Backyard sale haul

Yeah, the other day, the interesting independent book store (there is only one of them in this area that is of any interest to me – it’s true!) launched its annual backyard sale.   I don’t actually want physical copies of books, and especially not hard covers, because I simply don’t have the space to keep them in – and yet…  Books, right? Right?

I wasn't kidding about lacking space. All my shelves are stacked double at this point. Also, I need room for my teenage mutant ninja turtles.
I wasn’t kidding about lacking space. All my shelves are stacked double at this point. Also, I need room for my teenage mutant ninja turtles.

I came away with five books, of which three were already on my wish list / TBR,  so that felt almost… smart and reasonable?  Wallet says nah.

AND! The backyard wasn’t enough reckless spending for me.  Because I feel like I’m probably going to be a Kameron Hurley fangirl once I get a grip and read a novel of hers – I grabbed The Mirror Empire. (Partly because I also like to buy books from Angry Robot. I mean, obviously!)

Dystance: Winter’s rising, by M.R. Tufo

Dystance: Winter's rising Book Cover Dystance: Winter's rising
Series starter
M. R. Tufo
YA, Dystopia
Sold by Amazon Digital Services, Inc
June 12th 2014

Dystance is Winter's home - the only place she knows. From the time Dystancians exit the Bio Buildings when they're eight years old, all they can do is struggle to feed themselves enough to survive until ten years later, when they either go to the War - or, optionally, if they're female, to the Bio Buildings to make more future Dystancians.  Pretty firmly dystopian, I'd say.

What Winter discovers by chance, though, is context.  Stumbling across a remnant of a past world - a library! - it dawns on her, and her friends, that the world has been different. Humans have lived lives very unlike theirs. Once they even had an abundance of paper - enough that stories could be written that weren't even real.  She starts asking questions...

I'm going to do this in a pro/con sort of list:

What's good about this novel?

After a bit of a slow start, it becomes a decent pageturner.  There's a lot of action, and through the action parts, the writing flows excellently.  (I haven't read any previous books by this author, but I imagine his incredibly long Zombie Fallout series might be pretty good if this is what it brings to the table.)    The characters are, for the most part, well defined - I was completely charmed by Winter's friend Cedar, whose introduction to the library's romance section was perhaps the most memorable part of the whole book.   The question of what kind of world this really is, outside of the absolute war the Dystancians and a few other communities are locked in,  grows increasingly interesting.  What's the framework, here? Who made things to be this way, why are these people kept in these meaningless warrior/babyfarms?    If you're curious enough, you'll very likely keep reading the series.

What do I dislike about this novel?

First of all, the romance. It doesn't work for me. Being sixteen years old gives a character a lot of room for feelings-without-reasons, but here, I'm just being told the main character has romantic feelings for a person, and a flash of childhood memory to explain their close connection, but I don't really get it.  It's unfortunate, because part of the (quite decent) characterization later on has this romantic interest making himself less than charming,. For good enough reasons - but it just keeps reminding me I don't know why I should care.   I also find the character interaction to be written a bit stilted and awkwardly - contrasting the fluid ease of the more action-filled paragraphs.

My main problem is - I know this is a series starter, but is it not supposed to function as a novel of its own?  For that, it just leaves too many questions unanswered or unresolved.  I close the book without having satisfied my interest in the questions that kept me reading,  which is more than mildly frustrating.  If I've misunderstood the construction of the story - if this is more like a first episode than a first book - that's all right, but it doesn't really make me any happier.

...I believe this is going to find an enthusiastic audience, though.  All things considered, I'm an old grump, and not quite as devoted to teenagers-in-dystopia as a lot of other people are. Really, a lot.

The word for world is forest, by Ursula Le Guin

The word for world is forest Book Cover The word for world is forest
Ursula le Guin
Science fiction
Tor Books
first published March 1972

A novella - or short novel, I'm not sure - by Ursula Le Guin, in classic Le Guin style.  (If you notice it listed as part of what looks like a series, it's because the Hainish Cycle books take place in the same universe - but not in a way that makes a reading order very relevant.)

The planet Athshe is a peaceful paradise, covered in lush forests, inhabited by a gentle branch of humanity - because there are humans out there, in the universe, grown from the same genetic material as ourselves, but they haven't necessarily followed the same evolutionary path.   When the invaders - colonists - arrive, their call the Athsheans monkeys.  Animals. Rats.  It's easy, because the Athsheans are so harmless.  They don't seem to even understand when they're being tortured - or enslaved.

