After reading and enjoying a first book by Claire North, 84K, I downloaded some others, like the previously mentioned The Gameshouse. The Sudden Appearance of Hope was a fun fantasy tale (someone is so forgettable that she gets away with everything) with a social media style data-predatory app (called Perfection) taking over and building the worlds elite in its own image. A nice fast paced chase around the world, with soul searching how to have a sense of self without permanent outside feedback (because people don’t remember you at all, ever), whether that is freedom or hell. Near future in its setting with small easily overlooked changes, e.g. where Scotland appears to have gone independent (only implied by the passport control on its English border).

Having read three books by Claire North in the past few weeks, I like how very different the stories are, in genre almost. One a fantasy tale that doubles as a historic novel, one a more dystopian near future SF story entirely set in the UK, one an almost old fashioned ‘honor amongst thieves’ detective story taking place around the world, but based on a fantasy premise that allows for a psychological development story in parallel, and set in the social media age. I still have one book by Claire North left, which is her debut, curious about what it will bring.

I read the first book Children of Time, in which spiders inherit the earth, or rather a terraformed planet, late last year. This is the second episode, Children of Ruin, this time with very emotional octopuses (yet with rational tentacles) and with alien self-aware slime mould. We’re going to have an adventure, the mould makes the last remaining humans say.

The weird thing was I kept thinking I read it before, although it was first published last May. Maybe there were a few sample chapters appended to the first part.

Very entertaining book about a dystopian UK, 84K. Takes Snowcrash‘s Burbclaves, strips them of their nerdy irony and replaces it with despair. Adds a dose of propagandistic Orwellian Newspeak, to which the title also alludes (84k is the amount calculated to be the economic damage of the killing of a key character: pay it and you walk free, or end up in slave labour). Where public tasks have been outsourced to corporations who, feeding on each other, coalesce up until the point there is just one Corporation that is both all corporations and the government. Resulting in sociopathic public governance, where everyone who starts out in the wrong place or falls through the (wide) cracks ends up shredded by the system, and where each factory and workplace has its own killing field in the back yard. Enough never ending madness in short to make anybody scream…unless you look away like everyone else.

I really enjoyed Normal People: A Novel. It resembles in tone and setting the diary notes from my own time at university. The choices contemplated but not made, and resulting potential regrets. The self-centered observation of the world around you, and how that can result in misinterpreting or over-interpreting the actions and intentions of those around you. Those aspects definitely resonate with my depressive last few years at university, and made me emphatise with both protagonists. Online reviews frequently mention how flat most characters in this book remain. It is a surprising critique I think as we experience the story through the eyes of both main characters, both as I said self-absorbed, self-loathing and constantly on the verge of depression. Through such eyes it is impossible to see others or your connection to others in full colour, rich in dimensions and in splendid detail. You only see it from your own narrowed down perspective, and only with regard to your internal deliberations and doubts. It made the book feel more authentic to me, not less.