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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, thought-provoking read
I thought this was an excellent book. A good number of other reviewers here obviously don't agree, but I found it thoughtful, gripping and very well written.

The plot has been well rehearsed elsewhere, but revolves around a 16-year-old narrator, Jessie Lamb, in a near future in which a virus has begun to cause the death of any woman who becomes pregnant. Jane...
Published 18 months ago by Sid Nuncius

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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult questions asked but let down by two dimensional groups
The subject matter of "The Testament of Jessie Lamb" ensures that this is not a comfortable read. Set in the near future, Rogers has imagined a truly terrifying virus that affects pregnant women, known as Maternal Death Syndrome or MDS. Everyone carries this illness but the effects, a cross between AIDS and CJD, ensure that all pregnant mothers will die - without...
Published on 29 Aug. 2011 by Ripple


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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult questions asked but let down by two dimensional groups, 29 Aug. 2011
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
The subject matter of "The Testament of Jessie Lamb" ensures that this is not a comfortable read. Set in the near future, Rogers has imagined a truly terrifying virus that affects pregnant women, known as Maternal Death Syndrome or MDS. Everyone carries this illness but the effects, a cross between AIDS and CJD, ensure that all pregnant mothers will die - without exception. Scientists have found a way to save some of the unborn children, but only by placing their mothers in a chemically induced coma from which they won't recover. Now though, the scientists have also discovered a way of immunising frozen, pre-MDS embryos which, if they can be placed in a willing volunteer, may ultimately allow the survival of the human race. However, the volunteers need to be under 16½ or the likely success rates are too low. Step forward one Jessie Lamb.

The Booker longlist can be relied on to throw up at least one novel on a controversial subject. Last year it was "The Slap". This year it's this novel. There's no doubt it asks awkward and unsettling questions about a variety of issues including the age at which people can take informed decisions, the rights and wrongs of scientific research and animal testing and the right anyone has to chose their own death. There are no easy answers to any of these questions of course.

As you might infer from the title, the story is written from a first person narrative by Jessie. Often with first person narratives it's difficult to get a true steer on the character herself. Effectively she's dealing with the usual teen dramas of arguing parents, failed love and general `what's the point of me?' stuff. She's into environmentalism and vegetarianism, all in the idealistic way of many of her age. The most rounded character is her father, fortuitously a genetic scientist who talks a fair amount of common sense.

As for Jessie's friends, she seems to have a bizarre mix of one of each of a series of extreme beliefs. We get the ardent feminist, who joins a group called FLAME whose statements are so ludicrous that they almost undermine what is a potentially a strong feminist argument; a supporter of ALF, the animal rights movement; and a self-sufficiency fan who decides to run off to live off the land. Add into this mix her aunt who is desperate for a child, whatever the personal cost. Then there are the religious fundamentalists against scientific research called the Noahs. The problem is that these are all rather two dimensional. Most 16-year-olds I know group together in like minded cliques. There is nothing that would bind these apparent friends together.

The genesis of the virus is hinted at but never explored. Is it a terrorist act or merely an unfortunate accident? Neither Rogers, nor Jessie, are interested in this. Neither do we get a great deal on the overall impact of the disease, other than that is has clearly spawned a lot of fundamental groups of various types.

Yet for all this, there's no doubt that it asks some interesting and uncomfortable questions of the reader and the ending is genuinely moving. The whole concept of the virus itself is a scarily good basis for a story, but by presenting such a myriad of extreme views, the reality of the issue is somehow lost. FLAME for example rant that if the disease affected males then something would have been done by now. Ultimately it lacked the heart that can make dystopian stories, like "Never Let Me Go" or "The Handmaid's Tale", so affecting. But at least it doesn't try to over simplify the moral message. I'm still not sure what I think of Jessie's decision and that's to the book's credit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, thought-provoking read, 26 Sept. 2013
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Paperback)
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I thought this was an excellent book. A good number of other reviewers here obviously don't agree, but I found it thoughtful, gripping and very well written.

The plot has been well rehearsed elsewhere, but revolves around a 16-year-old narrator, Jessie Lamb, in a near future in which a virus has begun to cause the death of any woman who becomes pregnant. Jane Rogers uses this to reflect on a number of social issues including attitudes to women, animal research and so on. She also paints very sharp portraits of conflicting pressure-groups, both politically and religiously motivated, and of their utter moral certainty and the consequences of their conviction that they alone can see the truth.

