Well the blog has taken a back seat for a while as the summer ramped up… I’ve been juggling some major garden renovation with allotmenting, which has kept me outside in the sun far too much! I can advise that trying to grow a lawn from seed in the hottest few weeks of the year is mission impossible, and trying to not get evicted from the allotments is a recipe for a bad back, and very nearly a trip to casualty, as the garden fork went straight through my shoe and miraculously, in between my toes…. But I have fitted in some reading and I have a bumper crop of strawberries, so a successful summer!
I tried a bit of sci-fi first, The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (Corgi, ISBN 9780552164085). It’s an intriguing idea – an infinity of parallel worlds which you can step into with the aid of a makeshift machine, and the consequences of a mass exodus from Earth, with a billion different human societies being set up. Add to this a sentient computer in the form of a vending machine, and strange creatures that appear to be migrating across the worlds, running away from something, and you have a humorous and imaginative tale. I did however start to lose interest towards the end which was a shame, and I’m not sure I’ll be picking up the sequel.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Simon & Schuster, ISBN 9780857207258) grabbed my attention much more. It’s the story of a very slow apocalypse told by 11-year-old Julia. The rotation of the Earth has started to slow and the days are getting longer. At first it’s exciting, but eventually society begins to fracture, and people become either real-timers – attempting to live according to their Circadian rhythms – or follow the Government directive of adhering to the 24-hour clock. The disintegration of life as we know it is writ on a very small and human level; there’s no horror here, just the pain of ordinary existence slowly being taken out of the individual’s control. Very powerful and thought-provoking, and a different kind of apocalypse indeed.
I finally decided to tackle Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate, ISBN 9780007230204) on my Kindle whilst on holiday. In case you’ve been on Mars, it’s a tale of the Tudors told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell. It was very interesting but with a large cast of characters I never really engaged with it to the depth I’d hoped to. I think it may be a book I’ll revisit one day so I’ll say no more at this point.
I was quite impressed with Hollow Earth by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman (Buster Books, ISBN 9781907151644); this children’s fantasy had some good scary moments and John has clearly been paying attention to what children love in Doctor Who. Two siblings have the ability to manipulate reality through drawing – but those who wish to bind these powers are after them, and the monsters of Hollow Earth are straining to be unleashed… Good fun.
One story that really gripped me was The Magpies by Mark Edwards (CreateSpace, ISBN 9781483911892). This self-published story is really powerful, telling a tale of neighbourly aggravation that goes way beyond the usual arguments about boundaries and barbecues. Jamie and Kirsty move into their dream flat and are welcomed by downstairs neighbours Chris and Lucy. But soon the neighbours are complaining about noise, sending threatening letters and taping the couple in their bedroom. As the campaign gets more and more extreme, Jamie and Kirsty’s relationship comes under increasing pressure, leading to a shocking finale. Very tense and for anyone who’s experienced problem neighbours, frighteningly plausible… Good stuff.
Okay, back to the allotment for now!