Monday, 29 December 2014

A wildly imaginative depiction of a nightmarish future

Title: MaddAddam

Author: Margaret Atwood

Tags: #theyearoftheflood #oryxandcrake

Discovered: Waterstones, Piccadilly

Where read: (In part) The Monocle Cafe, Marylebone  

The Word's Shortlist view:

"But hatred and viciousness are addictive. You can get high on them. Once you've had a little, you start shaking if you don't get more"

MaddAddam is the final part of a trilogy which began in 2013 with Oryx and Crake. The novel is set in a future dystopia in which warring groups fight to survive in the aftermath of a apocalyptic man-made plague where 'Crakers' have been bio-engineered to replace humans. Be warned, this is not an easy read but, as with all Atwood novels, the reader is rewarded with exceptional prose and vivid ideas - you just need to stick with it.

Like other Atwood works this is not simply science fiction, her future worlds are so plausible that the author herself describes the writing as 'speculative fiction'. The story weaves together contemporary themes including ecology, the environment and genetic engineering with a thorough injection of dark humour.

At its best this book is widely imaginative in its depiction of a nightmarish future which is more than a little thought provoking. 

The trouble with MaddAddam is that, at times, the narrative is over indulgent and concerned with telling a number of back stories that don't push the story on. Ardent fans will relish this but after over 10 years some of the detail here is over cooked. 

Amazing writing but commitment required! 

Click here for the official book trailer

Twitter: @wordsshortlist
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Sunday, 14 December 2014

... A heartwarming little novel about life, love and cat-flaps 

Title: The Guest Cat

Author: Takashi Hiraide

Tags: #japan #tokyo #cats

Discovered: The Riverside Bookshop, London Bridge

Where read: (In part) Southeastern high speed train to Canterbury  

Why read now?: Enjoy now and give as presents to your friends this Christmas

The Word's Shortlist view:

"Looking back on it now, I'd say one's thirties are a cruel age. At this point, I think of them as a time I whiled away unaware of the tide that can suddenly pull you out, beyond the shallows, into the sea of hardship, and even death."

This is one of those novels where brevity and simplicity conceal, at least initially, a depth and appeal beyond its 146 pages. Don't be fooled by the title, this is a novel (more specifically a novella) not so much about a cat but about a couple. 

The narrative follows a middle aged and emotionally distant couple working from a rented home in one of the outer suburbs of Tokyo. Into this routine way of life comes 'the guest cat' whom the couple name Chibi. The rhythm of the couples life changes pace irreversibly sending ripples through their destiny.

Hirade's style is succint, like much Japanese fiction, but never clipped. Passages in this novel capture what other authors would take a whole chapter to convey which is undoubtedly due to the author's skills as a poet.

Anyone whose ever been in a relationship will recognise aspects of the couple's lives at home and you don't have to be a pet lover to see, in Chibi, the universal desire to befriend and care for another being.

This is a heartwarming and unforgettable little story about life, love and cat-flaps. Having won Japan's Kiyama Shohei literary award the novel has been a New York Times Bestseller and is now a surprise hit in the UK.  

Note: What's makes a novel a novella? A novella occupies the set spot between a short story and a novel

Twitter: @wordsshortlist
Instagram: your_next_read

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The December shortlist....

The Crane Wife - Patrick Ness

The Guest Cat - Takashi Hiraide

Maddaddam - Margaret Atwood


Twitter: @wordsshortlist
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