What makes this really good, though, is Jessie's voice. I found her a completely convincing and rather engaging portrait of an adolescent, with that odd mixture of utter certainty that they can see the truth and insecurity in their search for ideas and identity, of both deep love for her parents and utter rage at them, and so on . No easy answers are presented, and there are few, if any, out-and-out good guys and bad guys, which I think is a real strength of the book. I found that the story built to a gripping climax despite there being no car chases or stand-offs with a killer. It's a beautifully written and structured tale

I would warmly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a readable, gripping and thought-provoking book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and memorable, top quality science fiction, 8 May 2012
A worthy winner of the 2012 Arthur C Clarke award.

Clear, uncluttered writing and a 16 year old protagonist do not (necessarily) make this a young adult's book. Whilst not gratuitous or frequent, there's sex, violence and strong language here. And it's unflinchingly presented: no rose-tinted, watered down view of the real world here.

There are many themes to this book, and like all good science fiction it's a lens through which to view our own world. Through Jessie we witness varying views on environmentalism, activism, poverty, feminism, the media, genetic engineering and stem cell research. This is painted against a convincing backdrop of a world facing a disaster that's imminent enough to be a real threat but distant enough that attempts to combat it are divided and morally incompatible; human nature being what it is, people simply prefer to argue with each other.

A dollop of on-the-nose hypocrisy from Jessie's beloved parents (they advocate an extreme solution, as long as it doesn't involve their own daughter) brings the worldwide tragedy down to the family level; and it's shocking and powerful just how ordinary that family is.

Jessie herself is clear-thinking and resolute, but there are questions raised as to whether she truly realises the enormity of what she's undertaking. And these questions remain beautifully unanswered.

The book can be interpreted in many ways, and has many themes; my own interpretation is that it's an examination of abortion and a woman's right to choose, inverted through a science fiction world: here we have young women determined that their children have a right to life, even when it costs their own.

Highly recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I finished it because I had to., 5 Aug. 2012
By 
Asphodelia (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Paperback)
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The Testament of Jessie Lamb appealed to me due to its dystopian theme that vaguely reminded me of Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics) . What I didn't realise was that Rogers' novel is a kind of hybrid crossover between `regular' fiction and Young Adult. The main character is a sixteen year old girl, and the tone of the narration is set accordingly. This is not to say that a young protagonist can't still appeal to adults, but The Testament of Jessie Lamb is no Catcher in The Rye in that respect, and I felt that I was reading a Young Adult novel, or worse, that I was overhearing the conversation between teenage girls on a bus.

But my main issue with this novel is that it reserves no surprises: we learn from the outset that pregnancy kills women and of course, the protagonist becomes involved in an experiment that will save the world. That's it. No twists, no turns, no surprises. By the time you are halfway into the book, you may as well stop reading because what you think is going to happen will happen, so why bother? Sure, novels are not only made of plot, but even the narration itself reserves no surprise, leaving me with the impression that the author is someone who clearly adheres to all the rules of creative writing (Rogers is a Professor of Writing. Surprise!) but who still forgot to put a soul into her story. I found her prose readable, yes, but bland. How could this book be long listed for the Man Booker?

I finished this book because I had to review it, but had it not been an Amazon Vine pick, I would have definitely stopped a few chapters in and taken it to the charity shop.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Amazed at its Booker Nomination, very poor contemporary novel, good young adult piece, 9 Feb. 2012
By 
R. A. Davison (UK) - See all my reviews
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My overwhelming reaction to The Testament Of Jessie Lamb, is surprise, surprise in fact that it has been nominated for this years Booker Prize and is currently on the longlist. Not because it's a bad book, in the way that say There But For The by Ali Smith is, in my opinion, a bad book, but because I was surprised it met the criteria.

In the case of this book, it appears to have been marketed as adult contemporary fiction and only has an adult imprint, a decision I find a little baffling, for a novel whose audience I would see as a GCSE student. As a piece of young adult dystopian fiction it is good, but I've read better, most notably The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness to which it shares a similarity in an aspect of plot.

It lacks much in originality I felt given its similarity in theme to The Children Of Men by PD James, later adapted for the screen starring Clive Owen. In the world of Jessie Lamb, there has been an act of bio-terrorism, as a consequence there has been a global fertility crisis. When women get pregnant - they die. (Hang on a minute? Wasn't that what happened to pregnant women on the island in LOST as well?) In this brave new world, set not far from our present, no more children are being born and the population of women is dropping, as those who do get pregnant never survive.

