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Showing posts from January, 2018

Books of Note

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Not surprisingly, like a lot of John Darnielle’s music, particularly those songs on the album The Sunset Tree (Pale Green Things springs to mind and is very much worth listening to), his writing only slowly reveals itself and its narrative direction. Not in any turgid or tedious fashion, but rather in an unhurried, gentler and more thoughtful way. Universal Harvester rolls gently along its path with only a few disconcerting and probably deliberate hiccups. It starts in Iowa in the 1990s with a young man, still living at home with his father but unable to leave because of the weight of his mother’s death, years before, in a car crash. The trauma tethers Jeremy and his father together like the gravitational pull of a dead star in a comfortable and predictable but numb orbit, but it’s never something that either of them can discuss openly.
Jeremy works at a VHS rental store, so we’re assuredly early-Worldwide Web era. His job is simple, repetitive, and keeps him and his father in entertai…

The Power by Naomi Alderman

As a man, I feel squeamish offering my opinion on a novel which subverts the established patriarchy and reverses the balance of gender inequality. As a human, I am equally squeamish about prefacing any sentence with “As a man…” Thankfully, I’ve let this one slide for five months and as such, I can’t remember very much without going back and reviewing several entertaining and effusively supportive reviews*, and so my opinions are muted and diffused by the dimming fog of memory.
However, these reviews threw up a curveball. I had no idea Allie / Mother Eve wasn’t white. Did I miss something obvious? Was I just being obtuse? Oh god, now I’m applying my liberal but ignorant Anglo-centric race bias.
What a contemptible WAS (formerly) P-ish human male person.
Still, since I can’t win this one by virtue of the dual accidents of birth and upbringing, I’m very happy to sound off in support of Naomi Alderman’s fourth novel.
It’s good.
Forgetting the correspondence between future anthropologists specu…

Infinite Ground by Martin MacInnes

Infinite Ground followed from The Vorrh by virtue of the pull of the jungle and the mystery of the title. I spotted it on the shelves of Griffin Books whilst ostensibly looking for a book for my 7-year-old son (who incidentally chose The Wild Beyond by Piers Torday, book three of a slightly bleak trilogy set in a future where humans have all but killed off the wildlife) and such was the attraction (my mind was still in the verdurous oppression of the ancient forest) that I even overlooked my much considered, and newly admitted, prejudicial predilection for avoiding Scottish-sounding authors. It also called distantly to Ways To Disappear by Idra Novey, a book I thought I’d forgotten but which persists despite my best intentions.
What the book tells us is that a young man has gone missing, possibly into the jungle of the unnamed South American country, and a retired police detective goes off in pursuit. What it doesn’t tell us, rather pleasingly, is that it could all be in the mind of th…