Sunday, 15 January 2012

Only Forward - Review

I don't tend to post book reviews all that often in this blog, but this is one I thought I'd share.

  (Scroll down to the SPOILER bit if you just want to read the review)

For those of you who may have happened to click on my profile to see my "full profile", you probably will have see a link to a book review blog which until recently was called Ben the Book Reviews and is now called One Year, 200 Fan Fictions.

This was my first and slightly misguided attempt at reviewing things online, I had a go at trying to look over a few self published novels, but in the end it seemed like too much hassle and as it was I had a lot of films to watch and decided to try my hand at reviewing those instead.  At the start of this year I decided to set myself a challenge after seeing a post by C.D. Eagle about reading a certain number of books in the year, so I decided to have a go at fan fiction instead. 

It made sense then, that when I took a two-day break to read a book recommended by a friend, that I post it in that blog, because it was about reading and it's original intention was to review books, and so for the curious, it's here: Only Forward.  (it's spoiler free, too!)

It then occurred to me that I might have more to say about the book, and since the general practise of this blog is to shout spoilers from the rooftops and tell people all the interesting and uninteresting things which happened, then I should post a more spoilery review here as well.

STOP, Spoiler Time!

If you swung by my spoiler free review on the way to this particularly section, then you'll know that this is the rare bird that I have actually enjoyed, rather than wanting to destroy every copy on sight.  If you didn't read it, then scroll up and open the link in a new tab, I won't spoil it for you, but it's quite different to what's written here.

Stark is our narrator and main character, and I knew that I loved him on the first page of chapter one and that did not waver once in 310 pages.  I've read books before with snarky 1st person perspectives where the main character cracks jokes at the audience and everyone has a wonderful time, but I know that I've never seen it done this well before, and probably won't again for a long time to come.

Stark is a problem solver, he's the go-to guy when there's no one else for the job, we never really clear up the issue of what he looks like, we never get to the bottom of how old he is, and I highly suspect that he does in fact have a first name, but it wasn't relevant information and so he didn't feel like sharing it.  Yet I know Stark.  I know him as well as one can know a self confessed unreliable narrator, but at least he's honest about being unreliable.

There are several sections of the book where I has to pause, I'm a pretty fast reader and I probably could have just read it in one day had it not been for distractions of that horrible three dimensional place with the people walking around inside that my mother insists I leave my house to visit once in while.  You know the place, offline. 

But without those horrible distractions I still would have had to pause, because I kept running into sections which posed to me such a truth that I had to sit back and reflect on it for a while.  Not the kind of thing I was expecting from a low tech, non-space-opera sci-fi with an emphasis on sarcasm and quirky gadgets, one which eerily resembles the iphone 14 years before it was unveiled by Steve Jobs. 

One section in particular struck me quite hard, this author writes about a lot of things in a way I've never seen anything come close to actually understanding the way it feels, love, memory, growing up, time, cats. 

     ""How many times have you tried to talk to someone about something that matters to you, tried to get them to see it the way you do? And how many of those times have ended with you feeling bitter, resenting them for making you feel like your pain doesn't have any substance after all? 
      Like when you've split up with someone, and you try to communicate the way you feel, because you need to say the words, need to feel that somebody understands just how pissed off and frightened you feel. The problem is, they never do. 'Plenty more fish in the sea,' they'll say, or 'You're better off without them,' or 'Do you want some of these potato chips?' They never really understand,
because they haven't been there, every day, every hour. They don't know the way things have been, the way that it's made you, the way it has structured your world. They'll never realise that someone who makes you feel bad may be the person you need most in the world. They don't understand the history, the background, don't know the pillars of memory that hold you up. Ultimately, they don't know you well enough, and they never can. Everyone's alone in their world, because everybody's life is different. You can send people letters, and show them photos, but they can never come to visit where you live.
      Unless you love them. And then they can burn it down.""

Stark has to track down a guy who has been kidnapped, he goes via his gangland friend Ji who gives him the lend of a couple of guns, then Stark has to find his way into Stable, a Neighbourhood in The City which have walled themselves off in a Logan's Run-esque dome and the punishment for anyone caught intruding is death.

Against the odds Stark manages to find his client, but discovers that he is ill and looks like he is dying and only Stark can help him, because Stark is the only person in the world who can travel to Jeamland and time is running out for Stark's client.   Jeamland is the place we go to dream, it's a real place, we all have our stream within and Stark can navigate them, he's the only person still alive who can, or so he thinks. 

I honestly don't want to spoiler anymore than I already have, because if you haven't read this book then I really want you to go grab yourself a copy because it's a truly excellent book.  If you have read it of course, I'm very much up for a lively discussion in the comments about how awesome it is.

Rating:  10 out of 10


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