her neck where she can record her thoughts and memories to help her remember. He puts signs up around their shelter to remind her of the rules – Max cannot leave the shelter without Ory. Max can never answer the door. Max cannot touch the gun.

Ory leaves on his quest. He encounters a group of twelve people, both shadowed and shadowless, who are leaving for New Orleans. Rumors of “The One Who Gathers” or “The One With A Middle But No Beginning” have been whispered and the twelve believe they need to be in New Orleans. They offer Ory the items they are leaving behind – bikes, curtains, and other odds and ends. No food, other than a jar of vinegar. Ory heads back to the resort with his scavenged items. On the way, he is mugged for his windfall. When he comes to and straggles back to the resort, Max is gone without a trace.

The bulk of the story follows Ory’s desperate search for Max from the east coast (the Statue of Liberty is up to no good) to New Orleans. Max shares her side of the story via her tape recorded diary entries. Other major characters are introduced and play key roles:

* Hemu Joshi – shadowless “patient zero”
* Mahnaz Ahmadi – an Iranian woman archer training for the Olympics in the US when the shadowless plague arrives
* The Amnesiac – never given a name, this man was in a car accident which left him without any memories, much like the shadowless. He still has his shadow.
* Dr. Zadeh and Dr. Avanthikar – doctors working to find a cure for the shadowless, working with Hemu Joshi and The Amnesiac

The plot is complicated and quite interesting. Indian legends and mythology play a significant part. Eventually, all of the story and character threads come together in a surprise twist with a perfect bittersweet ending. It did remind me in parts of “Station Eleven” and “The Passage” (minus vampires) but it occupies its own original space within this genre of literature.

A very promising debut for Shepherd. Oh, and one more thing – this novel gets bonus points from me for its reverence for books. Books are ALWAYS the solution. Always.
Profile Image for Marialyce .
1,981 reviews716 followers
November 13, 2018
It's the day of the festival of Lost Shadows and a young man loses his shadow in an Indian market. And then others do as well as this phenomena travels the world. And then the horrendous happens, for in losing one's shadow, one loses their memory. It is frightening and eerie signifying the death of a world we all live in. How does one survive without a memory, without knowing who or what you are, without being able to read, without knowing a loved one, a friend, a foe, or even yourself? Combining mysticism, folklore, and originality Ms Shepard has created a harrowing look at what could be if we lost our awareness.

In this book, we met Ory and his wife Max. They and others have escaped shadow loss by hiding out for years in a remote area in the woods but one by one people start to drift away until one day, Max disappears for she as well lost her shadow. Max knows that she too, will be one of the lost, memory less, forgetting the man she loves so she leaves rather than subject Ory to her decline. However, Ory will not let her go, tracking her, following her into a world of desperation, cruelty, death and mayhem. Along the way desperately seeking Max, he encounters others, those who still have their shadow while others are now shadowless as he heads to New Orleans where the "one who gathers" has made a place for all.

There are some extremely strange and abysmal happenings in a world turned into chaos from those who roam about bent on destroying others to a cult that worships the shadowless. This is the land of nightmares, of memory loss, of a time where there are no rules other than survival, and yet amidst all this, there is hope and love as Ory will not forsake Max even though he knows she will probably not remember him if he finds her.

I have to say this book had me from the get go. To comprehend and conceive of a world where the ones I love and I lose our memory was a horrifying experience. This book gave me a new found understanding of what it must be like for people who experience Alzheimers or any type of memory loss. To be cast adrift in a world where you know nothing, something as simple as brushing your teeth or washing your hair is gone from your recognition. It is a black hole from which there is no escape. What a totally fearsome concept to conceive! I do recommend this book for making one come to the realization that it is our memories that makes us who we are. Once we lose them, we become diminished, losing in a way our humanity, becoming adrift in a sea of bewilderment, anxiety, and ambivalence.

