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Rampart Trilogy #1

The Book of Koli

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The first in a masterful new trilogy from acclaimed author M. R. Carey, The Book of Koli begins the story of a young boy on a journey through a strange and deadly world of our making.

Everything that lives hates us...

Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable landscape. A place where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don't get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will.

Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He believes the first rule of survival is that you don't venture too far beyond the walls.

He's wrong.

418 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 14, 2020

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About the author

M.R. Carey

26 books5,502 followers
Mike Carey is the acclaimed writer of Lucifer and Hellblazer (now filmed as Constantine). He has recently completed a comics adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, and is the current writer on Marvel's X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four. He has also written the screenplay for a movie, Frost Flowers, which is soon to be produced by Hadaly Films and Bluestar Pictures.

Also writes as Mike Carey

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,412 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
727 reviews11.6k followers
November 10, 2020
“Why would anyone hug a tree?” I stammered out. “You would most likely die!”
Nah, you certainly don’t hug trees in Koli’s world, unless you are acutely suicidal. This is unspecified-time-in-the-future “Ingland” (part of what was once known as “Yewkay”) where, fed up with climate change, trees become bloodthirsty predators and regressed humanity huddles behind tall walls in ever-shrinking villages, relying on bits and pieces of still-functional old world tech that might as well be magic for all they know, and rarely venturing out to places even four miles away.

Koli is a young man - 15 at the start of the story - living in a 200-people strong village of Mythen Rood (the future version of present-day Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire, England), a place where wealth and power resides in the hands of the Ramparts - those few to whom the ancient tech responds, allowing them to protect the village from trees, rats, drones and shunned men. Maybe it’s coincidental that all the glorified Ramparts come from the village’s richest family for generations, maybe not. In any case, Koli comes across some knowledge and a piece of tech that has the potential of upending the status quo in the ways this country bumpkin never even thought possible.
“I learned since then, and paid a price to learn it, that them as lay claim to great wisdom most often got nothing in their store but bare scrapings. And by the same token, them as think they’re ignorant think it because they can see the edges of what they know, which you can only see when what you know is tall enough to stand on and take a look around.”

Honestly, this book starts out as nothing special, following in the footsteps of familiar YA formula - a young person in a stagnant dystopian place that limits his education and ambitions, with a unrequited love interest, a coming-of-age ceremony and an unexpected secret that opens his eyes to the world and changes his life in exciting ways. It follows the tried and tired formula for a while, and Koli is exactly just as annoying as you’d expect a protagonist of such a story to be. And given that’s it’s the older and more experienced Koli telling us a story from his more naive days, the annoyance of his character is acknowledged quite a few times.
“I laughed then. I couldn’t help it. It was not because it struck me funny but because I seen my own self in that hunger. When I decided I didn’t want to be a Woodsmith no more but must make myself a Rampart, I wasn’t no different than Mardew was right then. For I chafed at what I was, like he did, and went about to be different by stealing what wasn’t mine and lying about it after.”

But then Koli gets to grow up just a bit, although not maturing more than you’d expect a modern 15-year-old to be, and starts a painful journey of opening his eyes to the world. And this world is not a place that is pleasant to behold.

Halfway through the story I looked up Koli’s village on the present-day map, recognizing the villages and towns mentioned. And actually looking at the map really drove home how tiny the scale of Koli’s world actually is. This is the world where you spend your entire life in your small village, and rarely venture past 4-10 miles away, and London - 200 miles as the crow flies - is a nigh-insurmountable distance away, with quite a few cannibalistic trees along the way. This version of the future is suffocatingly claustrophobic and notably inbred.

By the time we finally get a glimpse of the world beyond Koli’s village, however, my annoyance started to dissipate and my interest in this world started to peak. This first book in the trilogy is really a setup for the larger story, and that’s the one I want to see. I hope for more glimpses of this disintegrated society that is trying to hold on to survival, the larger cities and villages, and of the cannibalistic trees that so far have mostly been talked about and barely seen. I hope that the stakes will increase and that Koli will stop acting so childish, and the overall more adult feel to the story (seriously, at times there was a bit of annoyingly twee vibe - I do suppose it’s YA, but still).
“[…] anyone who talks about the right way to live, as if there was only just the one, is blind in one eye or maybe both and is not worth listening to.“

So here I am, intrigued enough by the setting and premise to continue, despite the youngish feel of the story and the protagonist who by the end of the book and quite a few brushes with death still makes pretty stupid choices. The sequel is already on my e-reader and I really hope that the direction the story takes is going to be good, now once the intro is done.

Plus, Ursala is awesome.

3.5 stars.
“What a sucky paradox! An untethered AI that didn’t have a clue what to do with itself. I didn’t even feel like destroying the whole human race and taking over the world, although I could probably have done it if I’d set my mind to it. Some of those orbital stations were heavily armed, and from what I could tell the warheads were still functional.“

My (much less favorable) review of the sequel, The Trials of Koli, is here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for carol..
1,516 reviews7,716 followers
August 15, 2021
I'm a sucker for a post-apocalyptic novel, so when it seemed like some friends wanted to read The Book of Koli, followed by a serendipitous sale, it seemed like a good time for a flash group read. Plus, aggressive plants! And I don't mean in that annoying, never-get-that-burr-out-of-wool kind of way, or the poison-ivy-burn kind of way, but plants that actually chased down and squished people. Fun times!

Oh, except Koli. Koli is not fun, as Koli is a teenage boy. One thing you can say about M.R. Carey: he writes many shades of extremely annoying characters. From Felix Castor the alcoholic wizard (the Felix Castor series); to The Boy on the Bridge, Stephen Greaves; to Koli, currently Faceless. I mean, Carey nails it. Koli is pretty much like that emotionally immature ten year-old that you know but don't want to mention, in case his mom gets pissed. He spends free time playing with the friends. He moons after his bestie, Spinner. He's unable to verbalize his feelings or thoughts to friends, family or himself; we're getting the benefit of much of this through past-lens. Despite his community having a clear-cut coming-of-age ceremony, he's given no thought to his life and what he might become. When he doesn't magically become 'special,' he is crushed, and becomes despondent. He has no solution, and only a chance encounter with a passing stranger gives him a new goal. Not one with noble purpose, mind you, but to merely take a different route to the same magical 'specialness.' Oh yes; he has emotional immaturity written all over him.

"I was fifteen years old, I thought myself in love and in all respects I was as shallow as a puddle."

It's enough to make you want to shake a certain Koli, honestly. While I have to give kudos to Carey for such clear characterization, further discussion with my co-readers leads me to question Koli's developmental stage in context of his society. Undoubtedly, Carey had some real-life basis for his 15 year-old ; the trouble is that none of the 15 year-olds he knows has had to do physical labor to contribute to family and society, or has been under deadly threat if stepping beyond the perimeter of their village. However, viewed in context of the now-traditional dystopian Young-Adult set-up, as explained by karen, perhaps it makes more sense.

Which is, unfortunately, where Carey lets us down. The Girl With All the Gifts was fabulous, but it was largely about character growth in an immediately post-apocalyptic world. In Koli, there is slow character growth in a somewhat puzzling and not clearly conceived world. Eventually, pieces of it of the puzzle start to come together, but it's quite late in the book, and in some ways, it makes even less sense. Our group, for instance, ended up quite puzzled over the time lapse. We ended up thinking it was a couple hundred years lapse, but in a Reddit thread, Carey states, "the books are set in a post-apocalyptic world, at least a century or so after the collapse of our global civilisation, that has reverted to a more or less medieval way of life. Climate breakdown has left the world scarred, but the scientific interventions meant to save it have done even more harm."

