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Sand
Sand
by Hugh Howey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Howey has done it again!, 30 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Sand (Hardcover)
Hugh Howey has done it again! He has created another desolate dystopian world and sucked me right into it.

I have made no secret of the fact that I loved the Silo Trilogy, so it was with much trepidation that I started to read Sand. I was concerned that Mr. Howey might let me down. That Wool may have been a fluke, and my appreciation of the author may be tarnished. Not the case I am happy to report.

Sand tells the story of four siblings who live in the post-apocalyptic state of Colorado. An endless desert has buried the ancient world, and their people barely survive in the harsh wasteland. They work hard for every drop of water, and live under constant threat of terror attacks in their lawless society. The siblings (Victoria, Palmer, Conner and Rob) are all somehow involved with the dangerous job of sand-diving (I thought of it as deep sea diving, only through sand) where they scavenge items from the old world for resale. One day Palmer is approached by a band of outlaws who claim they have discovered the mythical city of Danvar buried deep beneath the dunes. Palmer, along with the rest of his family, is about to stumble on a truth that will change their perception of their entire world.

This is a fast-paced, highly engaging, very readable novel. The prose is not poetic or flowery, and Howey moves the action along swiftly and with purpose. His description of the sand and sand diving were particularly successful. Just as the Inuits purportedly have various different terms for snow, so do these people have numerous terms for sand – showing just how important it is in their lives.

The sand diving scenes were surprisingly realistic. I felt my own lungs gulping for air as the characters had to make their way through the sand without being buried alive – I took deep breathes after each dive. His explanation of the dive suits and the diving process were really good too. Though in reality it would be impossible (I think), Howey makes it plausible.

Some negative comments have been made about the world-building part of this novel. There is no completely satisfactory explanation as to how the world became this way (though it is attempted towards the end), however, I have a feeling there may be another book in the works, and our questions will be answered. Hugh Howey will not let us down!


The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
by Tom Rachman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One for the Thinkers, 18 Jun. 2014
Recently I’ve started my reading/reviewing process differently. I go to Goodreads or Amazon and find a one or two star review (hopefully one without spoilers) and learn exactly how bad the book can be. Then I open the book and start to read. What happens? I am almost always pleasantly surprised.

This is the case with Tom Rachman’s The Rise & Fall of Great Powers. After reading the bad review I expected to be bored and confused. However, after finishing the book, I found the writing and story to be engaging and really easy to follow.

Tooly Zylberberg had an unconventional childhood. She was raised by a group of drifters, thieves and scoundrels after she was ‘taken’ from her home in Maryland. Now in her early thirties she is the owner of a second hand bookstore in Wales. After her ex-boyfriend calls to say that her father is ill, she decides to venture to New York to confront the characters from her past and learn the truth about her upbringing.

The novel alternates between 1988, 1999 and 2011. Some say that this alternating structure is confusing, and while there is an array of colourful characters, they are so distinct that I didn’t feel at all lost.

While the story is a mystery, at the heart of the novel are the characters. Humphrey, an old Russian intellectual and great reader; Sarah – a flighty and flirtatious groupie; Paul – a rather odd bird enthusiast; Venn – the mysterious and charismatic leader of the group, and many others you will love and/or hate.

It is interesting to follow Tooly through her discoveries and you realise that events from her childhood did not actually happen as she remembered them. The fallibility of memory, especially when we were young, is a core theme of the book. How well do we really know the people who raised us?

This is an enjoyable read with some breath-taking prose and philosophical ideas.


Perfect
Perfect
by Rachel Joyce
Edition: Hardcover

33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost Perfect, 22 Dec. 2013
This review is from: Perfect (Hardcover)
This is a story about time. How a few seconds can alter lives forever.

Byron Hemming is concerned after his friend James tells him that two seconds are going to be added to time. He becomes convinced that this is unnatural and is sure to result in some disastrous consequences. He is not wrong. After he inadvertently causes an accident, his life begins to unravel.

This accident will forever alter the lives of an array of characters; Byron and James, Diana and Seymour (Byron's mother and father), and a little girl and her mother (Jeanie and Beverley) from the wrong side of the tracks.

In alternating chapters we are introduced to a middle-aged man named Jim who is battling both severe mental illness and the demons from his past. You sense that somehow these two stories are connected, and I was so sure I had it figured out until Part 3 when I realised all my expectations and assumptions were incorrect (in a good way).

This was a very good story, and yet I found it so uncomfortable to read. It was like waiting for a horrific accident you know is going to happen, but you don't know when or how. And there is nothing anyone can do to change it. Beverley was so manipulative and the most unsympathetic character I have met in a long time, despite her unfortunate social situation. I was really hoping her scheming would lead to her own undoing.

And poor James and Byron, despite their good intentions, their interference just made matters worse for everyone.

The looming catastrophe was shocking, but not in the way I expected, almost as if the entire story was a red herring. Part three felt a bit anti-climatic, but I liked the way it slowed down towards the end.

SPOILER: I really liked the way the alternating chapters stopped once Byron felt whole again. It was a clever and subtle literary device.

Rachel Joyce is clearly a gifted writer. As the novel progresses you can see Diana and Byron slowly unravelling and looking back I had to ask: could Diana's inaction and fear regarding Beverley and her manipulation have lead to her undoing?

Perfect poses some very interesting social questions regarding gender roles, class and ultimately mental health.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 3, 2014 7:58 PM BST


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