Glitch by Lee Rourke

L-J is travelling back to England after 20 years in the States. The journey begins with a plane ride that is anything but routine. From the very start we are introduced to the idea of the glitch, the fault in the system, the fracture that reveals what is below the surface. Something happens to the plane, some kind of tear in business class that decompresses the aircraft and forces an emergency landing. 

L-J films it. L-J photographs the glitch on the screen when it’s display doesn’t work correctly. He has always loved those little fractures that have come, through long discussions with his mother, to represent not only what art should attempt to unveil – the imperfections that reveal different realities that lie beneath – but the essence of what it is to be human, to be alive. We are the glitches. Continue reading

Sealed by Naomi Booth

Everything I’ve read about Sealed doesn’t really do it justice. Though the story is horrifying and gory with a great deal of menace; though there is an interest in what it means to be a parent when facing difficult times; it is also more than a young parent’s ecological horror story. This is more than the usual gore of birth, toil, poverty and death. It’s about things turning on themselves, about judgements and decisions that come in the face of a world changed by our use of it. Not only a world changed, but our bodies changed.

Cutis, a skin disease where our largest organ grows more than it needs to, sealing over the important orifices like mouths, nostrils, ear canals and anuses, is spreading. Thin stretchy white tendrils seem to form overnight, suffocating, poisoning, deafening, maiming. A disease only the richest can afford to fix, a disease whose spread governments are keen to conceal, where ‘natural causes’ like heart-attack (from panic), or obstructed bowel etc. hide the spread of cutis, leaves Alice, a pregnant housing officer whose mother has recently died from cutis, obsessed by the reality of the disease. Though Alice and her partner Pete attempt to escape Alice’s fears of this disease by moving out into the country, way out to a remote mountain house near the forest, the sense of menace never leaves them and all Alice’s promises to put her obsession behind her are forgotten in the face of an epidemic that no one seems able to escape. Continue reading

Unmastered by Katherine Angel

I loved this book. At first, I was taken aback by all the space; there is an aphoristic feel to the style, to the layout and there are many quotations from Susan Sontag and Virginia Woolf in particular. Was I reading a compilation of other people’s thoughts? Sometimes the simple clarity of the prose knocked me off guard. What was I reading? What would this book give me? 

Then, as I read on, I found myself delighting in the space, embracing all that room for contemplation that the book gave to these simple, difficult words about female desire. I say difficult because, as the book explores, discussing female desire is fraught with conditioned expectations, dichotomies of interpretation, a fear of how it will be interpreted and a culture that prefers women to stay silent about their desire. A woman full of desire, a woman hungry for sexual experience or to be in charge of her sexual experience, a woman who refuses to be good, to be compliant, is threatening. It is far easier to stay silent.

This hunger, this desire to consume and explore, to gorge on pleasure, to take centre stage, is at the heart of a feminism that is all about owning every part of a woman, even the desires that play with misogyny, that sit at the painful edge of a cultural shift away from patriarchy that we are still very much in the middle of.

Unmastered is a totally engrossing read. I know I will go back and back to it. I’ve turned down so many pages the book now has that fan quality, its edges ready to be unfurled, ready to fuel my own thoughts.

Go Katherine Angel! Thanks to Heidi James for suggesting this. What a great read. I’ll be reading and reviewing Sealed by Naomi Booth next.

What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah

What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky is a beautiful, diverse collection of stories. There is no one genre and yet all the stories have a definite voice that make it clear they belong together and to Arimah. This is impressive in a short story collection, to have such different stories feel as if they speak from the same place, a place that feels like a longing for home, love and freedom of expression. Lesley Nneka Arimah is a true and mesmerising storyteller.  Continue reading

The Wayward Girls by Amanda Mason

Told across two timelines: one in 1976 when Loo and Bee were children living on a farm in Derbyshire with their three other siblings and their father, Joe, and mother, Cathy; the other in the present when Lucy (Loo) is the only child living close enough to visit Cathy, who suffers from dementia and lives in a care home. What connects the two is the farm house they lived in and a paranormal investigation that began when a police officer was called to the house by Cathy back in 1976. After days of knocking on the walls and slammed doors, a hail of marbles was pelted down on the two older girls and with Joe away working, Cathy was scared. All these years later, a new investigation is beginning and Cathy has been contacted by the new team of researchers looking for evidence up at the farm.  Continue reading

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Rosewater is not only the winner of the inaugural Nommo Award for Best Novel (Africa’s first award for speculative fiction), but also the winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2019, shortlisted for the Kitschie Award for Best Novel 2019 and finalist in the John W. Campbells Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. With all of these accolades you open Rosewater filled with expectations and the novel, the first in the Wormwood trilogy, does not disappoint. I was gripped right from the start.

Centred around Kaaro, a government agent and sensitive – meaning he can read people’s minds using the xensophere, an interconnected series of spores that live in the air and link everything and everyone together. His day job is in bank security, stopping other sensitives from accessing important data that might allow them to steal from the bank. His government work is more complicated, more dangerous and centred around the biodome.  Continue reading

Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy

It’s the summer of 1976 in England. The hottest summer on record. Nif’s little sister, Petra drowned in the bath four months ago and the family take off to a small village on the Welsh border to escape the grief that seems to be sucking the life from their family.

Nif is sixteen and no stranger to looking after Petra’s twin, her little brother Lorry. His speech is slow and he’s just come out of nappies even though he’s four years old. When he falls over on the gravel path outside the cottage in Wales, Nif rubs gravel into his other knee – it’s the Creed, the Creed that makes her do it. Things need to be balanced out. Continue reading

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

I raced through The Grace Year. Think of all the speculative fiction you’ve read about how men control women, particularly in religious communities – Vox, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Farm, The Power – and you’ll understand where The Grace Year is coming from, though it feels a bit like The Hunger Games has had an influence too. If you like this kind of book, you won’t be able to resist The Grace Year.

Tierney is approaching her sixteenth year and is therefore next in her family to be sent away for her grace year. Her community believes that a girl on the cusp of womanhood is filled with magic, the evil witchcraft used by Eve to deceive Adam and curse the human race, and must be banished for a year to release their wayward, dangerous powers into the wilderness before they return.  Continue reading

Our life in the Forest by Marie Darrieussecq

Ok, I admit it, I’m obsessed with Marie Darrieussecq. Hers is the kind of fiction I long for us to write more of and value more highly in England. Regardless of the subject, she is always striving to uncover and express quite what it means to live and breathe as a human. In this novel, she goes further and asks how the surge in population sits not only with human nature but with the planet. Are we able to be social beings on such a grand scale? If we lose touch with the fundamentals of our bestial nature, what do we become? She is also interested in the physical act of writing – how the body is part of the conveyance of narrative – and the primal nature of our desire to record stories in ways that don’t require mass production or electricity i.e. the written word, those early handprints on rock.

In Our Life in the Forest, Marie Darrieusecq contemplates a future in which cloning is used to provide spare organs and body parts for the rich. What does this mean for the clones? Do they have rights? Are they unique individuals despite their genetic replication? Continue reading