It is 1816, Mary Shelley is at Lake Geneva with her husband, Percy Bysshe, her step-sister Claire, Claire’s lover Lord Byron and Doctor John Polidori. They are caught in days of torrential rain, and decide to write each other horror stories – Mary writes Frankenstein. It is the near future, Ry Shelley, a partly transitioned trans-person is in love (sort of) with Victor Stein, an advocate of trans-humans who will no longer need bodies. In their group is Ron Lord, an overweight sex-bot merchant, Polly D a journalist and Claire, a fundamental Christian with a very pragmatic view of her faith and the world.
This vast and beautiful novel follows the story of Laura Bow – from childhood to adolescence, to adulthood to the end of her life – and beyond? That is the question; when do we stop being us? Are we just our memories?
“We’re not trying to play God. We’re trying to remember.”
“I’m not sure those things are totally different.”
Global warming has led to a health crisis; a tick-borne disease has decimated the United States. The survivors have retreated to zones, some more secure than others. The wealthiest and most secure zone offers adventure tourism trips into infested areas, trips where you will be bitten and scarred, where your life depends on the quick reactions of your travelling companion, but where you will get to see forests, sunrises, starlit skies and wildlife. A group sets out, but what they find is not what they were expecting …
In 2016 I had my first encounter with Ben H. Winters – I read his novel Underground Airlines. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this thriller with a difference: set in an America where slavery has never been outlawed, a young black man named Victor is working as a slave bounty hunter. Earlier this year I read Winters’ latest book, Golden State. Here, Winters tackles the subject of our day – truth and lies. It’s not just in our news feeds and on our smart devices – in Golden State, the idea of truth is everywhere and everything. Laz, working for the Speculative Service, looks for lies and spends his days – like everyone else – recording the minutiae of his life in explicit detail for The Record. The Last Policeman is the first book in a trilogy and was written back in 2012 and it’s here where Winters’ starts writing books with characters – good guys, fighting the good fight - whose lives are enmeshed in a society like ours but magnified.
After reading some works you just see the world differently, maybe for a moment, maybe a few hours or days, maybe permanently. Pūrākau was such a work for me. Pūrākau is a collection of contemporary writings relating to Māori foundation stories, stories that are ancient and resonate through the generations.
In Paul Cleave’s Whatever it takes we have moved away from his ‘gateway to hell’ Christchurch to Acacia Pines, a small isolated town in the U.S. Acacia Pines is a sawmill town, surrounded by a “Green Hole” of forests, with only one way in and one way out. Deputy Noah Harper lost his job, his wife and his home in Acacia Pines when he broke all the rules in order to do ‘the right thing’, and now 12 years later he’s back intending to do ‘the right thing’ once again.