But what if someday all memories faded away?
My reviews can also be seen here: https://wordpress.com/post/yayareadsl...
Profile Image for Seda.
541 reviews83 followers
December 10, 2019
Kitabı okurken ben⬇️

Bu kitap için biri kısa biri uzun iki yorum yazacağım. Çünkü içimi dökerken kesin yine eşşeğin kuyruğu gibi uzayacak yorumum.

Kısa yorum: Keşke içi de dışı gibi güzel olsaydı. Ne yazık ki benim için sadece ambalajdan ibaret. Üstündeki süslemeye, içinde harcanan kağıda yazık.

Gelelim şimdi esas yoruma. Kitabı neresinden tutsam, hislerimi nereden başlayarak anlatsam bilemiyorum. Hayatımda ilk defa kitabı okurken yorum yazdım resmen. Aklıma gelen soruları not aldım, belki zahmet eder de cevaplarını yazar ileride diye. Ama hiçbirinin cevabını bulamadım.

Öncelikle en en en büyük sorunumu belirteyim; Kitabı başından sonuna ‘bu insanların gölgeleri neden kayboluyor?’ sorusuna cevap arayarak okudum. Hep çok ilginç bir yere bağlayacak ya da en azından gölgelerinin kaybolmasının sebebi olarak çok tatmin edici bir açıklama yazacak diye bekledim. Ve bilin bakalım ne oldu? YAZAR, BUNA AÇIKLAMA YAZMA GEREĞİ DUYMAMIŞ.😳😳 İnsanların durduk yere neden gölgeleri kayboluyor, Allah bilir. Zira ben hâlâ bilmiyorum. Yazar, resmen polisiye kitapta cinayeti uzun uzun anlatmış ama katili ve öldürme sebebini yazmayı unutmuştu. Gölgelerle ilgili verilen tek şey, insanlar gölgelerini kaybediyor, bir takım sihirli güçler kazanıyor -ki bunu da adam gibi işleyememiş bana göre- ve anılarını unutuyor. Yeter bu kadar açıklama?!

İkinci olarak en çok takıldığım şey, karakterlerin hiçbirinin adam gibi bir tasviri yoktu. Hiçbir karakterin dış görünüşü tam anlatılmamıştı. Bu kadar çok ortam, mekan, geçilen yollar, çayırın, bayırın tasviri varken, neden tek bir karakterin doğru düzgün tasviri yoktu? Bir tek Naz’ın siyah saçlı olduğunu, 150’den sonra da Max’in afroamerikan olduğunu öğrendim. Dış görünüşleri üstünkörü geçilmesinin yanında, karakterlerin kişilikleri hakkında da bir şey verilmemişti. Çoğunun daha öncesinde ne iş yaptığı, KAÇ YAŞINDA olduğu, karakterleriyle ilgili nasıl insanlar oldukları vs. gibi hiçbir ayrıntıya girmemişti. Hikayeyi üzerlerinden yürüttüğü kişileri, okuyucuya tanıtma gereğini duymamıştı. Adı geçen kişileri hayal edemedim ama onun yerine bol bol yürüdükleri sokakları, yürürken etrafta gördüklerini hayal edebildim. Bu da yeter zaten, mühim olan çayır, bayır hayal etmek?!🙄🙄

Kitapta, Ory, Naz ve Toplayıcı’nın bölümleri ilahi bakış açısıyla anlatılırken, Max’in bölümleri kayıt cihazına Ory’yle konuşur gibi yaptığı kayıtlardan oluşuyordu. Normalde çok fazla rahatsız olmayacağım bu anlatım şekli, bu kitapta çok sık geçiş yapılması sebebiyle rahatsız etti. Bir sayfa Ory’yi okurken, diğer sayfada ne olduğunu anlamadan Toplayıcı’nın bölümüne geçmek; 2-3 sayfa sonra Max’in kaydını okumak özellikle başlarda hikayenin içine girmemi engelledi. Bu tarz kısa kısa bölümler yüzünden, anlatımı çok dağınık, bir satırda şimdiyi anlatırken, bir sonraki cümlede eskiye ait olduğunu düşündüğüm bir zamana giden, sonra tekrar şimdiye yakın bir döneme dönen bir kitap ortaya çıkmıştı. Tam konuya gireceğim dediğim yerde, başka karakterle sürekli konunun akışı kesildi. Yarıdan sonra bölüm araları biraz uzadı ama ben çoktan kitaptan kopmuştum.