In order to defend themselves, the Athsheans have to change.  The change is forced upon them, and it's not a benign one.

I found it difficult to say much about this book, because the author paints villains with little nuance - it was exhausting to read the constant barrage of the bad guy character's thoughts and actions.  That exhaustion wasn't relieved or made worthwhile by the story unfolding around the main characters.  I understand what Le Guin is going for, and she does it excellently, I just don't particularly enjoy it.   I like my social science fiction with a little more nuance.  A little more subtlety, actually.   It's uncomfortable to be stabbed in the eye with whatever points are being made, and I don't have much patience for it.

Who should read this book? People looking for a quick example of how science fiction handles "real issues" and not just rockets and lasers. (They would have a wide range of titles by the same author to pick from, though!)   Possibly school kids - I'm pretty sure I could have been a huge fan of this if I'd read it when I was in that special "starting to discover people are stupid and mean and racism and sexism are real things help what's going on and where do I point my anger"-phase.   Thing is, though I still have all the same buttons, it takes a different kind of story to press them,  now.   The word for world is forest is not going into my memory as anyone's required reading.  (If I wanted to talk about some of the same themes, I might instead mention C.J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station.)

Waiting on: Maplecroft

I read Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker, didn’t particularly love it, and haven’t read any of hers since.  It’s about to change, though, because on September 2nd (in just a few days!), there is this.  Maplecroft: The Borden dispatches.  IO9 brought it to my attention.    Here’s the blurb from the amazon page:


Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one….

The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.

But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.

This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe.

See? This looks silly-awesome. I always need more silly-awesome.  I also need to remind myself that it won’t be anything like the Laundry books, and not every Lovecrafty thingy is all that great.   Still, though.

(I have never read any full-length genuine Lovecraft. A few short stories, yes, but that’s all I can take. His purple prose is in many ways more horrifying than what he described. Eesh.)

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I want to read and don’t own yet

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

I have an impulse control problem when it comes to buying more books than I can possibly read in the foreseeable future.  Part of it is a deeply ingrained panic; What if I find I have nothing to read and it’s 3am and I’m in some kind of desert and I can’t replenish my book supply hurgle burgle!?!

…And part of it is that the price of kindle books, compared to the price of physical books in Norwegian book stores, is “almost nothing”. It’s a squinty-wiggly kind of  true, and I’m not rich, but the comparison makes a compelling illusion, and I grew up getting used to having to consider a certain percentage of my budget book money – and haven’t bothered to change that percentage.  After all, it just means more books.

And yet my wish list remains long and looming.  So – ten books I want to read and don’t actually own yet (excluding not yet published ones, because that’s a different list):

  1. Cyberabad Days, by Ian McDonald
  2. Blueprints of the Afterlife, by Ryan Boudinot
  3. Wake, by Elizabeth Knox
  4. Cranioklepty, by Colin Dickey
  5. The Quantum Thief, by Hannu Rajaniemi
  6. The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell
  7. Shaman, by Kim Stanley Robinson
  8. A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, by Janna Levin
  9. Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How humans will survive a mass extinction, by Annalee Newitz
  10. An Intellectual History of Cannibalism, by Cătălin Avramescu, Alistair Ian Blyth

I made this list by starting at the far end of my amazon wishlist, which is really awkwardly long, and picking titles a bit willy-nilly.  It’s still a valid top 10, I want all of them pretty badly.



Read-a-thon: 2nd status update

Ah, oops. Since the previous update, there has been an inconvenient time sink (I believe the correct term is “food poisoning”, which is especially impractical because it’s hard to read books with fever-shivers) – but I knew even when I signed up for the read-a-thon that something always gets in the way when I commit to anything. It’s one of those laws!

But, ok, looking over the week – here’s what was read inbetween horrible organic events:

Last half of M. R. Carey’s The girl with all the gifts (200 pages)

Started on Sarah Vowell’s The wordy shipmates (100 pages)

Graphic novel: Amulet vol. 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse (224 pages, but I don’t know if graphic novels are excluded from this, so I’m leaving it out of final pagecount)

Graphic novel: Saga vol. 3 (144 pages, left out of final pagecount)

Ursula Le Guin’s The word for world is forest (160 pages)

Started on Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim (300 pages read so far)

Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams: Essays (226 pages)

Started on Clifford D. Simak’s Way Station (100 pages)

Week total page count, excluding graphic novels:  just over 1000 pages

…And this evening I’m probably going to add the last 100ish pages of Sandman Slim, and perhaps Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the milk.    Depending on sleepiness levels.