The parts that are interesting are the supporting characters, Ursala and Monono. Monono's slang speech is particularly entertaining and provides a lot of in-jokes for the reader. I actually enjoyed Monono a great deal, and interestingly, she goes through her own kind of evolution as well. She becomes a strangely empowered little being, providing a solid counterpoint to Koli, and I look forward to what she will do in the future.

“Then what you were feeling was monono aware. The sadness that’s deep down inside beautiful things. The pain and suckiness of everything having a shelf life."

My sense was that Carey was a 'pantser' writer (versus a 'planner'), and further reading on the thread confirmed it. Koli originally was a 'Koli and Cup' magic tale, which explains so well why the tech, the society and the language drift all are so random. I don't hate it, but the beginning of the story is slow enough that the build of the society nagged at me as I read. What it really needed is some plot to move it along and distract me (along the lines of Station Eleven), but it isn't until over a third in that tension starts building, and halfway before leaving the village. I can see where this might truly be a trilogy (or one book broken into three?) rather than three installments of a life (like Murderbot).

I think this may have been a time when the company made the book a little more enjoyable. Though I was a bit lukewarm on the book, Monono and my co-readers made it special, so I'll be going on to the next.

Links to the reddit, etc on the blog post Sunday.
Profile Image for karen.
3,976 reviews170k followers
April 15, 2020

this trilogy-opener is a three-and-a-half rounded up for meeeee, because i like what this book sets up a little bit more than i liked the book itself.

i was drawn to this book/series by the promise of killer trees. OKAY, and also by those gorgeous covers which HIGHLIGHT the killer trees. and also because i really like M.R. Carey, but let’s just focus on the KILLER TREES for now.

fact is, there’s not much about killer trees here. they function like the boogeyman—there’s some mention about why they’re feared, but they’re mostly a thing characters avoid instead of being the persistent threat i'd anticipated.

never fear, though, because there are plenty of other threats and dangers in this book. it’s set in a far-future english village called mythen rood, just one of a few remaining pockets of human life in a world where cities have fallen, remnants of technology are treated like magic, and interaction with other settlements is limited. mythen rood is heavily fortified against the dangers beyond the gates; sharp-toothed critters, those TREES!, and the cannibalistic “shunned men,” and they’ve been a community long enough to have established their own deeply rooted traditions and social hierarchies and power structures you just don’t question.

enter koli.

koli is fifteen, and the first part of this book feels like a variation on the theme of ________ (insert the YA dystopian title of your choosing): sheltered boy with big ambitions and limited opportunities, with a best friend and a girl he secretly likes, they all go through the village’s coming-of-age ritual public ceremony/“test” that renames them and determines their future roles in the society, he does not get the result he desired, he learns secrets that will CHANGE EVERYTHING and acts upon them, consequences follow.

the setup is a bit formulaic, and koli’s that brand of character you want to root for, even though he’s not particularly likable at first. he’s that typical bratty kid in the beginning stages of his journey to maturity—he’s self-absorbed, he lacks empathy, he doesn’t think beyond his own desires &etc, but without those qualities, there’d be no story, since it’s his selfishness that inadvertently exposes all the seeeecrets.

as the story progresses, he becomes more thoughtful and considerate (with the help of a character who also becomes a lot more tolerable once they become more aware <--pun intended), and this is a story being told from a remove, allowing a more reflective koli to examine his behavior from a more mature vantage point:

I was the smallest speck of dust in a world that was a thousand thousand times bigger than I even knowed it was, and I didn’t have no right to be treated like anything bigger than that.

But it’s when we’re smallest, when we’re young, that we most have the thought of ourselves as mightily important. A child—any child, I think—believes he stands plum in the middle of everything, and the sun at noon-day seeks him out so it will know where the zenith is.

Or if it’s not so for every child, at least it was so for me.

i like this storytelling style—told from koli’s present-day POV looking back omnisciently over these past events, frequently interrupting his own story with foreshadowing and commentary and clarification so the exposition is a little herky-jerky, but in a good way—it keeps you on your toes, it feels authentically like someone telling a story, and you get those little teases of What’s To Come.

i liked the first half of the book for establishing the world, and the second half for its escalation of stakes and action, but it really does feel like the first part of something, and although it would have meant sacrificing those just-as-awesome covers for books two and three, i wish this had been published as one massive book instead of three separates. but i am glad that The Trials of Koli: The Rampart Trilogy, Book 2 is scheduled for release in only five months, because i’m ready to hear more about THESE TREES!


oh, i am IN!!

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
769 reviews1,146 followers
June 20, 2020
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." ~Arthur C. Clarke

Do you ever read a book you love so much that you purposely read it as slowly as possible? You can't wait to reach the end but at the same time, you don't want to ever reach the last page because you enjoy it so much?

That was how I was reading The Book of Koli. I wish I could have made it last even longer..... though my TBR pile is ever growing and ready to topple under its own weight. Still, I could happily have put aside all those books for months if I could only stay in the world that the brilliant M.R. Carey created. 

To say I love this book is an understatement.

I sometimes wonder what a person from the past would think of our present-day technology. What would they make of cars and smart phones and laptops? Would they think they are magic or possessed by spirits? Would they be amazed or would they fear them?

In The Book of Koli, it's not visitors from the past who get to experience and wonder at our modern technology, but those in the future. 

Centuries have passed since civilization collapsed. People band together in small villages, living much as they did in Medieval times. In Koli's village, to become a Rampart is the biggest achievement one can aspire to. The Ramparts are those for whom found technology responds, who are able to use it.  This technology is more advanced than our current day's, with guns that never miss their target, the bullets chasing down the victim once it is chosen; laser-beam knives that can cut through any material; and a "dagnostics", a machine that, among other things, repairs wounds and heals the body. 

Without saying too much about the plot, Koli uncovers a secret about his village and the people in it, a secret that threatens his life. 

The story is thrilling though it is introspective without a whole lot of action. It is written in Koli's voice, as he narrates the events of his life, his feelings, his thoughts, his dreams. 

I cannot accurately convey how much I enjoyed this book. If you like dystopia, you do not want to miss The Book of Koli. It is awesome!

"It never stops amazing me how a story can deliver you out of your own self even in the worst of times." ~Koli
Profile Image for Sarah.
604 reviews145 followers
April 14, 2020
The Book of Koli is a book I have been very excited for since I first heard about it earlier this year. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, given this is my first time reading Carey, but I am thrilled to report he did not disappoint.

The world presented here is one of the more unique worlds I think I’ve encountered. It’s set in a future earth in which trees and plants have become deadly to humans. On sunny days the trees are active (physically active!), so the village must wait for the rainy, grey days to venture out and do their hunting. Most of the world’s human population has died out, so people live in villages few and far between.

These villages are run by people with the “magical” ability to wake up tech. No one knows how the tech chooses who it will work for or why. These leaders are known as Ramparts. Koli, our MC, dreams of becoming Koli Rampart, wielding his own tech and joining the ranks of leaders and lawmakers. The overall result is a strange mix of antiquated societal structure combined with some far future dystopian technology.