500 sayfalık kitap, hem ‘çok fazla detaya boğulmuş, konunun elle tutulur kısımlarını alsak 200 sayfa ancak çıkar’ duygusunu verirken; aynı anda garip bir şekilde ‘olması gereken hiçbir yerde detay vermemiş, çok fazla eksiklik var’ gibi düşündürmeyi başardı. Bir kere kurguda asla zaman kavramı yoktu. Ory ve Naz’ın bölümleri aynı zaman diliminde mi ilerliyor? Bilinmiyor. Bir yerde Ory seneler geçti diyor ama Naz’ın bölümüne bakınca birkaç ay geçmiş gibi anlatılıyordu. Toplayıcı’nın ilk bölümüyle, Ory’nin bölümlerinin arasında bir zaman farkı var ama asla ne kadarlık bir süreden bahsedildiği belirtilmemişti. Yani kitabın geçmiş, günümüz tarzı kronolojik bir ilerleyişi yoktu. Olayları kafamızda sıraya koymaya da gerek yok zaten?!🙄🙄 İlk insan gölgesini kaybettikten sonra geçen zaman kavramı kitabın sonuna kadar belirsizliğini korudu, ne kadardır bu şekilde yaşadıkları muaamma olarak kaldı.

Zaman dışında hikayeyi zenginleştirecek, kurguyu güçlendirecek bir sürü detay da eksikti. Hayatta kalanlar, özellikle gölgelerini kaybetmemiş insanlar içecek ve yiyecek ihtiyaçlarını nasıl temin ediyor? Çünkü bir süre sonra ısrarla vurgulanan şey marketlerde, evlerde, hiçbir yerde yağmalayacak bir şey kalmadığıydı. Yiyecek ve temiz su yoksa, insanlar aç ve susuz nasıl yaşıyor? Hava soğuk mu, sıcak mı? Hiç mi kıyafet ihtiyacı olmuyor? Bu insanlar yllar geçtiği halde fiziksel ihtiyaçlarını nasıl sağlıyorlar? Kısacası bir insanın yaşamak için ihtiyaç duyacağı temel gereksinimler nasıl karşılanıyor? Bu soruların cevapları gibi kurguyu destekleyici hiçbir açıklama kitapta yer almıyordu. Bir dünya var, bir şeylerin yüzü suyu hürmetine dönüyor işte. Kurcalamamak lazım.🙄🙄

Kitap merak ederek okunuyor ama ‘acaba ne olacak’ diyerek kitabı yercesine okumaya sebep olan bir merak değil bu. Daha çok ‘e artık bir şey olacak mı, bir olay var mı? Hikaye yükselişe geçecek mi?’ tarzı bir merak. Peki kitap akıcı mı? Evet, ancak kurumuş bir dere yatağı kadar akıcı?!😒😒 Yarısına kadar, ‘yollar yürümekle aşınmaz’ mottosuyla yazıldığı için sadece karakterlerin bir şehirden diğerine yürümesi anlatılmıştı. Karakterler sürekli bir yerden bir yere gidiyorlar -hem de yürüyerek-, oraya varınca başka bir yere. Yarıdan sonrasında da yolda karşılaştıkları çeşitli gruplarla birleşip hep birlikte New Orleans’a gidiyorlardı. Son 80-90 sayfaya kadar da gitmeleri bitmedi. Zaten başka olay da yoktu kitapta. Yazar? ‘sonunda bir şey yazayım, şaşırtayım’ demişti ama ölmüş adama oksijen tüpü bağlamıştı benim açımdan. Oraya gelene kadar kitap içimi çürüttüğü için, şaşıracağım yere tepki verecek kadar bile enerjim kalmamıştı.

