I’ve been reading a lot recently and have fallen behind in writing reviews, so in order to help me catch up here is a round-up of most of the books I read in April & May. Enjoy.

The End Specialist by Drew Margary

The premise is that a cure for ageing has been found. Not a cure for death – you can still succumb to accident, disease or indeed murder, but assuming you retain our health and keep out of harms way you can live infinitely. John Farrell takes the cure when he is in his late twenties and the novel follows him through his extended life, including his time as an end specialist where he assist those who have taken the cure but basically had enough to take their own lives. There’s a lot more to this than just John’s story of course; there’s background on how the cure came to be and a pretty good summation of the likely impact on society – how will resources be allocated if people are still being born but very few are dying, as well as who actually gets access to the cure in the first place. There are of course various fanatics with extremist views and John has to face up to his life in the end. I enjoyed reading this and would recommend if you are in a dystopian frame of mind.

Adamtine by Hannah Berry

An unsettling horror story in graphic novel form, about a man who was involved in a range of disappearances by delivering notes to the victims, but who has always denied any further responsibility for what may have happened to them. Acquitted of being the killer, we find that he himself ends up being murdered and the book gives us hints about how this might have happened; the author has talked about wanting to show us how the consequences of minor actions can lead to major outcomes, in this case the death of a man. The book is dark in both tone and artwork, and the action takes place on a virtually empty last train of the night. It is creepy, unsettling and needs to be read more than once to really work out what’s going on; no answers are presented to the reader. it stuck with me for some time after I read it and I haven’t picked it up again so far, but I know I will.

Six Stories & Hydra by Matt Wesolowski

I picked up Hydra on the recommendation of I think another blogger, can’t remember, and enjoyed it too much that I immediately bought Six Stories, part of the same series, though they can easily be read as stand alone novels. Scott King is a podcaster focussing on true crime, where there is some doubt about the solution or where an answer has simply never been found. Both books have the same structure, where King allows those involved to talk about the case from their point of view. In Hydra this involves a young woman who massacred her family, in Six Stories it’s about the disappearance of a boy whose body is found some years later. I found both books to be really enjoyable; I listen to quite a few podcasts and the structure was so well presented that you could easily forget you were not reading a transcript of the real deal. I hope that he produces more in this vein.

The Elder Ice by David Hambling

I feel very guilty that I have had this book for ages and only just got around to reading it. The Elder Ice is set in 1920s London where our protagonist, an ex-boxer called Harry Stubbs, is tasked with investigating the late Ernest Shackleton and the treasure he may or may not have brought back from Antarctica. Enter the Cthulhu mythos. I have been a fan of Lovecraft since I was a youngster; I think I read the Shadow over Innsmouth when I was still in primary school (I was 11 and still have the paperback with its lurid cover) so when I realised that not only were we heading down that road but that we would be skirting around my absolute favourite stories, At the Mountains of Madness, I was absolutely sold. I really, really loved this book. Harry is a remarkable character and I thought he was fabulous and a strong central pinning for the story. Very nicely done, and I look forward to reading future volumes.

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

This isn’t for the faint-hearted and has a whole list of triggers as long as my arm. Female children are no longer naturally born, so they are genetically engineered and brought up in the School until they are sixteen and ready to be chosen by one of the elite young men of a similar age for whom they have been bred. The girls compete against each other in terms of looks and accomplishments and attractiveness, which  leads to all sorts of unfortunate behaviours and issues around body image. Frieda is our way into this world, and she has significant problems, especially with sleep, but has a close friend, Isabel, who seems to have a particular status which we don’t find out the details of until towards the end of the story. It’s teenage girls so there are petty squabbles and cliques all ramped up by the unnatural situation (to us) that they find themselves in, but it’s all that they know. It is bleak and in some places distressing and an extreme version of the pressures that girls and young women find themselves under at present. I’m an oldster, but I recognised a lot of the feelings, and was interested to see that the author said that when she looked back at her own teenage diaries she wasn’t sure that she had made the book sufficiently bleak. Stayed with me for a while. Deservedly a prizewinner.

 

 

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