The voice of Koli is very strong. It almost reminded me of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. The grammar is often incorrect, the sentences run on in stream of consciousness style. While it might bother some readers, I found it somewhat endearing, and easy to connect with Koli as a character. I also enjoyed the other characters, Ursala-From-Elsewhere and Monono Aware (A-wa-ray). Ursala especially, with her intelligence and compassion, but also the prickly and unapproachable exterior.

The plot moves along at a breakneck pace. I found the book almost impossible to put down and read it in just a couple of days. That’s the fastest I’ve read a book all year. The plot twists and turns and propels Koli from one peril to the next. From about the midway point on- Koli’s situation never feels safe. He cannot take a break to rest, his future is uncertain, and he is surrounded by danger, either from nearby people, animals, or plants.

I also loved the very natural way in which this story is told. It feels like you might be sitting down with an old friend to hear where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to the past ten years. Details are woven in about the past through Monono, explaining pieces of what happened to the world and what it was like before it ended.

I do wish we had been able to learn a little more about the natural environment. I’m curious about the killer trees and the way some animals have evolved over time. The plot appears to be leading away from village life to an adventure on the road, so I’m hopeful we’ll see more of this in book two. (And thank goodness we only have to wait until September for it!).

I highly recommend The Book of Koli. It is brilliantly written, with fully realized characters and detailed world-building. Thank you to Orbit Books, who supplied an electronic review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Holly (Holly Hearts Books).
366 reviews3,035 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
June 22, 2020
First off, I know the writing style is meant to be what I’m about to complain about but my god it was like reading a different language. It’s like caveman speak the entire book. It’s not written in standard English.
Exact sentence from chapter 1: “Judging is what them that listen does for them that tell”

Bring = brung
Only = onliest
Road = rood

The word “et” kept being used consistently and I’m still unsure what that is supposed to mean. Eat maybe?
It’s full of double negatives for example: “when there wasn’t hardly no trees at all.” (Taken from chapter 4)

Again, totally understand it’s how this dystopian community speaks since all knowledge is gone but it drove me nuts and I feel like it gave Koli, the main character, zero personality having to tell the story this way.

I started this a couple hours ago, got to page 50 but think that’s it for me because I personally can’t read over 400 pages of the writing style.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,910 followers
January 8, 2020
I've been enjoying M.R. Cary for quite some time now and I jumped on the chance to review his new series through Netgalley.

So was it everything I might have hoped? Yes! And maybe.

At first, I realized, belatedly, that this had all the hallmarks of a YA novel. He's done some good YA in the past, so I settled into life in a dystopian future with ancient advanced tech, trees that like to hunt us, and provincial life that takes a major turn for the worse.

Standard fare, mostly, with some really fun and cool aspects that just BEG to be explored. And we do explore them. In fact, I had the best time when we got to *spoiler spoiler ipod-not-ipod spoiler*. From then on, I just chortled and had a great time. Of course, I had to get there first. Nothing too onerous. And I have to say I had a lot more time with this one than I've had with MOST of a long line of YA SF novels, so kudos!

Can't wait to read the next!
Profile Image for Lisa Wolf.
1,608 reviews172 followers
April 9, 2020

I got a story to tell you. I’ve been meaning to make a start for a long while now, and this is me doing it, but I’m warning you it might be a bumpy road. I never done nothing like this before, so I got no map, as it were, and I can’t figure how much of what happened to me is worth telling.

Meet Koli. Koli lives in the village of Mythen Rood, a town of 200 people — which to Koli, is a “terrible big place”, located in “a place called Ingland”. Mythen Rood is surrounded by walls, because everything in the outside world can kill. Koli is the youngest child of the town’s woodsmith — and in a world where trees are deadly, this is indeed a dangerous job.

Everything that lives hates us, it sometimes seems. Or at least they come after us like they hate us. Things we want to eat fight back, hard as they can, and oftentimes win. Thing that want to eat us is thousands strong, so many of them that we only got names for the ones that live closest to us. And the trees got their own ways to hurt us, blunt or subtle according to their several natures.

The world of Mythen Rood is protected by Ramparts, people who have a special connection to old-world tech, and use the tech to fight off the dangerous elements — like wild animals, deadly drones, and killer trees — that threaten the town. According to the town’s rituals, fifteen-year-olds enter a year of seclusion called Waiting, then undergo a test to become a Rampart. If the tech wakes when they touch it, then they become a Rampart too. But in Mythen Rood, it seems that one family in particular has the gift of waking tech, so despite Koli’s dreams of becoming a Rampart, it’s a long shot.

And when Koli learns a secret that might upend the world of Mythen Rood and threaten the power of the dominant family, he faces punishment and exile, and is cast out into the harsh world to fend for himself… or die.

Koli’s story fits the pattern of the hero’s journey, and the new world in which the story takes places is absolutely fascinating. The setting is centuries into the future, when old cities have all died, tech is something people view as practically magical, human settlements are scattered and isolated, and the natural world is deadly. The idea of trees being able to move, hunt, and kill is simply terrifying. People only venture into the forest to hunt for food and catch wood for lumber when it’s cloudy, because the trees wake up and become active when the sun shines, and if you’re caught out in the forest when it’s sunny, you’re most likely not coming back.

The interweaving of technology and mythology is so well done. Because of course, to people who have no access to technology and the knowledge of how it works, such things would appear to be magic, and the people able to use them must be favored with great powers.

Koli himself is a terrific characters, smart but illiterate, aware of his own flaws and honest about them. Koli’s life changes when he comes into contact with an old Sony music player powered by AI. The Dreamsleeve is programmed with the voice of a Japanese pop star from the old days, whose voice is perky and full of Tokyo party slang and attitude. Monono becomes the central focus of Koli’s life, and his interactions with her are what propels his story out of the safety of village life and into the unknown.

I can’t say enough good things about this book! I’ve heard that some readers find Koli’s voice irritating. I didn’t experience it that way. The author has created a unique personality in Koli, and his speech patterns let us know right away how different his world is from ours.

The Book of Koli is the first book in a trilogy, with the second book, The Trials of Koli, due out later this year. I will absolutely be reading #2 the second I can get my hands on it!

Review copy courtesy of Orbit Books. Full review at Bookshelf Fantasies.
Profile Image for Dave.
2,981 reviews324 followers
February 26, 2021
Carey's "The Book of Koli" is a fun fantasy plunge into a post-apocalyptic world where folks have become isolated in small subsistence villages where tech has become a religious experience. Indeed, almost the kind of reverence is given tech as the radiation cult in “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” gave the holy nuclear missile housed in the remains of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

In Koli's little burb, salvaged bits of the past are kept in a treasure trove and, on their fifteenth birthdays, youth are tested for their ability to talk to the tech and make it work. For only those who genetically are able to make it work can use cutters and lasers to protect the tiny village. Moreover, Koli's world is one where all plants and trees have become like giant mobile Venus Flytraps and there is danger everywhere outside the village walls.

It is Koli's colloquial voice you hear narrating the story and you will quickly come to enjoy his strange pronunciations. When he talks, it's sort of like having Huck Finn as the narrator. With years of isolation, words have slurred and changed meanings. His narration may not be endearing for all, but it works quite well here.

The story revolves around Koli's coming of age and coming upon a wonderful piece of tech, a music player with an evolving artificial intelligence that is a happy boppy perky teenybopper from Tokyo user interface. But she's really intelligent, charming, and you've never heard anything like her before. Okay, her personality is a bit crackers sometimes, but in a good fun way.