I made a couple of bad choices in a row here, assuming a couple of non-fiction reads would flow easier than they did.  For my next read-a-thon, I’ll just attack a door-stopper like The way of kings. I think I read the fastest when I get into the flow of a larger novel, rather than hopping between short ones. (Not saying reading speed is a great and noble goal by itself, it’s just fun to record these things once in a while, right?)

Is the final page count for this week higher or lower than in a normal week?  I think it’s pretty near my average – these things will inevitably vary.  One week there are things to do and sleeps to sleep,  another week there’s nothing but text.  Sometimes, as I’ve experienced, there’s evil chicken within the digestive system to wrestle with.  Good times!

Parable of the sower and Parable of the talents, by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the sower, Parable of the talents Book Cover Parable of the sower, Parable of the talents
Octavia E. Butler
Science fiction, dystopia
1993 / 1998
329 + 434

I am going to talk about both books at once, because that's what makes sense. In recommending these to anyone, I will treat them as one book, one story.

According to Wikipedia, Butler had intended to write a third volume called Parable of the trickster. It would have been great if she did; I enjoy Butler's books very much.  (Having read these two, though, I can't imagine the state of my emotional health after a third Earthseed book.)

About Parable of the sower:  We enter a civilization - well, American civilization - breaking down; the apocalypse is now. (The "oops, the world broke"-thing has been a clear favourite of mine since Womack's Random acts of senseless violence, which was, therefore, one of the first associations I made in reading this.) You know, when life as you know it just crumbles to bits, it very likely doesn't happen in the blink of an eye. Disaster strikes fast, but some tragedy takes time, years, and probably doesn't exactly catch you by surprise - denial, maybe, but not really surprise.

Lauren Olamina, the young protagonist, is very much aware of where things are headed. Her intelligent observations are refreshing, and I instantly root for her. If a character is charismatic enough, she can carry a whole book on her own. (At times she's unreal; it's hard to match her words to her supposed age, but in unusual circumstances, a lot of unusuals are easier to accept.) She's a preacher's daughter, but she does not share her father's faith. To the contrary, she is devoted to uncovering a different set of truths. The story is told through Lauren's diary, which allows her voice to stay focused and calm, while keeping the sense of urgency, through gaps between dates and other details. Parable of the sower is merciless, but the ending doesn't prepare me for the next book at all.

The parable of the talents took me a lot more time to get through - because parts of it are simply very unpleasant, in the intentional and story-relevant way. Butler has made me care enough about these characters to make it quite painful to go through this bleak, bleak piece of the near-future with them. It's good - actually that's very good, but also impossible for me to read several hundred pages of in a single sitting. Butler tells the story of a world that has already gone to pieces; then she has the broken remains of the people trying to go back in time, panicky; A religious leader becomes president. The slaves vote for him, too. More and more women's tongues are cut out. Olamina keeps hers, but her losses are many.

I wouldn't read this if I was feeling especially thin-skinned. If the measurement of an author's skill was solely how much her stories and characters could affect me, I believe Octavia E. Butler's profile would be embedded on the gold medal.

Hoarding: Verso sale & Humble Book Bundle

Verso books has a half price sale on e-books and paperbacks. I’ve grabbed Genes, cells and brains, which I probably had wishlisted even before I noticed the Margaret Atwood recommendation.  Verso has an interesting non-fiction catalogue, worth looking at if you’re thus inclined.

Also, there’s a lovely Humble Bookperk Bundle available right now.  It includes a whole bunch of HarperCollins titles, including authors like Neil Gaiman and Lois McMaster Bujold.  I haven’t bought it yet, because I happen to already own the most interesting handful of them, but I hope they’ll add an extra to win me over, because I really like buying humble bundles. (Charity and stuff. And buying bundles means making sure there’ll be future bundles, and I really like bundles.  So much, I’m going to type the word bundles one more time.)

The Liebster Award

Oy – I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award by both The Hard Cover Lover and Victorian Soul Critiques! Thanks lots, both of you!


Whoah yay!

