You know, I was about to describe this book as an ‘epic work of science-fiction’, but thinking about it, I don’t think the term ‘epic’ really does it justice. Children of Time is breath-taking in scope and ambition, covering thousands of years and taking in the desperate flight of the last remnants of humanity to find a new home, and the birth and accelerated evolution of an entirely new species: from the mud, to the trees, and eventually to space travel.
Yes, it’s that big, that detailed, and yet it still manages to keep things moving at a cracking pace. The prose is sparsely poetic, managing to distill an awful lot of scientific detail into the story without overwhelming the reader (and I’m easily overwhelmed, and have a surprisingly short attention span when encyclopedias get in the way of a good novel).
If I was going to sum up this book then I’d say that it was gritty, surreal and lacked specifics. The characters remain unnamed, the setting: likewise unnamed, along with an unspecified location and no hint as to when it is set. Annihilation is the first in a trilogy detailing the events surrounding a region of coast that seems to have been taken over by an alien ecological force. The main character is a biologist who is a member of a exploration team sent into investigate the infected (if that’s the right word) region. As well as having to contend with strange creatures who may or may not be imaginary, alien doppelgangers and transformed humans, the team also has to deal with a member who may not be on their side … Continue reading “Book review: Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy – Book 1) by Jeff Vandermeer”
Some books I read for the excitement, some books I read for the clever plot twists; I’ve even been known to read some books just to study the punctuation. Alessandro Barrico’s works I tend to read just for the sheer pleasure of looking at the words. Ocean Sea is no exception. I think the stark way to describe it is a very long Italian poem translated into English (and it’s in the translation that many books like this fail in my view). If you go much deeper then Ocean Sea is a work of magical realism. It tells the story of some quite ordinary people who share desires and life experiences that drive them to this magical inn by the sea. Sometimes I need a bit of a firm grounding when I’m reading the book; I thought that I would have liked to have been a little more certain what this place actually was. But as I often find with Barrico’s books, it’s best to stop worrying about the intracies of the story and just let yourself get carried along by the prose and the subtle humour. I liked the idea, though I wasn’t sure there was enough there for a book of its length. It did tend to meander a lot through the characters lives, and so I think I was mostly lost in the use of language and phrasing than the story itself. There were some moments in the book that were quite moving; I was fascinated by the man writing love letters to a woman he was yet to meet, and the man who was researching the nature of endings. It really did go off the deep end in a few places and I found myself struggling to keep up; this is where the book lacked the smooth storytelling that the author/translator demonstrated in Silk (still my favourite book of all time). But as a study in the use of poetic prose, Ocean Sea is stunning.