Author of the Month – Milan Kundera
“Kundera is the saddest, funniest, and most lovable of authors” -The Times
For someone who lived through political turmoil and exile from his home country, Milan Kundera is admirably fixated on the importance of humor in life. In fact, his first book— aptly titled The Joke— was entirely based around the dangers of living in a humorless world. Following the release of The Joke, Kundera became a prominent leader in the reform movement that led to the Prague Spring in the Czech Republic, his birthplace.
However, soon after this period of literary freedom came his exile as a result of communism— Kundera’s books were removed from bookshelves across the country and he was no longer allowed to publish his work in the Czech Republic. He was forced by circumstance to leave the country to go live and work in France, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1981 while working at a university in Paris.
His next books were published in the United States, and soon came his most famous novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. This book is an exploration of existential problems everybody faces at one point or another— questions of love, death, life after death, and more.
Along with his works of fiction, Kundera also dabbled in nonfiction writing. One such book, The Art of the Novel, explains to readers how he perceives the European novel, with one line calling it “an art born of the laughter of God.”
His most recent novel, The Festival Of Insignificance, published in 2013, gives us his first book in 13 years. Kundera, an author who prefers to remain apolitical in the public eye and claims to not be a political writer, is still regarded as such by many. But reading The Festival Of Insignificance is reading the work of a writer born of political turmoil without the usual backdrop of political turmoil.
Book of the Month – The Book Of Joan
Lidia Yuknavitch gives us a glimpse into a future that could very well be ours in her post-environmental catastrophe sci-fi novel, The Book of Joan.
The Book of Joan is a reimagining of the medieval story of Joan of Arc that takes place in the not-so-distant future— 2049. The environment has been damaged beyond repair, and the world enters a state of chaos and war resulting from limited resources. Amongst all of this exists Joan of Dirt, who as a child discovers she has special powers connected to the earth.
Warfare reaches such intensity on Earth that children are being used as soldiers in battle. Joan comes to a realization: the future will be nothing but endless war. Unable to live with this, she uses her powers to make the earth uninhabitable for human life. But somehow, she survives and lives in hiding underground on Earth, and becomes a symbol of rebellion amongst what’s left of humankind.
Members of Earth’s former ruling classes escape Earth to inhabit a suborbital complex called CIEL, ruled by a former self-help guru turned celebrity, Jean de Men. The lack of natural elements in this environment causes their bodies to evolve in unexpected ways— they lose their hair, skin loses its pigment, and their genitals evolve into nothingness, leaving them essentially genderless. But somehow, Joan’s body doesn’t change, adding an additional dimension to the book.
Amongst CIEL’s numbers is Christine Pizan, a clever reimagining of medieval feminist poet Christine de Pizan who wrote the only popular piece of work about Joan of Arc in her lifetime. In an act of artistic defiance against Jean de Men’s police-state, this version of Pizan feels a compulsion to burn the story of Joan into her skin with an art called skin grafting, one of the few ways of expression left on CIEL. Her story is connected to Joan’s, as we will eventually realizes.
Exploring feminist and environmentalist themes, the Book of Joan bears relevance to the world we live in today. Celebrities-turned-politicians, climate change, and the female body are all touched upon filling the reader with fearful apprehension for the future. It demands we take responsibility for the way we treat nature and its bountiful gifts in a way that stays with you beyond the book. It leaves you profoundly worried where the human race will end up if we don’t take a good hard look at the way we live— and soon.
If you’re looking for a good mix of classic and contemporary science fiction to help take advantage of our All Hallow’s Read discount, look no further. These five books are an excellent starting point down the wormhole of some excellent sci-fi.
Foundation (Foundation #1) – Isaac Asimov
For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future — to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire — both scientists and scholars — and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for a future generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.
But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind’s last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and be overrun — or fight them and be destroyed.
American War – Omar El Akkad
Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war – part of the Miraculous Generation – now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past, his family’s role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.
The Machine – James Smythe
Beth lives alone on a desolate housing estate near the sea. She came here to rebuild her life following her husband’s return from the war. His memories haunted him but a machine promised salvation. It could record memories, preserving a life that existed before the nightmares.
Now the machines are gone. The government declared them too controversial, the side-effects too harmful. But within Beth’s flat is an ever-whirring black box. She knows that memories can be put back, that she can rebuild her husband piece by piece.
