Last month I grabbed a trio of books from the "new" shelf in my local library and reviewed the first two here. The final book was "Oryx & Crake" by Margaret Atwood where she gives us a view into an all too possible dystopian future: scientists engineering new species of animal, new sources of food, new cures for diseases, new diseases needing cures ... society is divided into the haves who can afford the latest, greatest therapies and eat real food and the have-nots who die young on rations of genetically engineered look-a-like consumables. Except that society has gone - wiped out by an unexplained catastrophe, leaving just one lone survivor living near a group of grass-eating humanoids. The novel gradually reveals some of what has happened in fascinating flashbacks but, told from just one viewpoint, there is a lot left unexplained. The ending left me spluttering in indignation until I realised that this book is the first of a parallel trilogy! Far from "new", it was originally published in 2003 and the companion books are already available. The question is ... do I care what happened?
To compensate for a bleak future, my next choice was a glimpse of the past. Andrea Levy's "Small Island" describes the experiences of four characters before, during and after WWII. There's Hortense and Gilbert from Jamaica and Queenie and Bernard from England whose lives are intertwined more than they know. Both Hortense and Gilbert had a rude awakening when they came to England and the unequal relationship of Jamaica and the Mother Country is well described. Thankfully, attitudes to colour have changed a lot in the last 60 years, but it was interesting to read about how things were in Jamaica, England and in the US military training bases where the Jamaican volunteers received basic training.
"The Blasphemer" by Nigel Farndale was my Book Club's March pick. Even further back in time to WW1, but with several parallel stories linking generations of soldiers and exploring the meaning of courage and cowardice. In the present day, a scientist struggles to make sense of his survival after the crash of a seaplane whilst in the past, his great grandfather faces the firing squad just days before the end of hostilities. I enjoyed the discussions of faith vs. science and there was enough happening to keep me turning the pages, but parts of the book didn't work for me at all. Too many characters that weren't fleshed out enough perhaps? Opinions were mixed at our meeting too: not a resounding success as a book choice, but a lively discussion instead which is always a good thing!
Do you ever read a book that stops you from wanting to pick up another for a while? For good reasons ... or bad?