What would life be like if the Allies had lost the Second World War? In an imaginative alternate reality, Philip K. Dick creates a world in which Japan occupies America, and the Nazis are moving their totalitarian conquest on to the solar system.
From out of this far-fetched yet compelling fiction stems a number of interrelated tales, as Japanese officials, American labourers and German spies search for meaning in a world of changed cultures and oppressive conquest.
Dick’s imaginative portrayal of this post-war world lends very much to a warped mirrored image of our own reality. As opposed to an American influence spreading across the world, there is instead a strong focus on Asian traditions, the author going so far as to change his very writing style with certain characters, to hint at a Japanese form of English.
In a delicate balance, The Man in the High Castle explores the outcomes of a victorious occupation immersing the population in Japanese culture, whilst maintaining a confusion of underlying American ideals. It is from this mismatch of east meeting west that a series of lost souls search for meaning in America, as so many pilgrims of the present and past.
For all it’s alternative vision, the message of this peice is however resoundingly clear. Regardless of the passage of history, of who wins which war and who remains in power, humanity never changes.
Length: 256 (Penguin Classics)
Overall Rating: 4 stars
Unlike his other novels, affamed for their heartbreaking and tellingly brutal tales, And the Mountains Echoed forges a story of another kind of sadness.
Staying true to his customary theme of Afghanistan, Hosseini begins his novel following the lives of two twins, bound inseparable in their first years but subject like so many to the inescapable whims of poverty and survival.
It is from their stories that a series of other interlinking narratives unfold, following the tales of characters spanning the world over, each with some part of their life ever relating them back to Afghanistan.
Interestingly, this means that a significant portion of the novel features a wealthier, Western living, not the usual hardships of Taliban rule and oppresiveness so featured in his other novels. And the Mountains Echoed approaches the violence and oppresiveness Afghanistan experienced from a much more detached nature. Rather than delve directly into such hardship, it instead remains poised at its very edge looking in, much as the many thousands of luckier and more privileged souls do throughout their lives.
Hosseini’s message, told in his encapsulating prose, is one of family and home. That no matter how far you may go, how different a life you may forge, the past is ever a part of you which you cannot simply shed. We all have a calling to our birthplace and home, it is up to us whether we answer it, or forever shut it away.
Length: 463 (Bloomsbury)
Overall Rating: 3.5 stars
In a land built on steampunk contraptions and demonic beings, The Incorruptibles mixes the dangerous ingenuity and extravagance of ancient Rome, with the hard corruption of the wild west. Along with a dash of fantasy, this cross-genre novel harbours both ingenuity and intrigue.
‘The Hardscrabble Territories’ are an unforgiving land, filled with all manner of terrors, where roughened men seek solace for their sins in the fiery depths of the bottle. Damnation is not only rife, but physically apparent, as demon spawn and hell fire fuel mankind’s greed. Jacobs’ gritty western dialect and fluid description creates a harsh yet vivid world of ever-present hardship.
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Exotically imaginative and audaciously funny, The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden is another wonderful example of Jonasson’s witty and entertaining writing style. Following on from the success of his debut novel, once again Jonasson spins an irreverent and impossible narrative, born from small beginnings surging ever on towards the large and the great.
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In his debut novel, once more Saunders’ irreverent, sporadic and moving style is put masterfully to use to capture a powerful narrative. Composed of dozens of voices, from which history merges with fiction in a mesmerising whole, Lincoln in the Bardo is an entirely singular novel, certainly the first of its kind, and one which will long be remembered.
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Ordinary Thunderstorms is a novel which certainly isn’t lacking in momentum, wasting little time in diving into its fast paced narrative. With an assortment of colourful characters, drawn from all parts of London society, this is quite a different read compared to Boyd’s other novels. Though any thriller faces the potential of being labeled as being somewhat commercialised, Ordinary Thunderstorms is still absorbingly fast paced, varied and highly gripping.
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A short yet delightful classic, written with all the civility expected of a victorian gentlemen, The Time Machine is science fiction at one of its earliest beginnings. Though the novel could certainly have been longer, there are still enough philosophical thoughts and strange imaginings to provide an enjoyable few hours of entertainment.
Continue reading “The Time Traveller, by H. G. Wells”