Monday Starts on Saturday – Arkadi Strugatski, Boris Strugatski
Sasha, a young computer programmer from Leningrad, is driving north to meet some friends for a nature vacation. He picks up a couple of hitchhikers, who persuade him to take a job at the National Institute for the Technology of Witchcraft and Thaumaturgy.The adventures Sasha has in the largely dysfunctional institute involve all sorts of magical beings–a wish-granting fish, a tree mermaid, a cat who can remember only the beginnings of stories, a dream-interpreting sofa, a motorcycle that can zoom into the imagined future, a lazy dog-sized mosquito–along with a variety of wizards (including Merlin), vampires, and officers.First published in Russia in 1965, Monday Starts on Saturday has become the most popular Strugatsky novel in their homeland. Like the works of Gogol and Kafka, it tackles the nature of institutions–here focusing on one devoted to discovering and perfecting human happiness. By turns wildly imaginative, hilarious, and disturbing, Monday Starts on Saturday is a comic masterpiece by two of the world’s greatest science-fiction writers.
Kindred – Octavia Butler
The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.
Itching to take part in our All Hallow’s Read sale but overwhelmed by the sheer number of books you could buy? Don’t worry! We have you covered on our top books to pick up if you’re looking for something spooky to read when the midnight hour is close at hand!
The Strain – Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.
In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing.
So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city – a city that includes his wife and son – before it is too late.
The Boy on the Bridge – M.R. Carey
From the author of USA Today bestseller The Girl With All the Gifts, a terrifying new novel set in the same post-apocalyptic world.
Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.
The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.
To where the monsters lived.
House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.
Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.
The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.
Salem’s Lot – Stephen King
Author Ben Mears returns to ‘Salem’s Lot to write a book about a house that has haunted him since childhood only to find his isolated hometown infested with vampires. While the vampires claim more victims, Mears convinces a small group of believers to combat the undead.
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories – H.P. Lovecraft
Collecting uniquely uncanny tales from the master of American horror, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories is edited with an introduction and notes by S.T. Joshi in Penguin Modern Classics.Credited with inventing the modern horror tradition, H.P. Lovecraft remade the genre in the early twentieth century. Discarding ghosts and witches, and instead envisaging mankind at the mercy of a chaotic and malevolent universe, Lovecraft’s unique works would prove to be a huge influence on modern horror writers such as Stephen King. This selection of short stories ranges from early tales of nightmares and insanity such as ‘The Outsider’ and ‘The Rats in the Walls’ through the grotesquely comic ‘Herbert West – Reanimator’ and ‘The Hound’, to the extraterrestrial terror of ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, which fuses traditional supernaturalism with science fiction. Including the definitive corrected texts, this collection reveals the development of Lovecraft’s mesmerising narrative style and establishes him as a hugely influential – and visionary – American writer.
Several months ago when hosting a moderately successful open mic on Masculinity, I was struck by the number of young men who wished to contribute but feared ridicule. One pointedly referred to the event as a ‘trap’, obliquely accusing me of coxing out male vulnerability for spectacle. So pervasive is this crisis of masculinity, that Grayson Perry the author of The Descent of Man exasperatedly reassures his male readers that “no one dies of embarrassment”.
I can quote Margaret Atwood till I’m blue in the face but the stubborn resistance of masculinity has tuned out most women reducing their legitimate concerns to white noise.
Grayson Perry, an artist and once overtly masculine man with a penchant for cross dressing, takes on the burden of educating his fellow men on ingrained patriarchy. In the first third of the book he takes the masculine ideal of “the Default Man”, white, middle-upper-class heterosexual man, and demonstrates its irrelevance to the majority of its gender, and why it is unwilling to forgo the advantages it has violently wrestled from others.
Grayson, puts together a helpful primer on gender. Alluding to how male privilege being largely unchallenged in the modern era has paved the way for the election of Trump, the perfect embodiment of the illogical assumptions of toxic masculinity.
Since men appear reluctant to forgo their dominion, Grayson appeals to the inevitable existential crisis if men continue to cling to outdated gender roles, whilst forward thinking women adapt and learn new skills developing male traits if necessary. The Descent of Man is almost guaranteed with automation in the fields of finance, engineering, medicine, law and accounting, with men only dominating in computing and janitorial services.
