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The Chameleon

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  70 ratings  ·  16 reviews
John is infinite.

He can become any book, any combination of words — every thought, act and expression that has ever been, or ever will be, written. Now 800 years old, John wants to tell his story.

Looking back over his life, from its beginnings with a medieval anchoress to his current lodgings beside the deathbed of a cold war spy, John pieces together his tale: the love th
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 15th 2018 by Salt
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  70 ratings  ·  16 reviews

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Sean Barrs
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who want to hear what a book has to say
-A review copy was sent to me from Disclaimer Magazine in association with Salt Publishing. The original review was posted here.

The Review:


This is a book about books that is narrated by a book. Now isn’t that a sentence to chew over? Let me explain.

“My name is John, and I am this book.”

Drawing upon themes Virginia Woolf so eloquently presented in her experimental novel Orlando, Samuel Fisher tells the life story of a book that has existed for centuries. Like the character Orlando, John the b
Gumble's Yard
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Now longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.

A book written by the bookseller of an innovative independent bookshop (Burley Fisher Books) who was the judge in the first year of Britain's finest book prize- the Republic of Consciousness Prize (which rewards small publishers for taking risks in literature); it has a front cover recommendation from Eley Williams– winner of the second year of that prize for her wonderful short story collection Attrib. and other stories

Not surprisingly therefore thi
Paul Fulcher
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
My name is John, and I am this book.

Samuel Fisher is a bookseller: co-owner of Burley Fisher Books; was a judge in 2017 of the UK's finest literary prize: The Republic of Consciousness Prize; has co-founded a small independent press: Peninsula Press, who first books will include one on translation from the MBI-winning Deborah Smith; and this, his debut novel, comes with a recommendation from the 2018 Republic of Consciousness Prize winning Eley Williams. Oh, and it is narrated by a self-aware bo
Alan Teder
There is a lot of curious trivia here but the end result is so all-over-the-place it is hard to see what sort of reader will be completely satisfied.

A novel with a narrator who is an 800-year-old transmutable book seems like a set up for a voyage through an almost millennium-length view of history. Instead the story mostly centres on the late 20th century life and Cold-War career of a British spy named Roger and occasionally his wife Margery as viewed by "John" the book.

It is especially tempting
Terry Pearce
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book has one hell of a conceit, and anything that weird, I'm (a) interested, and (b) skeptical. He pulls it off. Through careul, thoughtful writing, surprising developments of the idea, and a thread of meaning running through it, the whole thing comes off as incredibly ungimmicky, and in fact humane and full of depth. Great stuff.
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A challenging premise, but one that soon blossoms into a moving tale of family, loss, and love, with some cold war espionage and chess thrown in for good measure. A refreshingly original novel.
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Maybe wears its influences a little heavily on its sleeve but is otherwise very fine indeed.
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The plot of this novel is mainly a suitably convoluted cold war spy story. What makes it worth reading is the narration by a sentient, mutating book, the interesting and often humorous snippets from its earlier incarnations and the quality of the writing.
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
True originality is a rare thing for us humans. To come up with an idea that is unlike anything anyone else has thought. Of course you can never know if anyone else has had an idea previous to you. However, I think Samuel Fisher comes pretty close to something extraordinary and unique with The Chameleon. It is not like anything I have read before, which is ironic since the book also contains every book that has or will be written. I was so fascinated I had to give this book my first five star-re ...more
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
John is an 800-year-old consciousness of many books. He changes book form as is necessitated by his travels through time, aka 'the chameleon.' John speaks of his awakening and time spent with human companions through history, gathering what experiences he can on what it means to be human.

In conjunction with the story of John the book consciousness, John delivers the extended story of his latest human companion, Roger, beginning with the present day from Roger's deathbed in his family home, surro
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Love the concept, and of course the author's love of books! An alternative, but enjoyable read
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
John is any book he wants to be, that's how he's lived for the last 800 years. Interesting narrative 💗
Danielle P
Harriet Furze
Mar 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Have you ever read a novel narrated by a book? Yes...a book! But this is no ordinary book. This is John. He has been “in existence” for hundreds of years and has seen the world change dramatically as it moves from one owner to the next. As a book, John collects stories that have already been written, or going to be written, and which he can wear, like an item of clothing, to express himself.

When one day he finds himself in the care of a new owner - Roger - he becomes intertwined in Roger’s life
Andrew Cowley
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