on 19 November 2013
After reading his other books, I finally got round to reading Luke Smitherd's fantastic debut novel.
A genuinely original take on the afterlife, Physics of the Dead slowly builds a picture of a true purgatory. Stuck between life and death, unable to interact with a world so limited it is verging on claustrophobic. Yet there exists a cruel glimmer of hope that escape is possible, however where hope exists so does despair. The two main protagonists, the well realised Bowler and Hart, are thrust into a world almost crushingly mundane; and therein lies the beauty of this novel.
Rather than being action from the off, Smitherd puts his efforts into developing the characters and the environment they inhibit. This pays off in a big way as it allows the plot to develop almost in the background; Slowly. Almost sneaking-in the darker elements. I don't want to put any spoilers in so won't divulge too much more. Needless to say I was totally absorbed (and spooked-out) by the time the book reached its amazing conclusion... what an ending! Can't recommend this enough.
on 23 December 2013
Having read much of Luke Smitherd's writing, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to understand why no major publisher has picked up on his work. OK. A few corrections are required in the text and layout. This is probably most notable in "The Physics of the Dead," but surely, any editor worth his salt could sort that out. A soaring imagination coupled with an often breathtaking insight into the human condition bear comparison with anything I've read by published authors. i e. The description of the hurt caused by the marraige breakdown in this book is heartbreaking and truly the best I ever read.
Stick with the first person narrative Luke!
Like many of my friends, I own a Kindle, but also buy paperbacks. I know damn well how much easier it is to find a book you like that way! I can only hope we see his name on the bookshelves SOON!
on 27 March 2012
An excellent debut novel, I found this very hard to put down.
As far as theories about the afterlife go, this one is as good as any (there's only one way we're going to find out for sure!). If I had to choose between sitting on a cloud playing a harp for evermore, or being trapped in the centre of Coventry, desperately looking for a way out whilst trying not to lose my mind, I actually think I might choose the latter!
Speaking as a Midlander, I found it very refreshing to have a book set in a place like Coventry, rather than the more picturesque (sorry Coventry!) settings often chosen by authors.
Obviously the book was about so much more than just trying to stay sane and find a way out, but the afterlife idea provided an intriguing background to the more important subjects raised by the book. You'll just have to read it for yourself and find out what they are.
I don't like reviews that go into too much detail or give away too much of the plot, so I will just say that both the story and the characters are very well thought out, and the book is written in such a way that it keeps you desperate to know how, or even if, any of the dead protagonists are going to find what they are looking for.
My one criticism of this book is the huge number of typos, errors in grammar and punctuation, missing words, and duplications of text. Either the author wrote this book in a tearing hurry and didn't get it proof-read, or it has been very badly transcribed for Kindle. I found these errors very irritating, but fortunately the story itself carried me through to the (very satisfying) end.
I particularly enjoyed the author's postscript to his novel. Beside being very amusing, I found it very interesting and informative to find out exactly how someone goes about writing a book. This novel does not appear to have had the most structured or formal of 'births', but I think it is all the more impressive because of that, and it gives hope to all those of us who have ever toyed with the idea of writing a novel.
I am looking forward immensely to reading Luke Smitherd's next book.
on 7 August 2013
I read this a couple of months ago, and have since read more by this author. It is weird, imaginative and very compelling. I didn't always find it easy and was left with an uneasy feeling much of the time. Through alot of it I felt quite uncomfortable in the same way as when I read Iain Banks' "The Wasp factory", but equally rivetted. This writer is different to that in so many ways, and on so many levels, but I am equally entranced. Buy it. Read it!
on 18 February 2016
Another great and weird journey through the mind and imagination of Luke Smitherd. He's one of those authors who really just cannot be pigeon-holed; this book alone is impossible to classify in any category, but is a fascinating and haunting read. Okay, lousy pun, but still; good book. And it is the sort of book that'll stay with you for a while after you read it. Smitherd has a great voice and a talent for creating characters that are well-rounded, human, and the farthest thing from cardboard. Then he puts them into situations that are really, seriously new and different. And scary, but he's not a "horror" writer. He's about as hard to classify as Ray Bradbury, who's been called a science fiction author forever, but he's really not; he's completely in his own class.*
So Smitherd, like everyone else in the world or in history, is not up to Bradbury's level but is still a very good writer in his own right, and I absolutely love his attitude --he says in his afterword that he considers anyone who pronounces himself 'a writer' is "a complete tit." He seems like a writer to me, but isn't a complete tit. He's a guy who writes well, and writes really, really different stories that stick in your mind ---and bend it, too.