This is a blog award one receives from another blogger. In order to be nominated, one must be a newer book blogger. Once you’re nominated, you get to nominate other book blogs.

There are some rules:

  • Link and thank the person who nominated your blog
  • Answer the eleven questions they asked you
  • Pick eleven bloggers with less than two hundred followers to nominate
  • Ask them eleven questions
  • Let them know that you’ve nominated them by commenting on one of their posts

All right! (Scroll down past my own answers to get to my nominations and questions, this got long and out of hand…!)

My answers to the questions from Erin @ The Hard Cover Lover

Why did you decide to start blogging?

I have wanted to, and made some half-hearted attempts, for a long time – I do like to share excitement over books and book-related things.  Finally, I realised that blogging about books might actually cause publishers to give me books for no money at all,  so, here I am.  (I know, materialism, blah blah. I’m impatient and enjoy sneaking ahead of publishing dates!)

Are there any books set in your hometown? If so, what one(s)?

There are quite a few, but I’m not sure I can think of any English language ones! And I haven’t actually read Jo Nesbø or any of the other widely translated Norwegian crime/thriller authors, so I don’t know how much they mention Oslo.   What I do remember is  Slartibartfast talking a lot about the Norwegian fjords in The hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy,  and also meeting Thor the norse god in what I think was a Norwegian airport in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.  (Douglas Adams seemed preoccupied with Norway, I don’t know why.)

Who are some of your auto-buy authors?

These days? Lauren Beukes, China Miéville, Charles Stross, Mary Roach, James S. A. Corey, John Scalzi, and a bunch of others. Used to include Terry Pratchett, and still holds for most things with his name on it, except the Long Earth books; the first one did not make me want to read the next ones at all.  Also used to include Orson Scott Card,  whose actual real life person I’ve always been able to ignore, but then there was Earth Afire, and though I thought I would never feel anything less than excited about anything in the Enderverse, well, there I was.  Yuck.

What is your favorite series?

Discworld used to mean one or two extra Christmas Eves every year, when a new book came out!    Some other favourites are  Charles Stross’ Laundry books,   Mira Grant’s new Parasitology series,  Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files,  James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse.  I’m a George R.R. Martin reader, too.   Oh, and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga gave me a lot of happytimes, but I’m not sure there’ll be more books.

Do you like fantasy or dystopia better? Why?

They aren’t actually mutually exclusive, are they? Dystopian fantasy is totally a thing.   (Richard Morgan is the first author to come to mind, but yeah, there are more examples of this.)    Can I just chicken out and say I like a good fantasy just as much as I like a depressing totalitarian future society?

Have you ever written a book?

Ha!  I’ve completed/won  NaNoWriMo twice,  but that doesn’t mean I think of myself as someone who wrote a book, or even two books.  Mostly it’s just word piles no one’s ever going to see.

What are some of your favorite book blogs?

I started out following book reviews on io9 and worlds without end.  Then I started reading the book smugglers and a dribble of ink – and of course Jo Walton’s posts on  Lately I’ve started following a lot more private/informal book bloggers, so I’m sure I’ll have new favourites lined up soon.

What is your favorite book you had to read for school?

You know, I actually can’t remember having to read a novel for school at any age, in any class – i don’t know if that’s because Norwegian curriculums take a different approach, or that I had just already read whatever came up, which is quite likely.  I do remember stuttering through a completely unprepared oral exam in Spanish, repeating the name Gabriel García Marquez like a mantra, achieving a passing grade that way.    (I loved Marquez! But it wasn’t assigned reading, and my Spanish was useless until, years later, Duolingo came into my life.)

What are you currently reading?

Leslie Jameson’s The empathy exams,  Sarah Vowell’s The wordy shipmates,  Clifford D. Simak’s Way Station,  and Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim.   I usually only read 2-3 at a time, but read-a-thon has me a bit frazzled, actually.

Are there any books that you just know you won’t read even though everyone tells you that they are great?

I’m pretty good at filtering – meaning I don’t actually have a lot of people recommending things to me I know I don’t want to read.  The only title that explicitly comes to mind is the new David Mitchell one, because, honestly, I was bored to tears by The cloud atlas.

What is your favorite thing about the book blog community? Why?

It’s friendly and inclusive enough to bring me into this thing even though I don’t, uh, know anyone!  Hi, all!