Jessie Lamb is 16, and when we meet her she is being held captive, and she recounts for us what has been happening to ordinary people since the crisis emerged. At 16, Jessie is idealistic and looking for a cause, and causes find her. The animal rights movement, the womens movement, the Noahs, and YOFI. There is a degree of cynicism in Jane Roger's writing about young people who look for a cause to be involved with. You gain a real sense that in Roger's eyes "causes" target the vulnerable and a "cause" is just "another phase" disenchanted young people go through, before growing up, becoming a champagne socialist, and attending a Tory party conference if it's in their interest to do so. And she probably has a point. Yet, for some people a cause gives their life meaning. Not for nothing I feel did Rogers give her protagonist the surname Lamb. Though again, this is a "clever" connotation in a young adult book, yet a bit patronising for an adult contemporary.

In terms of subplots, the novel asks some interesting questions related to the morals and ethics of Science, particularly IVF and the idea that scientists have long since passed the point of playing God, Rogers just pushes the boundary one step further. Ultimately though I didn't feel that Jessie's testament or sacrifice would have much impact in either the short or long term given the global scale of the issue. Which meant that the ending didn't pack the huge emotional punch it thinks it does. I also found the secondary surrounding characters very poorly drawn, and not even Jessie particularly easy to care about. Maybe when I was 12 I might have found it really important and exciting but I also think that maybe, just maybe I might have found it weak and characters uninspired and uninspiring - pretty much like I do now. I am shocked this book was even nominated to be honest. If you want a good sci-fi book to read on this topic read Jonathan Trigell's Genus
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3.0 out of 5 stars A future without childbirth, 14 Oct. 2012
By 
AR (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
After the onset of a mysterious disease, millions of women are dying during pregnancy and it seems that humanity may be facing its end as no more babies are born. As she struggles to grow up in a world that is losing hope, sixteen-year-old Jessie decides she wants to make her life matter.

The Testament of Jessie Lamb has an interesting premise, and as one reviewer, whose comment can be found on the back cover of the book has said, it's a cross between The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, and the film Children of Men. Like Children of Men, the idea is rather bleak. Pregnancy triggers a dormant virus that destroys a woman's brain and eventually kills her, and her child. The only way to bring a pregnancy to term is to sedate the mother, so that she becomes little more than an incubator, destined to perish after birth.

Teenager Jessie Lamb despairs at the world and the future of humanity, but is determined to do something about it. When various protest groups don't fulfil her expectations, she turns to science and the work that is being undertaken at her father's research clinic.

Like the Handmaid's Tale, there is a powerful feminist strand running thoughout this novel. As the human race faces extinction because pregnancy becomes fatal, women's status changes and division between the sexes increases.

Whilst well-written, thought provoking and intelligent, I found this depressing rather than moving. Jessie came across as a rather selfish character at times, determined to follow her own beliefs and desires regardless of the consequences for those around her, which made it hard for me to sympathise with her. I find novels based around an apocalyptic theme difficult, as they often portray the worst side of humanity, without hope, and that is also true of this novel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Jessie Lamb, 13 July 2012
Conceptually, The Testament of Jessie Lamb bears all the trademarks of great sci-fi writing. The central premise of a near-future, riddled with death and uncertainty due to the release of a biological weapon, fits into all conventions of the genre. And it is no surprise really, given the concept, that TTOJL was the winner of this year's Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction. Jane Rogers' latest effort is a well-crafted exploration of the effects of a biological disease, which effectively kills all pregnant women and the children that they are carrying.

For me, TTOJL is The Handmaid's Tale for the 21st century, (a book that itself won the Clarke Award in 1987), exploring deeply the idea that women are expendable, cherished only for their fertility and that the men of the world, given adequate reason, would very soon find them tiresome, disgusting and pointless. It is a big concept, and one that Rogers paints well from the perspective of a sixteen year old girl, whose family and friends conspire unknowingly to direct her towards the ultimate sacrifice--her own life for a child who will help ensure the lasting future of mankind. Unlike Margaret Atwood's seminal work however, the thoughts and experiences of the main character, Jessie Lamb, do not come across in the same heart wrenching, broken willed way that they do from Atwood's Offred.

The prose style throughout the book is very basic, as one tends to find when reading from the point of view of a younger character, and I certainly found that in parts the descriptive passages dragged a little, as we spent a lot of time going back and forth with Jessie over her decision to volunteer for the procedure. The overlaying plot-theme however, the trapping of Jessie in order to prevent her from volunteering, was the heart of the piece. Family relationships, friendships and teenage desires are all explored with poignancy as Jessie battles to decide whether it is better to die doing something that will make a difference, or to continue living in ignorance of mankind's destructive sensibilities.

