The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts

The story begins when Charles travels to Antarctica with Roy Curtius in 1986 to search for signs of alien life. Roy is obsessed with Kant and his certainty that humans define the universe by what they can perceive through the limits of their senses and imaginations, rather than the thing-in-itself, the ding an sich, which exists outside of our ability to perceive it. He doesn’t have friends and therefore receives no letters.

Charles sells him one of his letters for £10 and Roy has an idea. Continue reading

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

I loved this book. Friday Black is a brilliantly provocative collection of stories that weave the worst of our present into a terrifyingly real near future, filled with characters we fear and worry over. The writing is sharp, precise but unfussy. There is definitely a George Saunders influence (I’m thinking some of my favourite stories like ‘The Semplica Girl Diaries’), but Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is very much himself. A Nigerian history of story runs within the tales twisting the visions of the future in new ways. Continue reading

99 Nights in Logar by by Jamil Jan Kochai

Set in 2005 on a family holiday home to Afghanistan, Marwand has come all the way from America to visit his family in Logar. Staying predominantly with his mother’s family because his father’s home and family were devastated during previous wars, Marwand is most looking forward to seeing the family dog. Since arriving in America, he has been taught that dogs should be trained with rewards and love and he carries with him guilt over torturing the dog when it was still a puppy.

The first thing he does is rush to the dog to make a amends, but Budabash is a fierce guard dog kept on a chain. Budabash eats off the tip of Marwand’s finger. Continue reading

Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates

Adriane Strohl, a seventeen-year-old high school student living in the near future in the North American States, a reconstituted United States including Canada and Mexico, expresses her curiosity about the world at the rehearsal of her graduation speech and is arrested for treason against the state and questioning authority.

Her punishment is to be exiled to a university in Zone 9. This turns out to be Wainscotia University in Wisconsin USA in 1959 where she is forbidden to offer any knowledge of the future or to enter into intimate relationships.

The idea of this transportation, of what it might be to exile someone to the past in the hope that their transgressive personalities might be changed through the loss of their family, friends and technology, makes Hazards of Time Travel a compelling idea. In reality, the book has a tendency to meander. It’s hard to grasp how the novel hangs together as its main character has a shifting awareness of her state. There is an experimental feel to the way the novel unfolds, at one point moving from the first person to an alternative group perspective. And whilst this experimental feel is true to the manipulative possibilities of science and governmental control, there is a part of me that longs for the novel to step outside of the confines of romantic obsession, or to form a greater cohesive narrative. In the end, I’m as unsure of what to feel or believe as Adriane and though this may be the point, it leaves a rather empty feeling on the palate of the mind. Continue reading