Sevmedim demeye de çekiniyorum çünkü sevmedim diyecek kadar bile konusu yok bana göre. Ne kurguyu destekleyici unsurlar yazmış, ne de bulduğu fikri, yazdığı kurguyu açıklama zahmetine girmişti. Aklına bir fikir gelmiş ama altını ya da devamını dolduramadığı 500 sayfalık sözcük kalabalığı yazmıştı.

Bu kısacık?! yorumdan anlaşılacağı üzere, kitabı tavsiye etmenin çok uzağındayım.🙊🙊 Yine de merak edip okuyacaksanız, umarım benden daha çok seversiniz.

Profile Image for Kate.
1,233 reviews2,207 followers
August 14, 2018

okay its been a few hours and I think I'm ready to write a real review.

So, this book was seriously incredible. I was so SHOOK after finishing it i literally got on the wrong bus NICE and I'm legit like BLOWN AWAY by the ending even a few hours later so. it was fucking awesome.

The book on the surface, I would describe as "Bird box" meets "Station Eleven" meets "The Oracle Year" - if BB and SE were actually good lol. This book was what I wanted when I was reading those books and TOY just had a very similar feeling to this book? The plots are definitely not similar but the FEELS are definitely a like.

The book follows the world when a phenomena begins where people all around the world are losing their shadows - and with them, their memories. And so begins the apocalyptic world that this book mostly takes place during. We mostly follow Orlando "Ory" Zhang (side note: THE NARRATOR OF THE AUDIOBOOK LEGIT NEEDS TO BE FIRED SIMPLY FOR HOW HORRIBLY HE PRONOUNCED "ZHANG" I LITERALLY THOUGHT HE WAS SAYING "JOHN" THE ENTIRE TIME WHAT THE FUCK) and Max who are a married couple - and Max loses her shadow while Ory keeps his.

Just, wow, this book seriously blew me away. Everything from the characters (the whole Paul thing like wow maybe just stab me in the heart next time???) to the plot to the world to the mystery to the science to the ENDING WOW THE ENDING JUST WOW

I have to highly HIGHLY suggest this book because its seriously incredible - anyone who likes scifi, post apocalyptic, etc. you GOTTA get this on your radar!

Now I'm going to quickly talk about the ending because I have a LOT to say about it so dont read if you dont want spoilers.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,975 followers
February 1, 2021
The first half of this novel successfully gripped me hard and never let go.

It's part Walking Dead dystopian survival, part mysterious fantasy surrounding the loss of so many people's shadows (with their memories), and part massively grounded lit-SF.

And it worked, too, making my mind revolve around and around the malady, the consequences of so many people suddenly losing their shadows, and what it would mean to come across rumors of two far off communities... one in DC and the other in New Orleans, ending in some kind of showdown. You know, kinda like the Stand, only less religious. Indeed, M is what it's all about. And M doesn't stand for mamma or Mechagodzilla.

So why, if I really loved where the book started and continued, didn't I give it a full five stars?

Because, for all the later war stuff and genuinely interesting Mad Max feel, I never got that invested in the violence. I was invested early on, and then I was only playing catch-up.

That isn't to say that the end wasn't cool. It was quite different from what you might expect, considering the late middle part, and it made up for quite a bit. But honestly, I think this would have been a superior novel without the big showdown. It took away from the emotional core that was already there.

That being said, I REALLY liked what was brilliant about this novel. I also have a soft spot in my heart for shadows and memory magic. :)

Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books702 followers
July 22, 2019
Yeah, this was not for me. It should have been a short story. Most of it was entirely unnecessary to the "twist." It was a meandering, nonsensical, trippy romance that literally told us not to worry about "why" or "what" or "how" at various points. "But why is this happening?" "It doesn't matter any more." Oh. Well cool. Mystery solved. /sarcasm

I'm sorry, book, all your characters might have amnesia and concussions, but I sure don't.