My answers to the questions from Angie @ Victorian Soul Critiques:

What is your favorite time of day to read?

I have two very regular reading times; Mornings with coffee,  and at night, before sleep.   I read at all hours, really, but those two times are engraved in my daily schedule.

What makes your favorite book your favorite: the characters, the plot, or something else?

This is a tough one to answer, because I have lots of favourites, and they’re favourites in, well, different ways.  Most recently I loved Peter Watts’ Blindsight and Echopraxia (loosely connected novels). What I loved in them was the density of ideas, a sharp, stark, but beautiful style.  If I had to choose, I’d have to describe myself as a big ideas!  concepts!-kind of person.  Plot over characters, I guess – but I still react if characters are jarringly bad, so it’s not like one completely overrules the other.

What is your favorite dessert?

Oh! Ice cream!  ICE CREAM!  Sometimes cake. Gooey chocolate cake.  Nutty cookies. Chai tea.  Ice cream containing all of those things.  Yes, that’s it.

Do you have a favorite villain? (Literary or otherwise)

I’ve always been, perhaps morbidly, interested in true crime accounts, featuring gruesome and disturbing acts committed by people whose minds are, well, alien.  I’m not sure that means I’d call Charles Manson or Albert Fish my “favourite villains”, though.    How do you ever talk about a favourite villain without getting all defensive and apologetic?  I liked Tywin Lannister and The Hound in the ASoIaF-books.  Oh, and Discworld’s auditors.  And Mr. Teatime.  Yes!   (Funny how I can hardly think of any villainy types in science fiction; that tends to be whole governments or species or corporations…)

What three books would you bring to a deserted island with you, if you had everything you needed (food, water, shelter, bookshelves, etc.)?

Long ones, I guess!  Um, tough.  I think I’d bring an encyclopedia, or Bill Bryson’s A short history of nearly everything.   And Neal Stephenson’s Anathem.  And an epic adventure with lots of bromance in it, which would mean the Lord of the Rings, if I was a bigger fan of it. Can’t actually think of anything that fits the bill any better, though.  Omnibus editions would be cheating, right?  An Octavia Butler omnibus could stay interesting for a long, long time.

Which book do you consider underrated and under-read (people don’t read it as much)?

When I was ten or eleven, a book club gave me The adventures of Endill Swift by Stuart McDonald,  which I assumed meant it was a widely known and well-loved book.  Turns out, no one’s heard of it.  It’s a shame, because it’s every bit as good as the Roald Dahl classics. Actually, I’d totally bring this to a deserted island with me, despite the low pagecount!

If you could travel to another universe (bookish or otherwise), would you stay here or go?

If I could travel to the utopian human civilization of Iain M. Banks’ the Culture,  for example? Oh, I’d go. (And I don’t even care for the books!)  Or if I could go to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars, or… the Star Trek future? Where humanity seems to have things figured out and space exploration is a viable job? Yeah. I would go! (Those are all kinda boring realistic answers, utopian and all. I just don’t think I’d exactly thrive in most fantasy worlds, even though they make great reading material.  Maybe the His Dark Materials-universe, just to confirm the shape my daemon would take!)

If you could travel back in time once, where would you go, and what would you do?

Ugh, can’t help but think about how intensely un-fun it’s generally been to be a non-aristocratic female, through history.  I might just go look at the dinosaurs, because, well, at least I’d be seeing some dinosaurs.   Else I’d pick ancient Egypt or Rome under Caesar.  But I’m pretty sure it would be stinky and uncomfortable.

Is there a book you think is over-hyped (a lot of people like it, but you don’t)?

I was intensely unimpressed with The time-traveller’s wife.  I think it took me over a month to slog through it, actually. And, as I briefly mentioned above,  I’ve read a few of Banks’ Culture books, and I just… nah.  Nope.

If you could meet any author (living or dead), who would you meet, and why?

I’ve already had the pleasure of listening to China Miéville speak (and then blush directly at him signing books for me afterward) – and would love to get a chance to repeat that.  Judging by her twitter account, I think I’d really like to meet Seanan McGuire.   Lavie Tidhar also seems like  person I’d like to listen to talk about things.     I’d like to have Isaac Asimov explain anything in the world to me.    Charles Stross is on my list too, because he posts cat pictures on the internet, and that, if anything, is the ultimate mark of quality. Right?

Do you judge a book by its cover?