The toll of masculinity on men makes up the core of the book. Its vice-like hold on emotional intelligence, stunting men into believing in a pecking order dominated by “alpha men” and their emblems of success. Despondency at failing to achieving masculine ideals is endemic, and the absence of emotionally outlets provide fertile ground for violent movements ranging from white supremacy to ISIS. What does one say in the face of statistics that prove suicide is the lead killer of men under 45? He honestly navigates the assumption that a feminised man is a sexual turn off, removing another stumbling block for the progressive man.
Grayson has higher aspirations for men he wants for us to stop seeing them as cardboard brittle, inflexible and unable to change. As he says “ they pretty much have the same brains as women”.
The Descent of Man is an accessible must read for men everywhere and will go some way in eliciting empathy for those caught in the unforgiving and unreasonable expectation of masculinity.
Since I’ve always championed the merits of reading comic books and graphic novels, I was ecstatic to see some choice additions in our new stock. I devoured, in quick succession, Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie based on David Bowie’s early life, and Neil Gaiman’s Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire. After briefly surfacing to join the world, I dove back into three more graphic novels and revisited one from before. The result? I had no idea which one of them to choose for an in-depth review as I had greatly enjoyed them all.
Upon closer inspection, however, I noticed a similarity: they all focused on growth through journeys. Visually, most featured simplistic drawing styles (although Robert Hunter’s Map of Days has some mind boggling compositions in it) and limited colour palettes.
Isabel Greenberg’s debut The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, put her on the map in 2013, along with her love of stories and the art of storytelling itself. In it we follow a storyteller separated from the woman he loves due to an uncanny phenomena. He is from the North Pole and she from the South, but the effects of the magnetic field cause them to repel each other instead of being in each other’s arms as they crave. The solution they settle on is to simply spend their lives with each other with the distance between them acting as a part of their day-to-day life. To while away the time they tell each other stories. The novel begins with her asking the storyteller to tell her how he came to her, one she has heard many times but has not yet grown tired of. It’s easy to see why. The storyteller launches into his tale and we are treated to one of the best life histories ever written. He travels the world encountering distant lands and strange creatures like ogres and warrior nations like the Hals and Dags that inhabit Early Earth. Along the way he experiences divine intervention (both helpful and hindering) from the god Birdman, and his children Kid and Kiddo.
The three gods make a return in Greenberg’s second graphic novel, The One Hundred Nights of Hero, joining a new cast featuring Cherry and her lover Hero. When Cherry’s diabolical husband makes a twisted wager with his friend Manfred over whether he can seduce Cherry in the time he is away, the two women must band together to save Cherry and keep their relationship a secret. Hero decides to tell Manfred (and later the guards and anyone in the vicinity of the castle are added) a story every night to stall the seduction. In the tradition of The Arabian Nights, Hero keeps Manfred (and us) enthralled with her interwoven stories that eventually put both women in danger and save them as well. While both graphic novels take place in the same universe, The One Hundred Nights of Hero is a standalone story and is actually the one I read first.
Both books show off Greenberg’s superior storytelling ability and her love of the medium as well. Sporting primarily black and white pages, there are well-placed splashes of colour that accentuate the dramatic moments of the story and help make her pages beautiful and expressive. Both are odes to storytelling, containing multiple stories within a frame tale, all of them gripping and highly imaginative. In her simplistic drawings Greenberg manages to convey great amounts of emotion and just as importantly, moments of quiet and contemplation, allowing the reader to absorb the events in each panel fully.
Where Greenberg’s books have small pops of colour, Robert Hunter’s Map of Days is a technicolour explosion on each page, as his complicated compositions take on a creation myth of his own making. Gone is the god with the head of a bird and his children, instead we have nine celestial siblings who each create a corner of the universe and retire. The ninth sibling is responsible for creating Earth and becomes obsessed with the Sun. Later an unnamed narrator discovers a way to the being through the grandfather clock in his grandfather’s house and he soon must navigate his way around the being as the first living creature the sibling has seen in years.
