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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Certainly unusual, but fascinating
Although he has written many children's books over a number of years, Peter Dickinson does not appear to be as widely known as many similar authors. Notice, for example, that this is only the third review of "The Kin" to be posted on this site. Having read the book recently, I can confirm that it deserves to be better known.
On the cover of my paperback edition,...
Published on 1 Sep 2002 by jackdfelton

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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Chore to Read
The Kin by Peter Dickinson is a huge (over 600 pages) novel for children and adults alike. It is set 200 000 years ago in Africa, and follows the Kins, a tribe who has been forced to leave their lands and go in search of a new safe haven. Their journey is told in four parts, from the viewpoints of four children of the tribe. They face dangers from the elements and from...
Published on 26 Nov 2003 by amberzed


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Certainly unusual, but fascinating, 1 Sep 2002
This review is from: The Kin (Paperback)
Although he has written many children's books over a number of years, Peter Dickinson does not appear to be as widely known as many similar authors. Notice, for example, that this is only the third review of "The Kin" to be posted on this site. Having read the book recently, I can confirm that it deserves to be better known.
On the cover of my paperback edition, the author Philip Pullman describes "The Kin" as "a magnificent work". This it certainly is, although it is this "magnificence" that may make it something of an acquired taste to many readers.
The plot of the novel is simple: a tribe of early humans, living roughly 200,000 years ago, have been separated from one another and must search for a new life in the inhospitable African plains. Therefore, the setting of the book is spectacular - the landscapes described are almost worthy of a Tolkien novel, yet they are set recognisably on Earth. Actually, I would have found a map helpful in many ways. During the journey, adolescent members of the tribe must learn to be leaders and are forced to change promptly from "children" to "adults".
The book itself is divided into four stories, each told from the point of view of a different character. The four books have been sold separately, but I found that this "compilation" improved the flow of the writing and plot in some ways. In each book, we see a previously "innocent" child realise that they cannot afford to remain innocent in their environment, and by the end of each, the characters in question have learned a lesson about life that is often applicable to the modern world. The characters are excellent - in some ways, they are less recognisably "human" than the protagonists of "talking animal" books such as Watership Down, but this has allowed the author to concentrate on creating excellent descriptions of their simpler emotions. Dickinson can convey fear, for example, in a way that might be lost if he was writing about more modern, streetwise characters. Therefore, we can empathise with characters who are in situations we are never likely to encounter ourselves - one mark of a good, well-written book.
Dickinson certainly "brings home" the primitive nature of the Kin's world. The only technologies available to the tribe are fire and some amount of woodworking and stoneworking. In this world, humans are nowhere near the top of the food chain and must rely on their wits to survive. This makes "The Kin" a refreshing change from books with a more "modern" feel.
The writing in "The Kin" is simple; I would expect an eight-year-old to cope with the book. This is to be expected in the dialogue, because the urgency and simplicity of the characters' emotions must be conveyed. However, I found that the simplicity of the writing in some action scenes actually slowed the book down at times, hindering the flow of some passages. This style of writing is certainly "different", but it may annoy many readers.
Another thing that may irritate readers is the nature of the plot. There does not seem to be any central "thread" to the plot of the Kin - instead, the book reads like a serial, describing different events and difficulties which the characters must overcome. Again, it is possible to expect a nomadic plot in a book about nomads, and therefore this is not necessarily a drawback, but it can irritate at times. There was no major theme which had to be resolved by the end of the book, and many sub-plots were never resolved, leaving a number of unanswered questions.
The theme of animism is also brought into this book. This is possibly one of the hardest elements of the plot to understand, but it is clear that the tribe itself does not clearly understand the nature of its deities, having built its traditions around them and gone on to "accept" these traditions rather than question them.
I enjoyed this book, and found it an interesting diversion from many slightly more mainstream books. The plot premise was spectacular, the characters and setting were superb, and many parents might appreciate the moral themes. However, as I was fifteen at the time of reading this book (which, I believe, is possibly at the upper end of the author's target audience), I am in more of a position simply to give my verdict as a reader.
This was an unusual piece of writing, and I am sure many authors would have been proud to so successfully create a fictional civilisation built on no historical evidence. Some parts of this ambitious idea certainly succeeded, while others possibly failed, and I am sure that many readers would not find this book to their tastes. As it is, I would recommend it simply to find out whether or not you think it works, and would welcome other books like it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Kin- An outstanding read., 25 Oct 2002
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This review is from: The Kin (Paperback)
The Kin is made up of four books. They are set 200,000 years ago in remote Africa. Man has started to communicate with words and display emotions. The chapters in the books are seperated by 'Oldtales'trying to explain the mysteries of life, where man came from and how the land was created.
The book revolves around six characters; Suth, Noli, her brother Otan, Mana, Ko and Tinu. Following their journey through hazardous terrain, Dickinson has created a believable and compelling culture to inspire the imagination of children and and adults alike.