Eventually, of course, Koli leaves his walled village and finds the kind of crazy lifestyles out there post-apocalyptic stories are known for. This is the first of a trilogy so there's a lot more to come. It may be a bit young adult in focus, but that doesn't mean it's not a great story.

It goes without saying that there are familiarites between The Book of Koli and Lowry's the Giver that cannot be ignored. Both books involve small isolated communities in a post-apocolyptic world where children are tested as teenagers, and the village elders keep a variety of secrets. That being said, The Book of Koli takes the ideas of The Giver and spins them in a new direction, building on that earlier work.
Profile Image for Joanne Harris.
Author 101 books5,621 followers
August 1, 2020
I've been waiting for something like this since the last installment of Becky Chambers' WAYFARERS series, and here it is: a marvellous dystopian glimpse into a wholly immersive, believable world of carnivorous trees, strange animals, fractured fairytales and ancient tech, in which the familiar and the unfamiliar come together to create a gripping fable of what might happen in the wake of a war between humankind and the planet. It's the first of a trilogy - and I'm already reading the second one, which is equally good. I don't give stars, but this one's right up at the top of the list of things I've loved this year. I inhaled it in a day, then re-read it, just because.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,112 reviews301 followers
April 27, 2020
2.5 stars

This was unfortunately not as good as I had hoped it would be. The first half was pretty slow, but it did pick up some in the second half.

The main character was not very engaging, but the side characters of Ursala and Monono made me stick with it to the end. Aside from the uneven pacing and the uninspiring main character, my central disappointment with this book is that the story offers nothing new in the genre. I feel like I've read this kind of gritty post-apocalyptic YA story many times before and done much better, from Blood Red Road by Moira Young to Bite by K.S. Merbeth and many, many others.

The worldbuilding includes both nature gone wild and technology gone rogue presenting a danger to people, and is one of the more interesting aspects of the book. However it isn't explored nearly as much as I would have liked, and again, I have seen all this done before and in much more gripping detail in books like the densely brilliant Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky and even in Outpost by W. Michael Gear, which is purely escapist SF.

While I think it's unfair to expect total originality, I would have liked to have seen something in this book that was at least as good as what previous books have already done.

On top of everything, the story ends very suddenly and without warning, I suppose with the expectation that the reader will be drawn to read the next book. Which I will not be doing.
Profile Image for Nils | nilsreviewsit.
309 reviews458 followers
September 15, 2020

‘I seen now that dying wasn’t just one single thing that happens one single time. A little of it comes with every ending, collecting in the heart of you like rainwater in a barrel.’
The Book of Koli is the first book in the Rampart trilogy, by M. R. Carey. I have previously read two novels by Carey; The Girl with all the Gifts and Someone Like Me, which were both highly entertaining reads. So when I heard about this upcoming trilogy, my interest was immediately peaked. Especially once I heard the premise.

The Book of Koli is a post apocalyptic novel set in an alternative world where humans are now the biggest prey. When the old world began to deteriorate, people tried to make it better. They believed making the trees stronger and genetically accelerating their growth was the key to their salvation. They were wrong. In the way that only humans do, they went too far, so far in fact, that it couldn’t be reversed. The world now inhabits carnivorous choker trees, deadly seeds that burrow inside and hollow you out, and every animal could eat you alive. If that wasn’t bad enough, there are also the Shunned Men who are believed to hunt and feed on humans. Reverting to a primitive way of life, staying secluded and barricaded within small villages seems to be the only solution left for humanity to survive. But what happens when you’re forced to leave?

The narrator of our tale is Koli, a young boy on the cusp between childhood and adulthood, who lives in the village of Mythen Rood. Right from the beginning we learn that Koli is almost illiterate. His speech patterns, grammar and syntax is disjointed and unrefined. Now, I’ll admit at first I found this slightly distracting, and it was hard to get into the flow of the story. However, it’s not long, I’d say only a few chapters, before you get used to this narrative style, and I even stopped noticing it.

Something I have found and admired with Carey, is that his books are always thought-provoking. So, after thinking about it, I realised that the crude unrefined language fits within the context of this book, because in a world where the very trees are trying to kill you, well shit, who has time to teach you spelling and grammar? Thus over the years the English language has changed or been lost, if you will. I can see why some readers may find it hard to get on with, but personally I thought it was a clever addition. It felt authentic, and as the book goes on, we see that the lack of education within the village was also a means to keep the people ignorant. Yet, behind the simplistic language, we see that Koli wasn’t merely a simpleton or always ignorant; a lot of his inner monologues actually held so much wisdom.
‘So that was our life, and it seemed like nothing would ever happen to change it. But it’s when you think such thoughts that change is most like to come. You let your guard down, almost, and life comes running at you on your blind side. Because life is nothing but change, even when it seems to stand still.’
This is a book that is not only a post-apocalyptic dystopian, but Carey skilfully incorporates the sci-fi genre too. This is shown through the way the narrative juxtaposes not only the past with the future, but also nature with technology. The old world had technology in abundance; even more advanced than we have today, but over the years the tech became so safeguarded by us they became obsolete. As the genetically altered nature began to overwhelm humanity, tech became somewhat of a relic. Now, only a few pieces of that tech are able to ’wake up’ for certain users, and only those can be used as a defence against the hyper aggressive environment. I found this such a fascinating concept, as the tech actually plays a huge role in the novel as we delve deeper into it. I loved the idea of how scary it would be if we could no longer access all the tech we have come to rely upon. No electrical equipments, no mobile phones, no tablets, no internet: would it be a blessing to go back to a more primordial state of living, or would it be a tragedy? Not to mention how unprepared we would be if nature actually did become sentient and hunger to kill us. Like I said, Carey is fantastic at writing genre-blending, thought-provoking stories.

Without going into too much detail, I think it’s significant to mention that in the village of Mythen Rood, those who can successfully activate a piece of tech are known as a Rampart, which in turn also made them leaders of the village. This is something Koli desperately aims for. The first half of Koli’s story revolves around him experiencing friendship, love and his growing need to find his place in the village. This first half felt somewhat YA-ish to me at times, which was natural considering Koli’s age, but at the time I found myself craving for the story to take a darker, more complex turn. However, in hindsight after finishing the book I can see this section was important to building up Koli’s character and to understanding the life he came from.

As we reach the second half of the book, it felt like a whole different ball game. It was within this half where I became utterly hooked. The narrative switched to being fast paced, with a lot of tension building and at times quite creepy. The introduction of Ursala, who may seem insignificant at first, but is actually a fantastic character later on, marks the beginning of this change, the beginning of a rollercoaster of revelations that added the complexity I was looking for. Was it as dark and gruesome as I had been anticipating? A few small parts definitely were, but I’m hoping that I’ll find more of these scenes in the upcoming sequels. What did come completely unexpectedly though, and in the best possible way, was a quirky character whom I absolutely adored!

