Book Review: Chasing The Stars

 

It will not be a surprise to anyone that I love books set in space, and when I heard about this – a take on Othello by the amazing Malorie Blackman – I knew it would be fantastic.  Othello is actually one of my favourite Shakespeare plays – it’s so complex, so rich and must have been so forward-thinking for its time.  (I even got my one and only 100% for an essay on it when studying it at A-level, but that’s a different story).

V and her brother are alone on a spaceship, lone survivors of a virus which has wiped out the rest of the crew.  Into this isolation comes Nathan and his fellow crewmembers, and he and V feel an immediate and powerful attraction to each other.  But there is trouble ahead, as the varying motivations of those around them lead to manipulation, betrayal and secrets that threaten to tear them, and the wider situation, apart.

It’s an intriguing and eerie set-up, with Blackman creating a very dark and intensely lonely world for her protagonist.  It initially stretches believability that two teenagers would be able to manage to survive in deep space alone on a huge spacecraft, but there is a good explanation for this that is later revealed (and I didn’t see it coming at all).  Blackman is typically unflinching and honest in her realistic depiction of both sex and violence, which is something I really love about her writing.  True to her well established form, she ratchets up an almost unbearable amount of tension in depicting the increasingly twisted loyalties between her cast of characters, leading to an exciting climax and an unexpected final twist, that definitely leaves you wanting more.

A dark, brutal, suspenseful space tale, with plenty of twists and a fearless but believable heroine, from a seasoned storyteller at the top of her game.

Book Review: In the Dark, In the Woods

itditwWell, this book got me into a lot of trouble.  I started reading it one night and literally could NOT stop until it was almost light and I realized I’d better get some sleep.  Then, in the morning, when I should have been doing other things, I snuck away to a hammock to finish it, re-appearing at lunchtime.  Since I was supposed to be spending rare quality time with them, my husband and kids were not happy about this turn of events and I was placed firmly In the Doghouse.  But, you know what, it was worth it.  This book is THAT GOOD.

Castley Cresswell and her five siblings live in the woods under the strict control of their father, whose non-specified religious zeal keeps them prisoners to his cruel ministrations.  This doesn’t stop the siblings taking every opportunity to escape and wonder the woods at night, seeking experience of the world around them as adulthood beckons and an inevitable (and petrifying) tension builds.

Where do I start?  I mean you have the characters – the tough, funny, snarky, vulnerable Castley, the ethereally beautiful Caspar, the rebellious Mortimer, their terrifying father, the list goes on – all so well drawn and vividly rendered that, even though there’s a fairly extensive cast I never once had to stop and remind myself of their identity.  Then there’s the setting – so beautifully evoked that for the time I was reading the book I was THERE in the haunting darkness of the woods, the tumbledown repression of the house, the eerie strip malls, the intimidating high school hallways and grounds.  The atmosphere is so unsettling and dark throughout that, even though this is set in our modern day world, it rarely feels like it.  Early on, everyday things like coldsores and late night corner shops are imbibed with such horror that we as readers are able to see them through Castley’s confused and tainted eyes.  As the story progresses, we share completely in her alienation from the “normality” which surrounds her but which she is unable to be a part of.  And her voice is so strong that we are unquestionably able to see it from this perspective and feel what it would be like to be in her shoes, as one of the weird and feared, but also fascinating and charismatic, Cresswell siblings.  Descriptions of George and several other of the high school interactions were so witty and accurate I actually did LOL.  And, oh man, I was just so in love with Caspar – is that weird?  Maybe it is.

Eliza Wass has written a unique and enthralling book – dark, funny, beautiful and terrifying by turns – which kept me gripped and captured my imagination completely.  Her writing is original and unusual and many of her descriptions and images left me wishing I had thought of them first.  I have already begun to highly recommend this book to everyone I meet, and this is set to continue (starting now).  If you haven’t already – read it.