*And I'm not actually saying Smitherd, as good as I think he is, is in the same class as Bradbury (sorry, Luke). I've considered Bradbury a god for decades and am very unlikely to add anyone to his firmament, at least not readily. I actually saw him in person twice, and that only made me an even more fanatical disciple; Bradbury had...innocence, fire, & enthusiasm even when he was in his 80s that came across in his person even more than in his writing that was unique in my experience. And I've gotten sidetracked.
on 29 March 2016
Every so often an author comes along who has the gift of original thought. I don't mean the kind of author that comes up with a single great idea and then proceeds to develop it across a number of books. I mean one that can produce an excellent and original book and then come up with something equally good in a "And now for something completely different" kind of way. There's no formula for what Smitherd does, just quality ideas put into quality writing.
This book is a case in point. The characters are the story, so much so that the plot almost creeps up on both them and the reader, at first unnoticed. The quality of this book is underlined by the fact that it's hard to describe, it's a story of desperation, friendship, characters, discovery and so much more.
Smitherd does a very decent job of narration. Normally I'd say having the author do the narration is not the greatest idea. Authors write but narration requires a reader's mind. However, he seems to strike a tone that simply fits. How irritating it must to be for his friends to know someone who seems to be so good at everything!
I'm not going to include spoilers because this is original, it is compelling and it will take you to unexpected places. In all honesty it's not my usual kind of book and I can imagine that not everyone will take to it in the same way. However, it's one that I'd urge everyone to read because it is so very different to much of what is out there.
on 15 March 2016
Luke Smitherd has very quickly become one of my favourite authors... His stories are so imaginative, thought provoking and very entertaining that he is already right up there with the likes of Stephen King as far as I am concerned... it's only a matter of time before he becomes a household name... If you're reading this Luke... stop and get writing more stories!!! I have this book on kindle and also as an audio book ( in which Luke also excels in the role of a clear spoken narrator ) but I found audible is a bit limiting for me as I cannot just play it on my mp3 player or on cd in my car... dratted DRM and all that! So it meant listening to it on my pc. The story moves about in time frames, before & after, and is a slow builder that bit by bit paints a somewhat dire and claustrophobic lifestyle of the two main characters... 2 souls ( Hart & Bowler ) who are seemingly trapped within a confined area that they cannot leave and within this area are dangers and challenges that they must face. The story is a heady mix of mystery, thriller, comedy pathos, humour and British style twilight zone, and being British it also has a good number of references that poke my memories. The story has a wonderfully written ending, so no spoilers... to conclude... Just read it, it's different, it's a really a good story, well worth buying and then go get all his other books because Luke's got an amazing writing talent.
on 21 April 2015
My measure of a great story is how many vivid memories I have of it after 2 or 3 months - I have several moments in the book which still remain with me. Some of them are scenes of raw emotion, others of scenery etc. The story and setting are very original and unique which, by nature, will stick with you. It's not about heroics, conquering good over evil or even generic life dramas - it's a fantasy scenario written with realistic English characters.
It's not as easy to read as Luke's other novels which follow a more conventional format - e.g. character introduction, background to the setting then slowly easing you into the sci-fi/weird stuff. This book dives right in introducing lots of new concepts (i.e. the actual physics of the dead) that you frown through the first few parts, struggling as your mind tries to grasp what all of it means, how it works and understanding the odd personalities of the two main characters.
The midway point is where this really takes off. When you've grasped the characters, understood the "physics" and have an idea of the underlying plot and objective...that's when it turns into a classic Luke book - unputdownable.
on 3 June 2016
I have listened to every Luke Smitherd audiobook there is...while they all deserve a 5.0 if I have to choose between 4 and 5, I wish Amazon had a 10-point scale, because maybe some would get a 4.9 :). Physics of the Dead was not my fave Smitherd, but it was still SUPER AWESOME (so if it's your first Smitherd, they only get better). I started with The Stone Man (5.0) and my second was the 4-part Black Room Series (5.0), which became one of my all time favorite books of all time (I consider it one book)...and so on. I don't read "sci-fi" really. It's a shame his novels & amazing short-stories seem to get pigeonholed into that category. I DO love magical realism. That's how I think of them.
Finally Amazon made his work available on their "master site", but I think some short story groupings are missing. LUKE, if you're reading this -- I don't know who's crunching the #s, but Americans are lazy (I can say so, I'm American) and we don't like to pay for individual short stories (even if you got Colin Firth to narrate)... If you have the say so, give 'em as much awesome as possible in a bundle. It will pay off in the long run!
on 12 December 2013
Goodness. I love this book. I recently found I was a Smithereen after finishing 'The Physics of the Dead' and realising that I want to read everything that Luke puts out.
TPOTD is extremely well written and hooks you in right from the start. The characters (although dead) are compelling and believable. The world described although small in scope is rich in detail and ably constructed by Mr Smitherd.
I hope one day to visit a certain pub and see my new favourite author typing by the window.