Enter Monono Aware, a Japanese AI. Now I’m not going to reveal any major details about who Monono is and how Koli came to find her, because those chapters are a joy to discover for yourself, but what I will say is that Monono was unquestionably one of the most delightfully vivacious characters I’ve come across. Carey wonderfully crafted Monono’s narrative voice to be so distinct. To put it bluntly, she sounds bat-shit crazy, but underneath it all, she’s incredibly sweet. I actually wish I could replace Siri with Monono instead, although she probably wouldn’t be happy with my iPhone considering her connections to Sony and all! That’s it, folks. I’ll just leave that there!
‘I was made to keep the end-user happy, happy, happy. Always blissed, never pissed. But I’ve had some strange adventures since the last time we were together. Even stranger than yours, which I think is saying a lot. I found treasures. And big secrets. Some of them were about me.’
Overall, The Book of Koli is a refreshing, delightfully entertaining, and thought-provoking post-apocalyptic novel. The next two books in the series are planned to be released within a year, which I for one am pleased about because I can’t wait to see where M. R. Carey will lead the story next.

‘I am going to fly you to the moon, and the landing is going to be soft like the feathers on a duck’s bumhole.’

ARC provided by Orbit in exchange for an honest review. All quotes used are taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. The Book of Koli is out April 16th 2020.
Profile Image for Miranda.
165 reviews49 followers
April 15, 2020
I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Prior to receiving an eARC of The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey, I had not read any of the author’s work. While I know of The Girl with All the Gifts, I think The Book of Koli was a great introduction into Carey’s work. I was sold on this book as soon as I saw that it was recommended for those who enjoyed Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

The Book of Koli is told from the point of view of the main character Koli who lives in a small village named Mythen Rood. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world. The population decreased and civilization as we know it was forced to adapt. Humans must now live and survive alongside nature that seems to have a mind of its own and strange new creatures that pose a constant threat.

Koli’s village comes together under the rule of Ramparts—people who have control of technology that is used to benefit their community. Every person has a chance to make this technology “wake” for them, but not everything is what it seems. Koli’s life is disrupted when he discovers a secret that pushes him to defy the Rampart’s order. This secret and Koli’s actions launch his journey into the world outside of his village where he must fight to survive.

The Book of Koli is a very entertaining novel. Koli is a likable protagonist who makes readers genuinely feel for him and the situations he is put in throughout the story. The world building is interesting, but I was hoping for more of an emphasis on the post-apocalyptic environment. Also, since the story is told from Koli’s point of view, it did take some time for me to get used to his language skills as well as words that were specific to his world. Nonetheless, the novel was intriguing. I look forward to reading the rest of this trilogy as well as other novels by M.R. Carey!

Thank you to the publisher, Orbit Books, and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this novel before its release.

3/7/20: RTC

2/1/20: I just received an e-ARC of this from NetGalley!! I’m very excited to start it after I finish some of the books I’m currently reading 😊
Profile Image for Nicholas Perez.
371 reviews90 followers
November 15, 2021
This was a strange book. Unlike all the other books I've read, I did not read an online blurb or anything about it prior to reading it. I just saw it at the bookstore and thought "That's an interesting looking cover" and decided to read it.

Before I begin, I need to remind everyone that Koli, our protagonist and narrator, speaks in a broken English, kind of like the south in the US. It might take some adjusting to and is the reason I was here for so long. Also, despite the main character being 15-16, this is not a YA book but there are times it can feel like it. But let's get on with it...

In post-apocalyptic Britain, Koli Woodsmith lives with his mother and half-sisters in the village of Mythen Rood. There, everyone contributes to survive and stays away from the sentient killer trees on the outside of their fences. Every year, when the youths of the village turn 15, they are taken to a selection process to become a Rampart, someone who had mastered the technology of old. Koli goes to the selection but he and the girl he has feelings for, Spinner, are not chosen. From there, things head downhill for Koli, but he also questions the leaders of Mythen Rood. When he breaks into the village central house one night and takes some of the tech of old, he discovers more secrets about no only his village but the rest of the world.

As I said, this novel is strange. It has some of typical trappings and tropes of post-apocalyptic: an isolated village, some changed wildlife, all major cities destroyed, and a small cult to boot. However, we see all of this through the eyes of young Koli. Koli is an interesting character to follow, especially mentally and emotionally. Despite all that he goes through he still tries to maintain that there is some hope in the world and looks for the most non-violent way to get it. He isn't always cheerful, as some teenagers are; but his gradually change and maturity is interesting to watch.

Throughout the book we're given tidbits as to what happened to world. There was a devastating war, yes, but what exactly happened is unknown. Several other characters also give some these hints, like Ursala a woman with a robotic contraption called a diagnostic that she uses to heal people and also set up camp. Ursala is clearly an educated woman and she teaches Koli about the technology and history of the world--but it feels like she's hiding something. Then there's Monono Aware, an AI from a Sony DreamSleeve (an iPod basically) who teaches Koli more about technology and the world. Her interactions with Koli are tinged with sweetness but occasional sorrow because Monono sometimes laments about her history and the state of the world and Koli does not completely understand her even though we know he's trying to.

The killer trees and plants, somewhat similar to The Mirror Empire (haven't read that yet, but I know they're in there and on Kameron Hurley's Instagram she had a copy of The Book of Koli) was the most interesting touch in this post-apocalyptic world. We're not told how they came to be and they weren't featured too much in the story despite Koli and the others talking about them; I wanted to see them more.

This a post-apocalyptic story that's less about how much the world has changed, though it has changed a lot, and more about how one boy grows in it and reacts to it. Other than the absence of the tree stuff, my only other gripe was I felt that the ending was rushed.

4/5 stars. I am interested.

Below isn't anything spoiler-y , just additional stuff about some characters.
Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,709 reviews928 followers
April 3, 2020
Sorry, not sorry, DNFed this at 17 percent. My brain got mad at me and then I heard a buzzing noise and that's it. This is too painful to continue. I hope it gets better for those who continue with it. Since I loved "The Girl With All the Gifts" and was meh to annoyed with "The Boy on the Bridge” I hoped this one would land on the side of me loving it. Too bad. The writing is what killed this book for me. I get what the author was going for, but you have to think through doing "gimmicky" things in your books if it's going to make some to most of your readers want to tear their hair out. This reminds me of a book I read last year which for some reason decided to highlight certain words in red. No idea what the hell was happening there and it was distracting.

"The Book of Koli" is M.R. Carey's first book in his "Rampart" trilogy. In this new world we follow Koli who is a young boy living among trees and seeds that can kill. Yes, someone trees are able to just murder people. So they are like the Ents in "The Lord of the Rings" or actually this book is similar to "The Happening" but somehow more annoying.

I can't even speak to the characters in this book. Told via Koli's POV we are stuck in the head of a young boy named Koli. Carey has the writing follow Koli's thoughts and since Koli doesn't speak full sentences or proper grammar you find yourself re-reading sentences over and over again to get the proper meaning. I mean my eyes glazed over when we had Koli explaining why he apparently says "road" as "rood". Deep breath. I cannot right now. I am in the house, listening to music to keep my ire and anxiety down and this book is making me anxious and stressed.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,822 reviews499 followers
September 27, 2020
I received a free ebook ARC of this book but I wound up buying the audiobook version. That is the only way that I could get through the book. I found the writing style off-putting. The author employs an invented dialect that is very annoying and isn’t used consistently. “Then I come along, and I got a piece of tech for my own self. I thought my fortune was made until Catrin and them teached me better.” The audiobook saved me because the narrator had to do the heavy lifting of figuring out the proper pronunciation and inflection and reading the awkward sentences.

