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3.9 out of 5 stars
8
3.9 out of 5 stars


on 27 August 2014
Literary scifi (more properly, alt reality) with a mildly philosophical slant that, after a disconcerting* opening (first person, cross-gendered narrator - female, youngish, heart-crossed - adds vulnerability and somehow authenticity; since the author cannot be envisioning himself we discount the wish-fulfilment element), devolves into bog-standard thriller mode. A thriller with longueurs isn't good, however well it's written - and this one's as well written as could be; sadly that doesn't prevent it being hokum - but hey, it's a novel, right? Check your disbelief at the door. Classy production (VERY tasty typeface - Minion) courtesy of crowd-sourced publisher Unbound

What's the ball-park? Christopher Priest, M John Harrison, Austin Grossman's You? Which, coincidentally, I've just been finishing off and is similarly discombobulating**. As for the style, 'reclusive skin' (p99) did worry me - perhaps it was meant to? - but the mermaid who's lost her shell-encrusted mirror on the next page brings it all down to earth again and the 'blundered handshake' of page 113 is better, much. I jacked it at page 160. Now let's see Fernyhough write a 'proper' novel

* Actually this book is SO disconcerting that when I came to 'black data projector' I thought it was the data that were black, not the projector (though come to think of it, why mention the colour at all? aren't such gizmos always black?)

** 'You're about fourteen, and you're a girl.. [with] acne scars and a strong jaw [..] Evidently you have been crying' - this, three hundred plus pages into the narrative!)
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on 27 August 2013
Some intriguing ideas that make me want to read some of Fernyhough's own research... Initial worries about a futuristic 'campus novel' dim down as soon as we get into the industry-academia cold war, then the Jules Verne-like underground territory, or even the Riddley Walker-esque resonances of cultural history bouncing around (Northumberland? County Durham?). And the disquiet about what is real and what is 'virtual', mis-remembered or projected feels just right in a novel about how we make memories, and how they can be manipulated... (or is it)
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on 5 September 2013
I really enjoyed this. On one level, it was the intimate, personal story of a woman and her relationship with both herself, and the people around her, about love and the voices in her head as she tries to be happy and make sense of her life, just like any of us might do. However there's a building sense of something much bigger going on, which grows to the scale of a Hollywood conspiracy epic. She is caught at the centre of a complex story of academic neuroscientific research, and the corrupting power of global pharmaceutical companies, a thriller which begs questions like who owns science, our memories, the future even? I was sometimes reminded of films like 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes', 'Jurassic Park' and 'The Fugitive', as I read it, as it explores the ethical boundaries of scientific research and has a David and Goliath style struggle with a few individuals vs global capitalism. At the centre of this tale, a delicate, dangerous love story is teased out, teacher and student, two people both in search of the truth, both searching for themselves and a sense of meaning in their lives. Science can explain so much about the world, but can it tell us, or help us know who we are, or how to live and love? It's a book that asks many provocative questions and somewhere in this story the answers tantalise.
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on 9 March 2016
In a story so bound up with the scientific issues, I found the main character's vulnerability very appealing. I admire the way the author writes so convincingly as a young woman who, despite her academic ability, has many of the uncertainties about herself which are part of being human.

Charles Fernyhough's prose is beautifully shaped and his descriptions made me feel that I was there in the action with the characters. This novel would make a fascinating and exciting film. I love it - and look forward to the next novel from this highly talented writer.
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on 4 June 2013
A Box of Birds by Charles Fernyhough is a topical and original novel working for the reader on multiple levels.
A rare find, it combines a clever and intriguing plot, with beautifully written prose, leaving the reader eager to read on. Well chosen words paint a whole scene with broad brush strokes which allow the reader to "fill in the gaps" with their own imagination.
The book is atmospheric, with fantastic imagery lending itself to the visual impact and fast pace of the cinema screen.
The characters are complex, interesting and a little "off the wall" but are grounded by tender relationships in the world outside their neuroscience research "bubble".
A thought provoking concept, the novel explores the dilemmas involved in scientific advancement. With no background in the intricacies of the neuroscientific world, I still found this novel accessible. The reader is given an insight into the fascinating "near future" reality of science, technology and eco terrorism and the means by which bio tech organisations could strive for their own profit -driven gains.
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on 16 February 2015
Distopian near future. Urg. Slightly more advanced techniology than ours. Urg. Living in a place called "the Federation". Urg.

Pretty boring and long winded.
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on 25 July 2014
Good read but not nearly as much of the neuroscience that was identified as a focus of the story telling. Missed opportunity to get info across in an interesting way.
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on 2 August 2014
Good
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