I am not sure that TTOJL is the best book to ever win the Clarke Award (indeed, when compared with my personal favourite, Christopher Priest's The Separation, winner in 2003, the scope of the tale is much smaller), it is certainly a well-written, thoughtful and engaging tale, and well worth a read for any science fiction/slipstream fans.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult Story, Easy Read, 8 Dec. 2011
I rarely choose to read a sci-fi novel, but the contentious subject matter in the Man Booker Prize winner `The Testament of Jessie Lamb' oddly appealed to me. Set a few months in the future, Rogers envisions a severe issue in which millions of pregnant women are dying due to an alarming and fatal virus known as Maternal Death Syndrome (MDS). Although, the terrified world is given a glimmer of hope when scientists create a method of vaccinating frozen, virus-free embryos and placing them in female volunteers under the age of 16 and a half. The chance to protect the human species is accepted by many, in particular a 16 year old girl called Jessie Lamb.

As well as the threat of human extinction, Jessie also has to cope with every day teenage problems which highlights the distinction between a normal life and the chaos revolving her. This allows the reader to almost sympathise with Jessie as it can be questioned that her acts of bravery are caused by naivety and influence from her strong, opinionated friends. The heavy plot of this novel may cause the reader to forget how young Jessie is. However, Rogers has written in a first person narrative; the language used being a persistent reminder of Jessie's age. When reading, there are moments of clarity when Jessie's teenage innocence is brought to light and the reader can comprehend how difficult it must be for a young girl to make a life-changing decision, even if it is against her father's will. The decision of volunteering highlights the value of courage as although some think it is a heroic choice, many others, including Jessie's father, believe it is a foolish one.

The connection between Jessie's family fascinated me as they helped to shape a domestic reality amongst this unlikely story. I was particularly intrigued by the relationship between Jessie and her father as they seemed to have the most solid and believable interaction with each other. Although the novel is written from Jessie's perspective, there were moments when I empathised with Jessie's father and supported his views as the majority of the time, they were plain common sense.

The overall structure of the novel was messy as I felt the present tense diary entries at times interrupted the story and didn't always feel in sync with the events happening in the novel. I understand that Rogers may have used this technique to build suspense, but I was more intrigued with the development of Jessie's past story than the present.

In a very extreme circumstance, the characters and slight details make the whole situation appear more ordinary. Although it may sound like heavy story, this novel is an easy read filled with ideas and debates that will definitely leave you thinking.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Testament of Jessie Lamb, 6 Aug. 2011
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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Jessie Lamb lives in the near future, but it is one that has been altered by bio-terrorists. Everyone on the planet has been infected by MDS (Maternal Death Syndrome), which lies dormant until pregnancy, when it attacks the pregnant mother with a combination of AIDS/CJD. There is no cure, although research is obviously being carried out - in part by Jessie's father. At first, Jessie is unconcerned about MDS as it doesn't affect her. However, eventually, she becomes more aware of what the event of MDS means for both the world and her personally. There are no new babies and, unless something is done, the human race will die out. Society starts to break down, as children feel adults have wreaked havoc on them, destroyed the planet and killed their future. The author does a good job of presenting a chilling and uncomfortable view of what could lie ahead, making it plausible and realistic.

Jessie is an extremely idealistic sixteen year old. She is active in various groups, aimed at trying to save the planet. She complains if her parents use the car, buy new clothes or want to book a holiday. They want life to go on - she can't see how it can. In a way, Jessie comes across as slightly petulant, too idealistic and a little unsympathetic because of that; although teenagers can be that way of course! This book concerns Jessie's attempts to 'do something' to help save humanity and the novel throws up interesting questions about sacrifice and idealism. Ultimately, the character of Jessie could have been more convincing had she been less intense, but then one of the issues in the book is how old Jessie is when she chooses to make her decision. One of the better characters in the novel was Jessie's Aunt Mandy, a slightly disturbed older woman who has never had a child and is desperate to be a mother. Her situation was a much more sympathetic one, I felt, and more could have been made of it. Overall, though, an interesting and thought provoking read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing view of the near future, 28 Feb. 2014
By 
David H J Ashdown (Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Paperback)
Jessie Lamb is a 16 year old girl with a conscience living in the near future where an apparently man made virus , MDS , is infecting everyone and killing all women if they conceive by an aggressive neurological degeneration that only takes a few weeks and killing the foetus as well . The disease is similar to AIDS and CJD but much quicker acting , Jessie's solution to the crisis is both noble and self-sacrificing but as the book progresses you wonder if she's doing the right thing. Very tense writing makes this a thought provoking and dark read. Highly recommended
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The Testament of Jessie Lamb
The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (Paperback - 5 July 2012)
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