Yes and no!…

I think cover designs meant more in the pre-kindle part of my life, when I still did a lot of impulse shopping while browsing actual book stores.  It’s easy to get carried away by a lovely cover or coloured pages and stuff like that when you’re touching and weighing the book as an object.   Now,  I find it mostly matters when the impression is negative:  I often dismiss independently published works in the kindle store because what they’ve thrown up as book covers is just terrible.  Cheap-looking or amateurish or tacky or all three.  I mean, I’d rather you just put a white rectangle there with the title in plain old times new roman.  That really IS the best option in a lot of cases.  Remember some people have a lot of education and training when it comes to, well, judging books by their covers – or judging the quality of design work, pinpointing what associations are made, what level of professionalism is implied, and what audience is targeted.

Incidentally, I’m currently spending money on the new hardcover editions of the Discworld novels, because they’re SO PRETTY.  I don’t have room for them, but HOW CAN I NOT?!

Okay, that took a lot of space.  I’m going to nominate other people for the award now!

(I’ve used Bloglovin to gauge follower counts – if you have more than 200 followers, that’s okay, you’re still nominated!)

1.  Felicia @ A Silly Girl’s Thoughts

2. Mina @ Aesaza

3. Val @ The Innocent Smiley

4. Alex @ The Book’s Buzz

5. Angie @ The Paperback Reader

6. Constance @ Craving Books

7. Emily @ Follow the Yellow Book Road

8. Carina @ My Addiction: Books

9. Benni @ Benni’s Book Biters

10. Monique @ Mo_Books

11. Robin @ Where Books Lead Us

Look at all those nice book blogs!

Here’s my questions:

1.  Do you read e-books?

2.  Do you read in other languages than your first language?

3. What’s worse in a book: Spelling mistakes or too-often repeated words?

4. What’s your least favourite genre?

5. Was it one book in particular that turned you into a bookworm? If so, which one?

6. Do you on average read an even mix of male and female authors?

7.  Do you enjoy short story collections as much as regular novels?

8. Have you ever visited a book con or a book signing?

9. Can you read in a car or on a bus without getting woozy?

10. What’s your favourite non-romantic friendship in fiction? (Can include movies and other types of fiction)

11.  If you really hated brussels sprouts, would you still eat a full serving of it every day if not doing so would make your books disappear?

(Did I just invent a Dystopian Diet?)

Phew!   This took me a couple of days to put together, as there was a case of food poisoning to wrestle with in the same time span.  (This has also turned my read-a-thon efforts into a bit of a sadface, but, well, happens!)

Again – thanks so much for the nominations!


The girl with all the gifts, by M. R. Carey

The girl with all the gifts Book Cover The girl with all the gifts
M. R. Carey
Horror, science fiction
Hachette Audio
First published June 6th 2014

First: I chose the audiobook copy of this, which is narrated beautifully by Finty Williams.  I'm pretty sure this voice made me find more hours in the day to listen than I would have with a less optimal narrator, so that's a huge thumbs up with admiring glances and happy noises.

And - people will tell you,  try to read as little as you can about The girl with all the gifts before you start reading.  The reason for this, of course, is that a big part of the book is to discover the terms of the world alongside our main protagonist, the titular gifted girl.  Most is revealed quite early on in the book, and you'll likely see it coming once you're reading,  but I don't want to steal it from you.

Melanie is a little girl in a school for what appears to be special children.  She loves her teacher, Miss Justineau, and likes to learn just about everything, even though not all of the teachers are as nice as Miss Justineau.  People act a little strange around these kids. In this future, apparently ten year-olds need armed military guards.

And there's so few of them.

That's all I want to say about the plot, really.  It features good characters it's easy to care for, though they might not be surprising , maybe even somewhat typical of the genre.  (A well used formula can still be used well!)   The title's reference to Pandora,  she who opened that box,  is of course meaningful.  The prose flows along without a snag; there is little or no redundant dwelling on events,  but a steady forward motion, towards a looming, inevitable end.

The ending is a relieve, because I was for a while afraid the novel was going to chicken out on itself.  It doesn't.  It goes as far as it has to go, and while it contributes to strapping the novel into the horror genre,  it's also very peaceful.  I end the book feeling oddly harmonious, given what I've just been reading.

I recommend the book in any format,  but the narrator makes the audio a very good choice for either picky listeners, or people looking for a good gateway audiobook experience.