Map of Days is a visual masterpiece; Hunter’s illustrations are lush and ethereal. His characters don’t show much emotion and there are no speech bubbles. Instead blocks of text dot the pages that are more image-centric. The end result is a dream-like narrative which the narrator relates to us from a point in the future. The images are motionless compared to Greenberg’s where there is constant movement from wind, water and falling leaves on almost every page. Map of Days allows for slower reading as we are forced to observe each panel on the page which shows a small change in the characters’ actions. The lack of in-panel dialogue also distances us from the events, reinforcing the distance the narrator has from this story as well. Many small grids and rectangular panels make up the neatly structured, orderly pages making for an immensely beautiful, contemplative story that is more than just fantasy.
Luke Healy’s How to Survive in the North was the last one I read and ended up being a strange combination of the previous two. The snow and ice (which naturally features in a fictional narrative of real life Arctic expeditions) is reminiscent of the icy landscapes in Greenberg’s work, and the limited four colour palette imbues each page with the richness of Hunter’s work. However while Hunter’s colours make for a warm, almost suffocating atmosphere on each page of dense flora and fauna, Healy’s use of colour helps bring the remote iciness of the Arctic into sharp relief.
Based on the diaries of Ada Blackjack and Robert Bartlett, Healy’s work traces their expeditions up north. Clean lines, not unlike Hergé’s for Tintin, dominate his pages, while his characters have minimal design. Healy’s characters are up against formidable odds in this story, facing shipwreck and polar bears in the middle of nowhere. Bartlett and Blackjack’s stories are being read by a fictional professor in the future who spends his sudden sabbatical in the university library researching their records. Healy sympathetically renders his characters and how they deal with their situations- even if their circumstances are self-inflicted- allowing for a fascinating recounting of historical events and the hardships one has to endure when undertaking such journeys.
Read together, these four graphic novels have taken me to strange worlds and back, giving me a greater appreciation for this genre and all its potential. Read separately, I’m sure they’ll delight any fan of visual narratives and wonderful storytelling.
Even if you don’t follow the news, stories of white police officers shooting African-Americans will most likely have made it to your Facebook newsfeed a number of times. Watching those harrowing videos and hearing about how officers are often let off with almost no repercussions, I was made aware of how I was unable to fully empathize with the struggles of the black community in the US, just like others might not understand how demeaning racial profiling at airports is. Thus even though my heart went out to those affected by the systemic biases of America, it was never truly put into perspective for me until I read The Hate U Give.
At its heart, the book is about the identity markers that unfairly disadvantage people based on characteristics they do not have any control over, the focus being on race. In her debut novel Angie Thomas explores the experiences and encounters of young black teens with law enforcement agencies and the way they deal with racially inspired fear, insecurity and suspicion.
When Starr was young, she was instructed by her father on how black people behave when stopped by the police. Four years later when she and her best friend Khalil are stopped by the police on their way back from a high school party in their ghetto, she remembers the significance of that lecture. No sudden movements, hands visible in the air, complete submission, an utterly depressing set of instructions because it presupposes that black people are always guilty until proven innocent. The helplessness Thomas portrayed reminded me of the times when Pakistanis and other brown-skinned folk get “randomly” searched and interrogated while crossing international borders, or the look of suspicion we might receive if our beards get slightly longer and too “Muslim-looking”.
What happens next is the crux of the book where Thomas depicts the shooting in a manner that highlights not only the horror of being on the opposite end of a bullet, but also delves into what an individual must go through when innocent life is taken away from them simply because the color of their skin is associated with criminality and is erroneously deemed dangerous. The story follows Starr coping with the loss of Khalil as she is exposed as the only eye witness of the incident. Her father had told her how evil the police can be and she is scared of coming out however she is repulsed by the media depicting Khalil as a stereotypical black drug dealer and gang member and later decides that silence will only grant the oppressors a free reign to continue oppressing her community.
Starr exists in two strikingly different worlds: her ghetto community and the upper class white majority school where she studies. As she navigates the two we experience how each community perceives the other; the subtle prejudices and misunderstandings as well as the desire to understand and find commonalities. The Hate U Give explores identities, the differences that at times dominate our relations with others, and what it means to belong to a community. In a world marked by politics of hatred and hysteria, with far right movements in Europe demanding to expel all immigrants, and the racial profiling of brown people all across the globe, The Hate U Give attempts to make us empathize with stories of suffering that are not necessarily confined within our territories. It is not just the story of Khalil and Starr, but of Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Micheal Brown, Trayvon Martin and thousands of other young black teens who are the victims of police brutality. Starr and her community’s interaction with the police humanizes America’s race issues and her journey from the point of Khalil’s death to when she raises her voice against the atrocity resonates closely with what we see of the Black Lives Matter movement and underscore this book’s importance and necessity in today’s day and age by helping us empathize with each other in more concrete ways.
