Tag Archives: multiple viewpoints

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

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I enjoyed Angelmaker and loved The Gone-Away World, so when I saw this one on Netgalley, I immediately requested it.

Gnomon, which took Harkaway more than three years to complete, is set in a world of ubiquitous surveillance. Pitched as “a mind-bending Borgesian puzzle box of identity, meaning and reality in which the solution steps sideways as you approach it”, it features: a detective who finds herself investigating the very society she believes in, urged on by a suspect who may be an assassin or an ally, hunting through the dreams of a torture victim in search of the key to something she does not yet understand; a banker who is pursued by a shark that swallows Fortune 500 companies; Saint Augustine’s jilted mistress who reshapes the world with miracles; a refugee grandfather turned games designer who must remember how to walk through walls or be burned alive by fascists; and a sociopath who falls backwards through time in order to commit a murder.

I normally read quite quickly – I’ve read 157 books so far this year. But this one took me nearly two weeks to complete. Partly it’s the fact that it is something of a doorstopper at over 700 pages, but the main reason was that early on I took the decision that I wouldn’t speed-read through this one. The prose is too rich, too dense – there are too many allusions and clues scattered throughout and as you may have gathered from the blurb, the structure isn’t all that straightforward, either.

It might have been tempting to have accelerated through it if I hadn’t been enjoying the experience so much. Harkaway is a remarkable writer and this is him at the peak of his capabilities. For all the depth and complexity, I found the book highly readable and engrossing. It would have been a real shame to have thrown away the experience by trying to skim through it. The writing is immersive and each character has their own flavour so that after a while, it only took a couple of lines to realise whose head I was in. Essentially, it is a thriller. But the puzzle is far more of the slow-burn variety, which doesn’t stop there being some jaw-dropping twists near the end.

For all their quirkiness, I was fond of all the characters, though my favourites remained dogged, persistent Inspector Mielikki Neith whose investigation of the untimely death of Diana Hunter in custody triggers the whole chain of events – and fierce, beautiful Athenais, once-mistress to Saint Augustine, before he decided to become so saintly. The characterisation is masterly and as I’m a sucker for character-led stories, it was their vividness and sheer oddness that sucked me in and kept me reading.

I also feel a similar anger that sparks through the book – the apathy of too many of us, the blind belief that if we put in place a whole raft of cameras and electronic surveillance, it will somehow be alright, no matter who ends up at the helm and in charge. This is a remarkable, brave book, deliberately constructed and written on an epic scale. Does it work? Oh yes. I loved it, but my firm advice would be – don’t rush it. If you try reading this one in a hurry, you’ll end up throwing it out of the window – and given its size, it may cause serious injury if it hits someone…

While I obtained the arc of Gnomon from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
10/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The One by John Marrs

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I read the premise and immediately requested this one on Netgalley as it sounds so cool and topical.

How far would you go to find THE ONE? One simple mouth swab is all it takes. A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for. A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love. Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

We follow these five people as they take the test and have to cope with the consequences as they find themselves dealing with the fallout. I am not going to be able to go into details because I’m allergic to spoilers and Marrs’ clever plotting is one of the best things about this smart near-future science fiction adventure. I have to say I nearly skipped this one in the early stages with the intention of returning when I wasn’t feeling so thick-headed and ill as reading a short passage in one viewpoint before being yanked away into yet another pov isn’t my favourite narrative mode. Fortunately, trying to work out what to read next proved just as taxing so I decided to go with my default which was to give it until 20% to get going. And by the time we got to that stage, I was hooked.

The cast of characters were all engrossing and well depicted. As for likeable – well, they mostly were with one outstanding exception and if I’d realised he was part of the story there is a strong likelihood I would have given this one a miss. However, I am glad I didn’t as I would have missed the sheer bravura of Marrs twisty plotting where little is as it seems.

In amongst this unfolding story, Marrs raises some interesting and disturbing questions… While couples in established and loving relationships are encouraged to take the test as they find it deepens their love for each other when they discover they are Matched – what happens if they aren’t? And while the genetic test can find a Match for the majority of the population, there are instances where they can’t. Either their genetic match has died, or isn’t on a database – what happens then? And has this engrossing tale demonstrates – being Matched doesn’t guarantee living happily ever after as there all sorts of intriguing scenarios where it is little short of a disaster.