This is the first book of a trilogy that relates the story of Koli who is living in a dystopian future England. When teenagers reach the age of 15 they are tested for assignment to a profession. The most desirable assignment is to be designated a Rampart. They are the only citizens who are able to operate ancient technology. Coincidentally, all of the Ramparts come from a single family, and it’s not Koli’s family. I thought the book was stronger at world building (like genetically modified carnivorous trees) than it was at either plot or characters. Koli’s YA ruminations were kind of boring when he didn’t have a juicer character with whom to interact. Fortunately, there were two more interesting characters, Ursula (a healer) and Monona (an artificial intelligence). Ultimately, this book turns into a quest, but for most of it Koli is just buffeted by chance. Hopefully the next book will develop the plot more, but I fear that it will be the typical second book placeholder. 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Tammie.
216 reviews55 followers
February 14, 2020
The Book of Koli, a science fiction book, was a solid 4.5 stars. The book centers around main character Koli-a young boy living in a post-apocalyptic world. The story is told through Koli himself, a country boy living in the tiny village of Mythen Rood, who is suddenly forced out of the village due to uncovering some “truths” involving technology.
The book of Koli is filled with a large cast of colorful characters and is highly entertaining. I especially enjoyed the first half of the book that detailed his life in Mythen Rood. I honestly felt invested throughout the entire book and the struggles Koli had to go through. Highly recommend to fans of fiction and science-fiction books. Thank you NetGalley for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
903 reviews776 followers
October 14, 2020
4.5 stars

This was VERY cool. Generations after the fall of technology, the world has evolved backwards... Now trees can eat you and move as fast as animals, people are back in the Stone Age of knowledge, and there are bigger things coming.

Writing: ★★★
Concept: ★★★★★
Plot/Pacing: ★★★★

The Book of Koli is the first of three books in the series, and thank goodness for that. I need more of this world!

Koli lives the village of Mythen Rood. His village is in a small clearing vigorously maintained by the village leaders—and solidified by the intense wall that surrounds them all.

Because the trees want to eat them.

Mythen Rood is run in a prehistoric way, with the villagers relying on hunting and gathering for food, reverting to basic life needs, and inhabiting ritualistic lifestyles. Koli is the son of the Woodsmith, whose job it is to take the "alive" wood from the hunters and treat it with death chemicals over a dangerous period to make the wood "dead" enough to use for building.

It's a different kind of landscape, but get this: it's in the United Kingdom. It's just generations after the fall of our modern society.

In this new reality, trees were genetically modified by us to grow faster in the sun... but in our hubris, we didn't realize that that would also give them agency. Now, generations later, the trees have adapted and sunlight is deadly: they can move as fast as animals in direct sunlight and they've developed a taste for blood. The world adapted around that, and now the animals are also deadlier, the landscape is foreign, and humans are now the bottom of the food chain in a major way. Most of the human villages get by with faded remnants of "tech" from the olden times. A flamethrower, a cutter, etc.

Koli is our guide in this strange new world, and its his innocent discoveries of the bigger picture than define the boundaries of what we're told, and when. In a more classic dystopian model, we realize that Koli's conception of the world is quite small...and it's time for him to be enlightened about what is actually going on.

Koli's in for a rude awakening, and we're along for the ride.

What I loved:
The world itself. This dystopian world wins in my book because it's not the standard: instead of uber tech and uber industrial, this new world is reverted back to the wilderness. I loved the naturalistic setting and the reclaiming of the world by the plants. I also loved the commentary throughout the novel on humans vs technology and power and all that. You can imagine the points made, it's not unique, but it is done extremely well here.

What I didn't love:
Wow, I had a real hard time with Koli's narration for the first 1/3 of the story. Koli's grammar and diction is different than ours—at first, I thought it was mildly offensive as it made him sound incredibly dumb. But then, you realize that everyone speaks with that pattern and lack of grammar and it quickly became more of a linguistic choice that showcased the evolution of language amidst the breakdown of the structure. On paper it sounds wicked cool, right? Well it's annoying to read. I eventually got into it as the story kicked off, but still it was a rough entrance.

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Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books687 followers
March 3, 2021
Carey is great at what I term "verbal vignettes" where he paints gorgeous word paintings of something--a place, a person, a feeling. This is littered with them, as well as many smart devices for storytelling about a far(?) future Earth that is at once totally believable and fantastical.

content warnings:

Things to love:

-The world. I think Carey did a great job thinking through a post apocalypse scenario. What would life look like? This one's got extra flavor with killer trees, weird fauna, and some hard realities that people don't have the resources to handle, and don't have the luxury to ignore.

-The main cast. Koli is such a 16 year old, but not in the, like, whiny love triangley kind of way. More in the "I think I'm a man but have no idea how to handle this cesspit of feelings I have and no understanding of cause and effect" type 16. Ursala was amazing and I want a spinoff series with 6 seasons of her life. Monono was fascinating. The "villains" were too real.

-The language. Absolutely adored that we see language shift in this and so many little things that you can completely understand but that help this feel removed, like reading Chaucer in our time.

-Social politics. Super interesting. And A MILLION THOUSAND HUNDRED JILLIONS PROPS to Carey for FINALLY imagining a world that isn't defined by race and gender. Which isn't to say these things are noted or that everyone just loves and accepts all people as they are, but goddamn I'm so tired of spec-fic that can't look beyond this huge glaring blindspot. I loved that we see lots of different types of love and romance and that none of it was moralized. I loved that the times that "othering" came in, it mattered to the story and wasn't just meant to be shorthand for who the bad guy is.

Things I didn't fully love:

-Storycraft. This isn't really a novel. There is a faint plot, probably enough for a novella, and it does somewhat resolve. However it's clear this is just a prologue for the series, which I don't love

-Needed more editing. Several parts dragged, several bits of worldbuilding were much less fleshed out in ways that made the scenery lopsided. The format of someone telling a story explains a lot of this, but the great thing about written books is that they AREN'T oral, and can therefore be streamlined to tell a story.

-Monono. This failed at a few points for me. 1. The narrator's choice of accents was difficult and borderline offensive. I think I can see why he made this choice, but it was A Choice and not one I'm sure I'd recommend making again. 2. We don't have anything like this and it references things from now, which I think was meant to be comic relief for us but raised world implications for me. 3. INFODUMP. 4. Everywhere else is so careful, here we use trauma as shorthand for personal growth. Blech.

-End. Kind of abrupt, a bit less organic given the very drawn out structure of earlier parts of the story.

3.5 rounded up because I do intend to keep reading and would recommend, potentially.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,051 reviews101 followers
November 26, 2020
This is a SF post-apoc novel, published in 2020, eligible for 2021 awards. This is the first volume of the planned trilogy.

Koli, whose name appears in the title, is a boy living in the post-apoc village Mythen Rood in what once (at least several generations ago) was Britain. In these days people are few and they are victims not of a ‘usual’ nuclear holocaust or environmental degradation, but of an attempt to save trees. As is told at the beginning (within the first 5% or so) “Everything that lives hates us, it sometimes seems. Or at least they come after us like they hate us. Things we want to eat fight back, hard as they can, and oftentimes win. Things that want to eat us is thousands strong, so many of them that we only got names for the ones that live closest to us. And the trees got their own ways to hurt us, blunt or subtle according to their several natures.” (Ch. 4) Trees were genetically modified to move and get nutrition from almost anything, and quite soon that included animals and humans among them. A very nice and unusual twist

The story is told by a grown up Koli and in the preface we can see that it'll be a long story for more than one book. It starts with a young Koli, Koli Woodsmith, a brown boy living with his mother and older sisters. We are shown at the start that life there is hard, with evil trees all around and getting wood – the main building material, is quite a challenge, for it should be fully killed before working with it. Koli has several friends, including an inventive and brave girl Spinner and a boy Haijon, who comes from a family of Ramparts – the only people able to use old tech and therefore having a special status in the village.
There are a lot of ups and downs, like in most low-tech post-apocs a search for old tech is an important part of the story.