As a child when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my standard answer, though irrational, was that I wished to be a cat. There was something so majestic and regal about them that if there had existed a way to become one I would not be human now. They say that one should write the book one has always wanted to read. With her bestselling novel, The Wildings, Nilanjana Roy has done my job for me. This extraordinary book has the power to suspend reality and draw the reader into a world that is both similar to their own, and yet wonderfully different.
Roy’s simple yet compelling prose takes the reader into Old Delhi where the smells and sounds of the city come alive before our very eyes. Soon we are transported to the little old Sufi shrine where much of the story takes place. While most know India as a country flooded by people, this is not the India of Roy’s creation. To her the city belongs to the animals of the region— the birds, mice, dogs and most importantly, the cats of Old Delhi.
The book follows the adventures of the dargah cats who spend their days hunting for food and basking in the sun. But something sinister is looming on the horizon, threatening to tear their world apart, and only one cat has the power to save them— a little house kitten who has never stepped foot out of the apartment she lives in.
The Wildings is a story about the battle between good and evil. But more importantly, it’s about the nature of evil— the feral cats of the abandoned house skirting the territory may be the antagonists of the book, but Roy explains their development to the reader, making sure that we understand how evil is created. Nothing in this world is unconnected and when nature is thwarted there will be consequences for all, even those remotely involved. This is exactly what happens when the feral cats step out into the world for the first time, much to the chagrin of the animals of Old Delhi and the delight of the reader.
While promising to thrill readers of all ages, this book is perfect for young readers aged 12 and above. Not only does The Wildings provide readers with an adventure story like no other, nesting in the narrative are important truths about life in general. Whether explaining the importance of not caging nature, or focusing on the interconnectedness of all animals, even predator and prey, this is not merely a book about cats— it’s about human nature as well.
Somewhere between my childhood and the present day, I lost my desire to become a cat when I grew up, mainly because it isn’t the most feasible career choice. However, Nilanjana Roy has helped me realize my ambitions in the space of a few 300 pages, for which I am grateful and I can’t wait to continue the story in The Hundred Names of Darkness.
A despotic flying bear ruling over the decrepit remains of a city. A shape-shifting creature of unknown origin that can have multiple eyes; flatten itself along walls and picks up ideas and language like a toddler growing up in a hyper fast time lapse. Added to the mix is a scavenger named Rachel who ventures out into the city to bring back scraps of food and biotech to her lover and survival partner Wick to create material that can help fortify and hide their home, the Balcony Cliffs, from all around them. Their enemies include the flying bear Mord, the forces of the mysterious Magician who controls parts of the city, and other scavengers. To say that the city is unforgiving and difficult to live in would be an understatement. Rachel and Wick live in a constant state of alert and with good reason; one wrong move and any one of their enemies could attack.
Mord is the creation of The Company, a sprawling business that created new species and creatures out of biotech and released them into the city to see how they would fare. Mord was The Company’s biggest project, and its biggest failure. As it lost control over the giant bear after granting it the power of flight, The Company fell into disarray and its employees scattered or eventually became Mord’s lunch. Wick was one such former employee but refuses to share what he did at The Company with Rachel, straining their relationship as she occasionally snoops in his room for answers.
Against this backdrop of uneasy alliances, constant threats, and secrets, enters the titular character: Borne. Rachel originally finds Borne “clinging to Mord’s fur like a half-closed sea anemone” emitting a smell of a wave, the brine in the air causing her to think that were no “mutilated, burned bodies dangling from broken streetlamps” around her. Intrigued by the find she brings it home and refuses to let Wick break it down into parts that he could use to build more biotech. Borne quickly becomes more than salvage to Rachel; establishing himself as a creature of untold intelligence and possibility. When he reveals he can talk Rachel takes it upon herself to teach him as much as she knows, kicking off a strange mother-creature relationship that becomes the book’s main focal point. As she becomes increasingly attached to Borne, her relationship with Wick, who looks upon the new member of their family with suspicion, grows strained as they continue to work together to make Balcony Cliffs safe from the outside world.