In fact, I came away from this interesting, thought provoking book with deep thankfulness that I have a kind, loving companion who deeply cares for me – and a fervent promise to myself that whatever happens I’d never dabble in getting Matched, should the opportunity come up. This one is highly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of The One from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

Review of Moxyland by Lauren Beukes

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I loved Zoo City – read my review here – so when the opportunity to read Moxyland came along, I couldn’t resist. Would it live up to the punchy writing, memorable style and unique South African setting and flavour Beukes treated us to in the amazing Zoo City?

moxylandThose of you who have read this book won’t be surprised that there isn’t a blurb – it is set in South Africa in a dystopian near future in multiple viewpoints – Kendra, Toby, Tendeka and Lerato. They are all wannabes – Lerato is a computer whizz who managed to land a much-prized job within one of the all-powerful corporations, but feels restless ; Toby is a poor little rich boy who messes around on the edge of whatever is cool – I found his sardonic and outrageous self-absorption by far the most entertaining voice; Kendra has agreed to be a Sponsor Baby – injected with a substance to make her an ambassador for the drink Ghost; and Tendeka who is disgusted with rampant capitalism and unfairness in the system and wants to overthrow it… It’s a big ask to successfully write a narrative with four viewpoint characters, giving each one clearly different traits – yet keeping the reader sufficiently bonded so one character’s story doesn’t end up constantly being skim-read to get back to a favourite. While I didn’t end up doing this, I did find Tendeka fairly repellent from early on.

However Beukes’ writing is so rich and entertainingly different, I simply allowed the story to unfold while wallowing in the sheer inventiveness of the world unpeeling through these four characters. While normally I’m conscious of pacing and story progression – diving into Moxyland was such an immersive experience, many of these considerations didn’t seem to matter all that much… It was much the same feeling I encountered when reading Zoo City, and also Eric Brown’s memorable book, Engineman – the world depicted has such a strong vibe going on, it takes centre stage.

I do think Beukes manages to produce a more polished storyline – and certainly a more convincing ending in Moxyland, than in Zoo City. I certainly didn’t see the end coming and it was a shock – once I’d recovered, it was fascinating to see who walked away from the apocalyptic climax. And who didn’t…

If you love your science fiction served with a large side order of engrossing cool gismos in a completely different, complex world and you haven’t yet encountered Beukes’ work, then hunt down Moxyland – and Zoo City. I won’t guarantee that you’ll be left with a very clear memory of the plot, but her worlds and some of her characters will lodge inside your head for a long time to come. There really isn’t anyone else who writes quite like her.
10/10

Review of Kindle INDIE EBOOK Second Chance by Dylan S. Hearn

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This is a book I came across when browsing fellow book bloggers on WordPress and downloaded it onto my Kindle to read while I was  away.

2ndchanceFour lives become linked by a student’s disappearance: a politician looking to put integrity back into politics, an investigator hoping to atone for past mistakes, a data cleanser searching for a better life while haunted by his past and a re-life technician creating new lives for old souls. But it soon becomes clear this is no ordinary case, and in the pursuit of the truth, long-held secrets are at risk of being revealed. Set in the near future where everybody is connected and death isn’t final, this is the story of how far those in power will go to retain control, and the true price to pay for a Second Chance.

This post-apocalyptic near-future thriller unfolds through following these four characters. So does Hearn manage to handle the different voices? Oh yes – and it would have been all too easy to have lost the plot, literally, in the thickets of political intrigue, or by including yet another nifty plot twist while trying to hunt down missing Jennica. This is a slick, well written book with a strong storyline and plenty of narrative tension. The world is complex, with plenty of layers. I felt that the reveal, though I didn’t see it coming, was entirely plausible. Sadly…

I had a couple of favourite characters – Nic, the investigator and Stephanie, the politician. It was the fate of these two protagonists that pulled me into the story – and wanting to know what had happened to Jennica, of course. These two people struggling to do the best they can in difficult circumstances were well drawn and when Hearn demonstrated that he isn’t afraid to allow his main characters suffer major damage, my emotional involvement in the story increased, which isn’t always the case.

Hearn ably builds the pace to the shocking climax and the denouement. It is a tricky business to wrap up the storyline satisfactorily, while still leaving a couple of plot threads waving in the wind to tempt readers to track down the sequel – certainly harder than Hearn makes it look. Any grizzles? I did feel the reveal regarding Jennica was a little more rushed than it should have been – but this is a minor point. Writing a strong, plausible near-future thriller with multiple protagonists requires a great deal of technical skill – and way Hearn manages to tick the necessary boxes in order to produce such a successful book makes him One To Watch.
8/10