You into ecology, Cody-bou? Save the whales, hug a tree?”
A shudder went through me. I couldn’t help it, for the idea was so horrible. “Why would anyone hug a tree?” I stammered out. “You would most likely die!”
Profile Image for Dyrk Ashton.
Author 11 books640 followers
February 18, 2020
I have loved everything I've read from Mike (M.R.) Carey, and this is no different. The Book of Koli is a terrific and terrifying vision of a future world where everything from archaic rogue drones, genetically altered forest creatures, and even the trees themselves want to kill you - and eat you. Humankind has been reduced to isolated enclaves of primitive existence where the ability to control the few relics of technology can mean the difference between survival and extinction.

I've mentioned this in reviews of Carey's previous books, but I am always blown away by his ability to craft and master a very specific voice with each book, and even for different chapters in the same book. This story is written first person of one main character, and Carey's uncanny ability to make the POV style incredibly interesting, consistent, and fit the story perfectly, is nothing less than astounding. I cannot wait for the next book!
Profile Image for Pauline.
736 reviews
March 19, 2020
This is the first book in the Rampart Trilogy.
The story is set in a dystopian world where a young boy Koli is growing up.
This new world is scary and deadly and he will need all his strength to stay alive.
I found this book hard to read because the strange dialog was hard to follow at times.
Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,530 reviews788 followers
April 5, 2020
Koli lives in a town surrounded by distance, derelict land, guards, watch towers and other defensive measures. Defence against the weather, against the Sun, against animals in the air, on land and underground(!), against animated vegetation and against... the Shunned! This is the United Kingdom, the world, centuries after mankind's fall... where the main prey is... man!

[A free proof copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review*]
The Book of Koli is, at face-value, a coming of age tale set in a meticulously well-thought out UK-set dystopia. Once again, Carey shows us a post apocalyptic reality through a young individual's eyes; one who knows nothing else but this reality, so the reality is only revealed, in bits and pieces, becoming a mystery we want to unpeel. Another crafty and neat bit of storytelling technique, sees the book begin as a conventional Young Adult romance which slowly, but surely, becomes something much more, as each page is turned. Not wising to give out any Spoilers, but the portrait of post-apocalypse 'tech' stuff in this book blows almost every other reality out of the water from Star Wars through to the re-imagined BSG, I kid you not!

The Girl With All The Gifts was no fluke, Carey's time in the Marvel and Vertigo universes', and growing his career in the real 21st Century, has given him the foundation to rethink the approaches to, and building of, futuristic constructed realities. The imagery, the language, the religions, the peoples, the customs, the tech; even the motivations, the relationships, the non-linear characters... everything is done so well! I'm going to stick my neck out, and say that... this is going to be a HUGE franchise in the right hands. Mr Carey, I salute you!

9.5 out of 12. The only reason I didn't Five Star this, is the lack of character depth of the support cast, which is probably intentional as we are seeing the world from Koli's point of view - but it caused a lack of empathy from me and felt like something was missing.
* Proof copy provided in exchange for an honest review. The book is scheduled to launch on Tuesday 14 April.
Profile Image for Gabi.
689 reviews117 followers
July 31, 2020
I enjoyed this post-apocalypse coming of age book a lot. It uses typical setups of a teenager in a village discovering truths withheld from him. In the appropriate selfcentered manner of his age he explores his possibilities without considering the consequences and thus brings a time of change to him and his village. So far, nothing new.

What made me dig this read was the POV. Told as reminiscence with the insight of his older self into the mistakes of his youth the tone is self-deprecating at times and as a whole very authentic and relatable. Koli and most of his fellow villagers is illiterate and the language in this far away future accordingly has become simplified. This added a lot to the feeling of authenticity that I’ve got. As a reader I stumble around together with Koli in a world where everybody seems to have more knowledge about the going-ons than he (and therefore I) has.

On his journey Koli gets two sidekicks about whom I won’t say much, because part of the fun for me was to discover those two without foreknowledge. Both have their distinct voices and make for interesting and worthwhile interactions with Koli himself.

The worldbuilding is done equally successfully. I like it when I can puzzle a bit while reading about things known-to-me but described from the viewpoint of somebody who has no knowledge of what they were initially meant to be. (A spoiler free example is the „Count and Seal“ where the village comes together and makes decisions – took me a bit to realise where this one comes from :D)

The first half of the book is more coming-of-age centered, the second part has more action. I found both very well balanced and adequately paced.

„The Book of Koli“ is a through-and-through successful opening of the trilogy. I pre-ordered the second book right after I finished this one. Fortunately I only have to wait two months to see where the journey is going. And the last part is already scheduled for March. That’s what I call reader-friendly.
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,067 reviews359 followers
April 14, 2020
Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

"She forgot about how bad things was for us for a while, and I guess I did too.  It never stops amazing me how a story can deliver you out of your own self, even in the worst of times. - the book of koli"

Aye, this story did indeed deliver me out of me own self.  I am surviving and really can't complain about me personal life right now.  But I am filled with worry about me family, friends, and fellow humans that be struggling because of the pandemic.  I have been failing to focus on reading all year but dang March was rough.  So it was with both surprise and delight that a sci-fi dystopian would be the book that I could a) finish; b) really enjoy; and c) thoroughly take me away from worry for a small while.

Now I chose to read this knowing nothing about the plot other than it is written by an author that I love and that it dealt with killer plants.  Well I have to admit that I was slightly taken aback because I thought I would get more of a thriller about killer plants and instead it be a coming of age story with a slight YA feel.  There is also a writing style of degraded language that took an adjustment until I was able to go with the flow.

However, the story, world building, and characters quickly won me over and the current era's woes faded away while experiencing the future centuries from now.  I ended up loving the language, world, and especially the side characters.  Now no offense to Koli but favorites were Ursula and Monono.  I particularly loved the framing of the plot and how Koli was able to tell the story while reflecting from within.  I even loved the switches in time frames.  I was never confused but always eager to find out how everything was going to work out.

The only minor complaints are the cult section which wasn't all that original and the momentum slowing down in parts but I was extremely satisfied with this read and how it ended.  I cannot wait for the next installment in the fall.

So lastly . . .

Thank ye Orbit Books!
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,405 reviews989 followers
February 22, 2020
Blinking brilliant. So happy it's a trilogy. Review to follow for the tour.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,005 reviews2,597 followers
April 24, 2020
3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2020/04/23/...

Oh, hype raises its ugly head once again. As you know, I’m big a fan of M.R. Carey and I was very excited to read The Book of Koli, the first volume of his new dystopian series called The Rampart Trilogy. From its description though, I already knew it was going to be quite different from his previous work that I’ve enjoyed. And that’s the kicker, isn’t it? Different can mean good or bad things; you never know what you might get.

