Tag Archives: book review

Book review: The Looking Glass Club by Gruff Davies

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And so I find myself reviewing another book as soon as I’ve finished it – seems like a good thing to do: turn the final page and give an instant reaction. Here we go again. This time it’s a mind-bending trip…

The year is 2010 and Zeke is a brilliant physics student at a top London university. He’s fallen in with a group who are taking a drug that seems to allow them to experience shared hallucinations. Well, they’re shared hallucinations or a door on to a parallel universe. Probably.

The year is 2035 and Steel is living with his talking dog in a high security New York apartment. He’s opened his door to a pregnant girl with no memory, who carries a note that takes him back to the darkest of dark times. From that moment he’s on the run; his life at risk.

But Zeke and Steel are the same person and, in this story, the boundaries between reality and illusion are sometimes impossible to distinguish.

The Looking Glass Club is an excellent novel. It’s fast-paced, gripping and it paints the most amazing pictures: at times it’s like being on a drug fuelled trip of your own. Both modern day London and a New York of the future are believable and brilliantly crafted worlds. It’s also a smart book – in truth, there are a couple of times when it’s a little too clever – but the story is completely unique, expertly told and, despite the technology and the pace of the narrative, it works because at its heart it’s an absorbing tale about friendship and trust.

This is a self-published book that asks you to make no compromise beyond the challenge of an enjoyably complex plot. It deserves a place amongst the best science fiction.

UK Amazon

US Amazon

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Book review: Canada by Richard Ford

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I’ve never written a review before but I just finished reading this brilliant, masterful book on the train home and wanted to share some of the love.

The novel is narrated by Dell Parsons, who looks back at the experiences of his 15 year old self in a small town in Montana in 1960. The bare bones of the storyline can be summed up in the opening passage:

“First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later. The robbery is the more important part, since it served to set my and my sister’s lives on the courses they eventually followed. Nothing would make complete sense without that being told first.”

I’m a big fan of Richard Ford but the plot of this novel is probably the strongest he’s written in terms of page-turning. However, if you’re looking for a thriller then you’ve come to the wrong place – as engrossing as the plot is, it’s less important than the writing itself.

This was the book that inspired my series of posts about authors who look like their writing: at the time, I called Ford’s style elegant, languid and wise. Sometimes, writing this beautiful can give the illusion of being wise and full of insight – but there’s no illusion here… every page is full of a rich voice that feels as if it may be teaching you something new about the world and the people who live in it. That’s not to say that you need a dictionary to get through the book. It’s that Ford uses language so simply to do such complex things that is his genius and, for me, his only equal in this regard is Cormac McCarthy.

Canada is a novel about the strange turns that normal people’s lives can take, it believes in looking forwards and seeing what’s in front of you instead of always looking for hidden meaning in what’s already gone, and it understands above all about human fragility. As you can tell, I would absolutely recommend it. I find it impossible to read a book like this and not be inspired… well, partly inspired and partly accepting that I’ll never be able to write quite that well.