When Noli persuades Suth to leave the group and fetch the young children left behind, they find life in the deserts and mountains harsh and unreliable. With dangers; water shortages, wild animals and man among other things, the small, newly founded Kin struggle to adapt to the changes of ancient Africa.
Some people are put off by the size of the book, however the Kin is 628 pages filled with remarkable ideas, carefully planned and executed. The Kin is a must-read for people of all ages. Dickinson has the power to make his readers laugh, cry and sit on the end of their seats in this emotion filled book. For readers that enjoyed this novel I would also like to recommend A.k (also by Peter Dickinson).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, 22 July 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Kin (Hardcover)
I first read this book back when I was 13 and I could not put it down the story just drew me in and made me keep reading. The fact that it was told by four children and how they coped with the whole experience was just amazing. It is one of the best books I've ever read and even the length could not put me off, an excellent read for children and adults alike
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Kin - Peter Dickinson, 5 Sep 2003
This review is from: The Kin (Paperback)
The Kin is an outstanding book set 200,000 years ago in Africa. The kin are first humans very brave and clever and they can talk. It is a wonderful story of their journey in search of new life and land. In between the chapters are Oldtales about Black Antolope and other creatures that make the Earth. The book travels in four stories with Suth, Noli, Tinu, Ko and Mana. They are the Moonhawk Kin trying to find new Good Places as the kins are dying. You will come to fighting with lions and demon men to meeting new people that can't talk.
I loved this book. I was thrilled in Dickinsons great ideas and vast imagination. I could not put it down and I am looking forward to reading many more of his fantastic books.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book for all ages, 13 Aug 2001
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Amazon Customer "Bones" (Newcastle-on-Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Kin (Paperback)
Just because it is in the Childrens' Books category, doesn't mean adults should not benefit from this lovely book. Miss this, and you miss a real treat.
Actually several books in one, (and published in the USA individually), it is targetted at the pre-adolescent market (I guess) and the prose reflects this. But don't let this fool you, the words and phraseology are so well-crafted that long or esoteric descriptions or are not necessary to convey the essence of the stories. As the stories are about dawn-of-mankind children in the Rift Valley, the language reflects that - short, to-the point phrases with many spiritual references to the 'First Ones' - and the tone is necessarily child-like ... but not intrusively so.
In many ways this has the feel of Jean Auel's books, in that the Kin condense mankind's technological development into one generation, discovering fire, spears, traps much quicker that they would actually have done. Nice moralistic touches; when the Kin assimilate their non-speaking 'relatives' into their extended family; abhoring the cannibal species; and decrying the savagery of the retribution delivered to the cannibals.
All that aside, the book had me rivetted, my wife thoroughly enjoyed it as well, and I would recommend it to anybody... Some books are too good to be 'relegated' to the Children's Section.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I ever read as an adult!, 9 Jan 2008
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Rainbow1Gold (Perthshire, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Kin (Paperback)
I just loved the whole feel and flow of the book from one child's perspective in the story to another. I had a real sense of reality as the author very effectivly draws you right into the heart of this narrative. If you have an interest in human history, this book is for you. My only real complaint is that it was not long enough.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful tale, 11 Mar 2003
This review is from: The Kin (Hardcover)
I was bought this book by a friend over three years ago, I'm afraid it managed to slip my notice untill I re-discovered it only last year. And what a discovery! 'The Kin' is a mastery of childrens fiction it tells the tale of an ancient prehistoric tribe of people who after an attack have to leave to find a new place to live. Between every few chapters a short myth based around this tribes beliefs works to break up the story. It is shocking how real a piece of fiction can be and yet retain a touch of magic.
A must read for young and old alike!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling but moving adventure., 8 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Kin (Hardcover)
The Kin is a superb book for all ages. It is a veiw into the lives of four young children, and leads you through life as they see it. It is a touching tale of bravery and spirit in the wilderness of Africa thousands of years ago, and deals with such issues as growing up, discrimination and religion. Jam packed with adventures and emotions, the Kin is an all round excellent book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, 25 July 2006
By 
Alexa (East Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Kin (Mass Market Paperback)
I loved this book. It is written in 4 sections each based around one of a tribe of the first human beings. While this may not sound that intresting it really is a great read. The only down side is that the creation stories in between each chapter can get a bit tiresome but aside from that it is a fantastic book!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars my favourite book better than Harry Potter!, 3 Feb 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Kin (Paperback)
The Kin by Peter Dickinson
The kin is my favourite book I think it's better then Harry Potter! I think it is aimed at people aged 13-adult even though I'm nine.
The book is about people thousands of years ago, who wander through the desert and then run away. They get caught by the monkey kin and run back into the desert and live in a canyon. They find a man that grunts not talks and make friends with him and the rest of his kin. They learn to speak his grunting language and come across lots of wild beasts that attack them.
My favourite part is when two of the main characters, Ko a little boy, and Sough, an adult, talk about the man that grunts. Ko asks 'if he's not people do we eat him?'
Charlotte
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The Kin: Suth's Story Bk.1
The Kin: Suth's Story Bk.1 by Peter Dickinson (Paperback - 26 Jun 1999)
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