After having devoured VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy where Annihilation lured me into the mystery of Area X, I was expecting a similar sort of dense narrative to wade through. Where the Southern Reach explored the relationship between the natural world and humans, an alien form of nature establishing a pristine unlived area where a coastal town once used to be, Borne grounds itself in its gritty urban setting where nature has been altered and mutilated by humanity’s unthinking and unabashed tinkering with it. Despite the terrible conditions the characters find themselves in, Borne is ultimately a book about triumphing over one’s own demons, what it means to be a family, and hope.
Borne, amorphous and inquisitive, endears himself to the reader with his child-like behaviour and constant questioning. Borne is, for a lack of a better term, a new born, and his views on the city breathe fresh life into Rachel’s stale and bleak outlook. In a memorable moment she takes Borne to the balcony of their home and shows him the city with its crumbling buildings and polluted river below. Gazing at the river Borne declares it “beautiful” and Rachel begins looking at it from a new perspective. As Rachel’s bond with Borne deepens, her desire to protect him from the horrors of the world clash with reality as the impossibility of that desire is constantly reinforced by attacks from feral Mord proxies and genetically altered children.
Featured on many summer reading lists by publications such as The Washington Post and receiving rave reviews from The New York Times and The Guardian, Borne is a testament to VanderMeer’s inventiveness and above all his ability to write realistic scenes of human interaction (even if that interaction is with a sentient glob) making it an incredibly emotional and evocative narrative, establishing VanderMeer as an expert in world building and writing.
In Borne there will be a final battle, secrets about The Company will be revealed and more importantly, secrets about Rachel’s own life, making it ideal summer reading; a fantastic adventure story that is incredibly inventive and incredibly human in its outlook.
We know the drill, summer comes around and you start scouring bookshelves for new series to read. Luckily for you, The Last Word has picked out some of the hottest YA series to help you spend your summer!
Hailing from a family of time travelers, Etta Spencer gets thrown into an unfamiliar world where she meets Nicholas Carter who is tasked with delivering Etta to the dangerous and powerful Ironwood family. As they progress with their quest of finding the stolen object that the Ironwood family desperately desires, they discover exciting new places and find themselves amidst revolutionary wars, WWII London, 17th century Cambodia, 19th century Paris and medieval Damascus. The perilous journey brings the two closer and as they fit the puzzles of the stolen object across time and space, they face treacherous forces that threaten to separate her from Nicholas and her home.
Books in the series: Passenger, Wayfarer
The Bone Season trilogy
Paige Mahoney, a 19 year old girl in central London has a secret; she has a special talent for dream-walking and is one of the seven seals, a motley crew of people with supernatural powers. Set in 2059 in a parallel England, the story narrates the clash between the ruling Scion republic and the clairvoyant individuals perceived to be a threat to order. Supernatural powers will get her in trouble and the Scion regime is savage in its treatment of the ‘unnaturals’. When she gets imprisoned by the Scion guards, she discovers a monstrous lie her world has been living.
Books in this series: The Bone Season, The Mime Order, The Song Rising
Six of Crows duology
This fantasy duology follows a criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker who is promised a large sum of wealth in exchange for a seemingly impossible heist. In his effort to get the job done, he gets six of the deadliest outcasts in the city who together, are the last force that stands between the world and destruction.
Books in this series: Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom
The Red Queen trilogy
The world of Victoria Aveyard is divided along the lines of blood; red and silver. The sequel follows the life of Bare Marrow, a 17 year old Red blooded commoner with a destructive magical power who threatens the writ and hold of the Silver regime. Living in the Silver Palace as a long lost Silver princess, she enters a game of betrayal, lies and revolution.
Books in this series: Red Queen, Glass Sword, King’s Cage
Lady Helen Series
The Dark Days series is based on Lady Helen who steps into Regency Society to find herself a husband. Instead, she enters the shadowy world of demonic creatures and deadly powers. Helen has a destiny beyond the ballroom; a sacred duty to protect humanity. Duchess or demon slayer – does Lady Helen have a choice?
Books in this series: The Dark Days Club, The Dark Days Pact