Sunday 19 September 2021

Book and AudioBook Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman, narrated by Adjoa Andoh

First of all probably the best narration ever by my favourite female narrator, Adjoa Andoh, it permits her full vent to her extensive range of voices and accents, English, American, Nigerian, Indian, young, old, northern, southern, Cockney etc. Just brilliant! She brings real texture, changes in speed, pitch, emotion and vocalisation to this work. 5* narration.

The book inverts the world. Bookended by the correspondence surrounding the draft of a book by a male author. The story in his book being the core, interspersed with factual pieces from history. It depicts a world where, apparently suddenly, all girls have the power to release electricity from their fingertips, and soon all women, but only women and post puberty girls. As with all speculative fiction you have to go with the premis and here it will take you on an incredible journey alongwith its princple characters - Allie, an abused American foster child who reivents herself as a faith leader building a commmunity away from men, Roxy, streetwise teenage daughter of a London gangster, Tunde a young Nigerian journalist who reports on this pehnomenon witnessing how it shifts the society's balance worldwide, and middle aged Margot, an on the rise American politican.

And it does change the world. From overturning regimes in Saudi Arabia, to freeing women from trafficking, but mainly it inverts everything as regards gender, just as Malorie Blackman's Noughts & Crosses up-ended race in her thought provoking look at prejudice, so Alderman up ends gender in an equally thought provoking manner.

In essence what this book is about is Power, what it is and how it is wielded. And as such it is not for the faint hearted - think of all the situations where power exists today from the writing of history, waging war, abuse of individuals, groups and peoples, exploitation etc, the power to cover up, the power to spread false news, the power to manipulate etc.

The book I felt started well, took a little bit of time to give us all the characers and start to bring them and itself together, and then it got The Power and thundered all fully charged. Some of the scences are horrific, but at the same time nothing that does not happen. This book does what all great speculative fiction should do, pose pretty soul searching, fundamental socio=political questions about the way we live and why. Up there with the best. The 1984 for 21st century.

Monday 6 September 2021

Book Review: The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

The Sunlight Pilgrims The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jenni Fagan's second novel and my second read of hers too, The Sunlight Pilgrims brings us an odd bunch of characters at a caravan park in northern Scotland in the leadup to and beginnings of the most extreme winter known. There's Dylan, a giant of a man, who has just lost mum and gran, and the arthouse cinema they lived in and ran in London. His mother has left him a caravan. He arrives ashes in luggage en route to send them off in the islands beyond. Stella, a determined transgender kid at a critical moment, already lives on site with her mum, a bit of a survivalist who upcycles discarded furniture and sells it on as shabby-chic. Barnacle, a hunchbacked old man who loves the skies is one of their neighbours. He has had lots of money and lostit, drunk it away and otherwise spent it all . These are marginal lives, rooted in realism but their story is written which poetic touches of mysticism. Fagan is herself a poet. The plot is relatively straightforward, somewhat slowly revealed, but the book holds the reader. As a second novel this clearly signed a future worth attention. I have her third and latest novel Luckenbooth on my to be read pile.

Thursday 2 September 2021

Book Review: Under the Blue by Oana Aristide

I came across this book when I caught a few minutes of an interview with the author at this years Edinburgh Book Fest . She had started this dystopian novel before the COVID pandemic and it was published near the start of it.

It consistes of two threads, which seem quite disconnected as one begins to read the novel even though you know they must be, and as you read you think or might assume you understand how.

One concerns an artist, living in London, who immersed in his own work doesn't register what is happening to the rest of the world as it succumbs to a fatal plague. Harry, his neighbour Ash and her sister Jessie end up as the apparent survivors and start to head out across Europe into Africa to try to escape the impending nuclear meltdown as they run out of emergency power to maintain their cooling systems. En route they pick up a car, an old, well maintained indulgence Mercedes, they nickname Lioness.

The other thread are past and present computerscript conversations over the years between Dr Lisa Dahlen and Talos XI , an AI and between Lisa and her coworker Paul who are Talos's constructors.

It is through the conversations and thoughts of the two threesomes that the two storylines unravel and finally merge. These are philosphical, about the value of Art, of AI and the idiosyncrasies of being human and hold the ethos of the book. I thought it was well constructed and an enjoyable, quick read.