I thought the characters' motives were impenetrable, the plot completely insubstantial, the writing merely passable, the "reveals" inscrutable, the action implausible and the romance both sickly sweet and disgustingly selfish.

CONTENT WARNING: (mild spoilers)
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book1,859 followers
May 7, 2019
The Book of M reads like a very long game of exquisite corpse where more and more stuff happens in a never-ending logorrheal discharge of events; and that may sound like I didn't like it, but this game of exquisite corpse actually made for an entertaining book, the kind of 'entertaining' where from one sentence to the next you will say "whaaa?" and finding yourself agog with the notion that someone exists in the world, a writer named Peng Shepherd, whose connection with logic is loose enough to have written it.

That's the part I liked. The part I didn't like is that the book is essentially a very long con, a quest story so familiar that it all but promises a certain kind of ending, but delivers instead a "fooled you" reveal in its final pages that left me disgruntled.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,798 followers
March 30, 2019
okay that ending??? fricken solid
the rest of the book??? kinda unnecessarily long/dense but also really well written

my main issue is that pretty much all of my questions remained unanswered and i just reaalllyyy want my answers :c

rtc i guess
Profile Image for Tori (InToriLex).
460 reviews359 followers
August 13, 2018

Content Warning: Graphic Violence

The Book of M was weird, memorable and engaging. The story will break your heart and shock you in ways your not expecting. In this world people begin to lose their shadows and then gradually lose all of their memories after. Ory and Max set out to find answers and ways to survive a constantly changing landscape. The authors does a great job of balancing multiple point of views while keeping the voices distinct and the plot moving. Ory and Max are characters you will happily cheer for along with the other characters they encounter while the world slips into chaos. Shadows randomly disappearing is bad enough but the shadow less are able to change their environments and threaten those who still have shadows. 

“No one escaped—either because they were someone who lost their shadow, or because they were someone who loved someone who lost their shadow.”

The book has a very strong start but towards the later half of the book the world building became too robust. I wanted to learn more about the characters we knew but some of that took a backseat to describing the threats and ways that people have adapted in this new world. The world building itself was great but their could have been less of it. The concept was weird but never in a way that required you to hold back disbelief. The audio book narrators were male and female, they did a great job conveying the feelings and emotion of characters through the dialogue. Ory and Max embark on a journey for answers, the hardships and bad times kept me in suspense about what their fate will be.

There is a lot of technical and anecdotal information about how memory works. But this served the story well as everyone was trying to figure out why people lost their shadows and how to stop it. Despite clunky pacing at times I still wanted to follow these characters and keep listening. There are a number of diverse characters in terms of race and sexual orientation because the story spans continents and states. I was impressed with the representation. The ending surprised me but was in line with how the book balanced realism with the fantasy of this imagined world. Readers will findemotional depth and a story to remember.

Recommended for Readers who
- enjoy adult science fiction where every characters in jeopardy
- aren't thrown by multiple points of view
- can stomach graphic violence and traumatic physical and emotional pain
Profile Image for Anna.
759 reviews514 followers
October 14, 2018
Best debut I've read in a long, loooong time!


153 pages in - “Did you know that the word that means a group of elephants together is memory?” he asked. “A memory of elephants.”
I am so loving this book!

85 pages in and - for someone who researches identity and memory - this is pretty darn fascinating. I’m a bit creeped out, if I’m being honest. I hope that the explanation for losing one’s shadow and consequently all knowledge and memories will be fabulous. It has to be!
Profile Image for Serap.
692 reviews73 followers
December 10, 2019
DNF 121...Cook sıkıcı, çok gereksiz...baskının güzelliğine harcanan kağıda yazık... 1 verdim ama verilecek en düşük puan olduğu için yoksa daha düşük verirdim.(keşke puanlama 10 üzerinden olsaydı)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,132 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.