Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant, #5)
Ben Denis Aaronovitch
Two girls go missing from a rural English town. Peter Grant is sent to that town on a routine mission to check up on individuals with magic powers, living in the area. Initially, his inquiries go no where, finding no connection between these individuals and the missing girls. But he does not return to London. Instead, he decides to stay on and help the local police. He gradually gets drawn further and further into the investigation, finding that there’s more to the case than meets the eye. I won’t go any further than that. Since, this is a mystery story and, therefore, is easily spoilt.
I have mentioned, in the previous reviews, that reading along with awards encourages you to read outside of your comfort zone. Apologising for repetition, I have to say that, I would have never had read this book if it hadn’t been for the Locus Recommended long list. I don’t know why, but, I never felt any incentive to read this book. I now have to admit that i was missing out.. This book is a fun read..
In my last review, I mentioned that one of the positive things about reading the award shortlists was that they encouraged you to read outside of your comfort zone. This is definitely true in the case of the Locus Recommended Reading list. This is the second book that I would never have read if I hadn’t been reading that list. I don’t generally read Children’s fiction or YA. This is especially true if I haven’t heard of the author, or if the author hasn’t written an adult novel. I would have never read this book. I would have missed out on an extremely enjoyable read.
Zen Starling is a Railhead who travels on world crossing trains and steals to survive. He lives with his sister and disturbed mother in a deprived area of the city. One day when he is carrying out a theft at a high end Jewellers, he finds that he is being followed by a young girl and shadowy older figure. He dodges, trying to avoid them both but is eventually caught by one and rescued by another. I won’t say much more because I then get into spoiler territory and I want you to read this book.
This book has all my favourite elements. The work centres on the lives of Railheads that travel these trains often conducting low level crime to survive. It has sentient trains that cross worlds who help those for who they feel sorry and act as graffiti curators keeping the art work that they like while destroying the rest. It has androids, hive minds made out of bugs, and a shadowy government. What’s more it’s set in a really interesting urban, almost cyberpunk landscape. It deals with the discrepancy between the worlds of rich and poor. It looks at identity, asking what does it mean to be me and can we ever become someone else. It asks the questions ‘what does it mean to be human’ and who can we really trust?
This book was a really fun, well written read. It will engross you from the first to last page. The characters are, at once, likeable and nuanced. The world is wonderfully drawn. For me, it was a five star read. It’s too early to say yet but I am betting that it will be one of my favourite books of 2016.
The good thing about reading the short/long lists is that it forces you to read books that you wouldn’t normally go anywhere near. Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves is a good example of this. Neal Stephenson is one of those authors who I would normally avoid. Firstly, he is a popular author and that always puts me off a writer. Secondly, because his books are so long. But, it’s on the Locus recommended reading list and so I had to read Seveneves. I am glad that I did.
This is the plot. Earth is going on its own merry way when the moon splinters into several pieces. Gradually, they notice that the pieces are smashing into pieces and getting very near to Earth orbit. Scientists begin to fear that one day one piece will hit the earth and send earth into a destructive spiral. The planet’s leaders join forces to send an arc into space, a group of people who will live on a space station and wait out the dark rain, returning to Earth when it is once again habitable. The work traces; the preparation for take-off, the political spats that surround that take-off, their life on the station, the splits that emerge, and their final return to earth.
The station prepares. Its inhabitants are chosen. They are sent into space. They quarrel. Factions emerge. They battle on social media. Leaders are chosen and then toppled. They fight cosmic debris. The book’s well drawn, believable, characters must fight the Universe and each other to survive.
This book is a fun read. The world is immersive and believable. It is a world of social media. It is a world of bloggers. It is a world of tribes and factions. It is a world of conspiracies. It is a world in which people form tribes around strong leaders or strong ideas, creating vicious online battles pitting one tribe against the other in increasingly vicious social media wars. But, it is, also, a world of exposition. Stephenson spends a lot of time, and pages, explaining the science behind every part of the space station, the universe and the fate of earth. Despite, or perhaps because, of this, Seveneves is an immersive, enjoyable, read.