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Hannah Green And Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith

One of the great things about
being me, the Devil said, is I don't 
have to do anything at all.
I was sold this book by Simon at the Big Green Bookshop in return for the money it cost plus a small donation towards operating costs and postage. 

In truth, I'd forgotten it was on its way, and it was a fucking lovely surprise when it arrived at my desk in work, my letterbox at the time being a tad short on width and breadth and unlikely to admit a hardback plus packaging. I recall very much enjoying reading Michael Marshall Smith, and I also enjoyed re-reading him, recently, and I documented this here, here and here. This was a book for which I hadn't realised I'd been waiting for a long time. 

However, had I not the history and warm, cosy feelings safely tucked up in the nostalgia bank, I would probably not have picked this up, going solely on the cover. There's a clock, the silhouette of a small girl, and leaves, along with a colour contrast and meandering font which brought to mind something cringe-worthily reminiscent of Alexander McCall-Smith*, or the covers of Scarlett Thomas novels I avoided for purely aesthetic reasons for a number of years before overcoming the prejudice. I completely missed the snake. In themselves, these symbols signified something which brought about an atavistic aversion. I'm not sure if this is a trend in publishing design, but I trust it will pass.

Regardless, I was happy to overlook my own ridiculous peccadillo and crack on. 

It's classic EmEmEss. There's an unreliable narrator, there's a strange and unpredictable narrative, there are outlandish and yet perfectly acceptable plot devices and characters, and there are twists aplenty. There's also a strange avuncular feeling about the narration, something of which I was dimly aware until I read in another review that it was a little like a bed-time story. This is due in no small part because it appears to be told by Hannah's nomadic grandfather, whose own part in the grander tale (and his unlikely and particularly un-mundane history) is only revealed as a result of Hannah leaving her depressed and divorced father to stay with him. In essence, it's about the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, the purity of our blank white futures tainted by our subjective and corrupted inks, to borrow unrepentantly a Twitter bio. Hannah thinks her life is dull and monotonous, its only deviation the confusing separation of her parents and her slow alienation from them as they each dealt (poorly) with the situation. However, she soon meets a four-foot-tall talking mushroom and has a grand adventure alongside the Archfiend himself, all the while in pursuit of those spectral figures looking to subvert the profane machine her grandfather built–wait! what?–two hundred years ago!

I must say that in terms of dark humour, the likes of which graced his other more sci-fi novels, particularly with the talking appliances and wry, often bitter commentary, here it is more akin to some of the slapstick of Christopher Moore's Practical Demonkeeping. Not a bad thing you should understand, just different. It's a great introduction to a very good writer indeed, and will inspire you to pick up his backlist. Just don't hold your breath waiting for the next one, eh?

*Yeah, I know it probably looks like no Alexander McCall-Smith cover EVER but it evokes the same curdled biliousness as the sight of his Scotland Street novels on the shelf. No idea why.


How's about that then?

A Bright Moon For Fools by Jasper Gibson

Ah, what would be a review penned by yours truly without some sort of grovelling apology at the outset? A better review no doubt, but that aside I can't help but continue the tiresome tradition with an apology. Sorry to my regular robotic readers (hi bots!) but I have been very neglectful of the blog of late, having been tied up with my pursuit of a broader spectrum of dilettantism; I've been taking part in a number of MOOCs offered by various HEIs on the FutureLearn platform. Worth checking out if you ask me.

(Subtle enough plug, you think?)
Anyway, the break afforded by a foray into further education has proved something of a test for Jasper Gibson and his fiction. In truth, it took me a little while to remember what exactly the novel was about, who was in it, and how I felt about the whole thing. Instant alarm bells. Of course, having had a break, I'd had a good crack at filling my head with a whole bunch of other things worth remembering, so maybe it all just got squeeze…

The Elephant by Sławomir Mrożek

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

Engleby by Sebastian Faulks

The first bad thing I might say about Engleby is that for some reason, it put me in a foul mood; as if by some sort of literary osmosis I had absorbed Michael Engleby’s uniformly critical point of view and had turned it on the world and my unsuspecting wife particularly. She was not a happy bunny. The first good thing I might say is that this didn’t last long, especially as the next book I picked up was a Charles Portis novel which quickly dispelled the gloom. Is this a triumph of the suspension of disbelief, of verisimilitude, of getting the reader to buy into the character? Or is it simply because the only point of view we get for 350 pages is that of “Toilet” Engleby himself? It’s hard not to warm to him even if you don’t like him or his fairly stiff opinions, and that must be a victory for Faulks. His protagonist protests that his memory is spotty – spotty enough that the major crisis in the novel is not really uncovered (officially – the twist was so obvious I guessed it from read…