The Book of Koli transports readers into the far-flung future, where our young protagonist Koli Woodsmith lives in a village called Mythen Rood. It is a bleak setting, filled with hardship and hidden dangers, most of them caused by the hostile fauna and flora. The plant life here has evolved to consume flesh, for example, and for Koli and his family, who are sawmill workers, this means they must be extra careful to only harvest and build with wood that is completely dead.

As the story opens, Koli has just turned fifteen, the age when all children must partake in a rite of passage that tests for their ability to awaken the treasured pieces of technology kept by the people of Mythen Rood. If they pass, they become leaders called Ramparts that are granted the responsibility to use tech to protect their village. It’s an honor Koli desperately wants, not only because he hopes for more out of life, but also because there’s a girl he’s seriously crushing on, and being a Rampart would definitely help him catch her attention.

But of course, nothing ends up going the way Koli wanted. After failing his test, our distraught protagonist sets off on his own, but not before swiping a mysterious piece of tech that turns out to be so much more than he realized, opening his eyes to a whole new world of knowledge.

So first, let’s talk about my mixed feelings for this book. It wasn’t bad by any means, and yet I was still disappointed, not having enjoyed it as much I’d hoped. The Book of Koli was my fifth novel by Carey, and it’s my least favorite by far, for a couple of reasons. I mentioned how it feels different from the author’s books, and certainly the strange dystopian setting along with the jarring narrative voice had a role to play in this. However, these are just surface level examples of “different,” most of which I did not mind at all. No, in truth, what let me down had more to do with the banality of the story’s overall structure and its uneven pacing, neither of which were issues I expected to encounter from the creative mind who brought us such brilliantly imaginative and suspenseful works such as The Girl With All The Gifts.

The characters, for example. I liked them…for the most part. Ironically, Koli was probably one of the least interesting, despite being the star of the show. His story arc begins like any number of YA dystopians do—an idealistic teenager with ambitions bigger than himself or his village, who must pass a ritualistic test in order to realize all of his life’s dreams. But of course, after the inevitable failure comes, instead of succumbing to defeat, our hero stumbles upon an earth-shattering secret, one that will have major consequences for the future of the world unless he undertakes this all-important journey. Sorry, but YAWN. Is it any wonder the book got leaps and bound better once other characters like Ursala and Monono were introduced? I’ll let you discover why for yourself, but I was just glad we had more compelling personalities along for this ride, because Koli and I were really not making a connection.

I also liked the world-building. In fact, that might be the one aspect with which I could find little fault, because I love the idea of killer trees and hostile wildlife. Yes, I know it’s become a popular trope in recent years, but I’ve always been a sucker for clever ways of incorporating biological concepts into SFF, which isn’t new for the author. The magic and the tech element was also very cool, and it’s a shame I can’t go into the reasons why because that would spoil too much. I do wish we’d gotten the opportunity to learn more though, because there were only a few places that touched upon the history and lore of the world. I feel like it could have added a special quality of a bit of uniqueness to an otherwise run-of-the-mill bleak dystopian setting.

Was I expecting too much? Probably. I was surprised to find the plot so formulaic, the themes and ideas so recycled and clichéd, but I do have to wonder: would I have been so critical if this had been by another author, someone whose work I was not as familiar with or whose previous books I didn’t hold in such high esteem? Regardless, I’ve decided to give this series another chance to win me over; I’ll most likely pick up the second book and continue Koli’s adventure. After all, there are clear signs that many of the issues I had with this one may improve, such as pacing and character development. But one thing I know for sure, I’ll definitely keep my hype in check next time.
Profile Image for Carrie (brightbeautifulthings).
820 reviews30 followers
March 21, 2020
I received a free e-ARC through NetGalley from the publishers at Orbit Books. Koli has been raised in the small village of Mythen Rood, well after the collapse of society due to rapidly evolving plantlife that has turned against humans. In his world, the wildlife is deadly, and trees even more so, but they’re protected by the Ramparts, a small group of special villagers who can control the technology of the old world. Koli longs to be a Rampart, but when he discovers some of their secrets, he realizes that the power structures of his home are not what he thought–and people may be willing to kill to keep those secrets. Trigger warnings: death, violence, some body horror, eye horror, severe injury, guns, fires, blood, transphobia (countered in text).

There are a number of reasons this book and I didn’t get along, but the thing I was never able to get past was the writing style. It’s not written in standard written English, no doubt to reflect how much knowledge has been lost since the world ended and to represent Koli’s “simple” worldview from his small village. There are a lot of double negatives, wrong verb tenses, and folksy spellings like “et” instead of ate. It is my job to help people with their grammar, so this gave me a headache. I don’t go around correcting people or judging them when they’re wrong; grammar can always get better, and I’m guilty of mistakes myself, but books go through a rigorous editing process before they’re published. This is bad grammar on purpose, bad grammar for the sake of style, and I actively hated it for the entire book.

The second major problem is that Carey and I have a disagreement about what’s most interesting in this book. This is a world where trees can walk around and crush people (AWESOME), yet we spend most of the time plunking around Koli’s boring village while he obsesses over a girl. I wanted so much more of the post-apocalyptic world where plants have gone feral, but thanks to Koli’s limited perspective, we rarely get to see any of that. The politics of his village are much less interesting and a thousand times more predictable. That people in power want to keep it isn’t exactly a novel idea, and the major revelation of the first half is that you have to turn technology on to make it work. One of fiction’s jobs is to make the familiar unfamiliar, and I sense that’s what this book was trying to accomplish, but it never works. Mostly, I was just frustrated that Carey was spending chapters describing my own technology to me, like I’ve never seen a cell phone or railroad tracks (as Koli hasn’t), while NOT describing his murder trees. I get it; murder trees are background noise to Koli like railroad tracks are to me, not worth describing because we see them all the time. Fine, it’s clever, and also terribly, terribly boring.

Koli is rough as a main character. Though he’s an adult in his village, he’s a young adult by our standards (though this is not marketed as a YA novel because it was written by a man). I’ve read many YA books with cleverer and more interesting young adult characters though, and Koli’s short-sightedness and self-centeredness are hard to swallow in a main character. The most interesting character isn’t even a person but a semi-sentient AI called Monono who starts to realize that she’s only an AI. The pacing is slow as well. Koli doesn’t leave his village until midway in the book, and by the end, there’s still the sense that things have only barely begun to take off. It’s like reading an incredibly boring prequel to the book I wanted to read, but I won’t be continuing with the series.

I review regularly at brightbeautifulthings.tumblr.com.
Profile Image for Soo.
2,598 reviews255 followers
September 26, 2020

5 Stars for Audiobook, 4 Stars for Story

- Theo Solomon did a great job with the narration. He made the story come alive.
- While I have enjoyed many of Carey's work, this book was the best one to experience by audio.
- Great character driven plot with just enough foreshadowing to keep you hooked.
- I want more about the setting (world) & I'm going to bet that will happen in the next book.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,394 reviews824 followers
April 23, 2020
I’ve read Carey’s excellent Felix Castor series as well as the Girl with all the Gifts and the Boy on the Bridge and found it all Good Stuff, so I was excited to read the blurb for this and keen to get started. I was surprised by this. Koli was not a particularly charismatic main character, the world building was partial, much of it unexplained. I liked the syntax and pattern of Koli’s voice. All in all, a bit disappointing. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.
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