The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer

I said I recently started a new job working as an assistant to a literary agent and at the wonderful Goldsboro Books. This is both thrilling and exhausting. Being surrounded by all these books is becoming detrimental to my health – mental and physical. The late nights spent reading, unable to stop (because of enjoyment yet also the knowledge of the sheer volume that I need to get through) and then of course the decisions. So many options, all looking so good, which to go for?

This is what I pondered as I stared at the shelves, trying to decide on what my first purchase would be from the shop; what my premier signed first edition would be. I was a week into the job and of course by now had had a chance to become vaguely familiar with the array of titles on offer, but there was one that had kept catching my eye. Firstly it was the jacket. I picked it up for the first time, and I remember thinking what a nice cover it was. I moved the book and picked up the next as all I was doing was sending them out to lucky customers. Then I came across it again and just as before it stood out, so I opened it up to take a look at what lay inside. I’ll in fact write some of it here so maybe you’ll see what I mean:

There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night.

There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real.

There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days.

The Shock of the Fall is all of these books.

My point is, I was already hooked. It didn’t tell me anything. I was none the wiser as to what this book was about but I knew I had to read it. There were only blurbs on the back, three selected quotes with one thing in common – the word ‘Stunning.’ It was then that as I looked at those shelves and this memory came back that I knew of course it was what I needed to buy.

I started the book the next day (Saturday) and immediately it didn’t disappoint. I was hooked more still from the very first page. But, not being a massive book, I didn’t want to destroy it in a day or two as is so often the case with great books. I limited myself to the first 40 pages during that day. A day and 240 pages later on the Sunday I was done and it is absolutely brilliant. Recently I loved World War Z, I might have even said it was the best book I’d read recently and I don’t want to appear fickle, but this really was.

I was so absorbed in this book and it was so well written I just couldn’t put it down. It comes from the perspective of a highly unreliable narrator, who as the story develops, allows certain things about him to be known so that we realise he obviously has some kind of issues. I won’t say more other than it deals with mental health. That was what I loved, and in general do love in books, not knowing what was really going on, whether what the narrator was revealing to us was true or false. Him even saying that he couldn’t really remember just made it that more obvious that this whole story could be nothing like what we were being told. It all unfolds so cleverly, a testament to the amazing writing from debut author Nathan Filer, who I might add is obviously a very nice guy, mid way through I began to exchange a series of tweets with him about the book, and his recognition of the tweets and his replies showed a true appreciation of my comments.

                As I’ve implied, the less you know the better. I never tried to find any of the story out before I read it and that was one of the reasons it was so bloody intriguing – not knowing the story. My only other research on it was a quick Amazon search which revealed a 5 star rating and of course was another reason why it was such an easy decision to make to buy it. Not a single part of this book disappointed me, I loved it all. It is such a cleverly written novel covering a sensitive subject. I’d be the first to admit I have a very limited knowledge on mental health problems but it feels so authentic; no doubt due to the fact the author is also a registered mental health nurse.

I am a huge fan of quirky and clever narrative voices. But I am also the first to admit that they don’t always work. This does. As the narrator writes in different moods this is transferred to the page giving it a stream of consciousness-like feel. Little touches like the font changing as he writes from different places give it that authenticity and make us really believe there is a guy sitting at a computer telling his story as he remembers it. It is funny, moving and so believable.

For once, the hype from the publisher really does live up to expectations with this book. I couldn’t recommend it more, it really is brilliant. I very much hope the author continues to write more of the sort as there is surely an exciting future ahead.

For fear of repeating the seemingly publisher chosen word to stand alongside the book – It is stunning.

★★★★★

Click here to buy a signed, lined, and dated first edition from Goldsboro Books

World War Z – Max Brooks

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If you’re anything like me then the notion of a ‘zombie novel’ is one to be quashed at the first moment of hearing. How can something like that have any literary importance, or be well-written and in the slightest bit original? But then I started hearing more and more things about this one, one which was actually good – better than good, really good. As misguided as it may be, it was a long time ago now when the first announcements came of a film adaptation with Brad Pitt, that I actually became excited about both the film and book. Ashamedly I have only now just got round to reading the book, just before the film is released (as obviously book must be read before film seen). And the results…

Amazing.

Forget any preconceptions you might have about the genre as this is so much more than a book about zombies. This is about how the world handled a zombie invasion, something brought terrifyingly to life in Max Brooks’ world, and the impact of such an invasion on humanity. Whilst containing scenes of vivid and disturbing action, the book delves into the emotions of the humans caught up in this war and the terrible effects it had on them.

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Before I go any further I should tell you the book’s style. The whole story is retold through a series of interviews with a range of different people, from different parts of the world. The chapters are broken up into stages of the invasion, starting with the preliminary stages as the outbreak started and people slowly began to take notice, and moving through to retaliation, total war and the rebuilding process for a broken civilisation. It explores the decisions that were made to deal with the situation at hand, and the rationalities behind them; the extremities that governments were forced to go to in order to neutralise insurmountable threat (this includes decisions which included collateral loss)

The book is enthralling from start until finish – so much so that you will actually believe that there is a zombie invasion going on around you. I found myself getting confused watching the news and tv programmes, expecting to hear the latest developments, or a zombie burst onto screen and tear someone apart. That is how real the world Brooks creates is. As absurd as it may sound, everything and every action is so believable, which is why you can so easily confuse it with our own world. Whether it’s the nuclear warfare reactions between certain countries or the different tactics used by each country, you believe it. And in the aftermath, the camps of refugees and the emergence of unexpected countries and currencies; as out of the ordinary it is, it is so natural in its place not once can you question it.

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It’s the exploration of humanity and the depths it has to plunge to that makes this book so captivating, mixed in with the terrible action and violence. Hearing people’s own personal stories of the invasion, allowing us so many perspectives on the heartbreak and problems, make the book impossible to put down. You just have to know what happens next.

In short, the book isn’t about the zombies, it’s about us. It’s about humanity. And it’s about the lengths people will go to in order to survive. It’s a win-win situation; if you already love zombie type stuff then here’s your bible. And if you don’t, then you’ll still fucking love this because it’s bloody awesome.

★★★★★

(Which reminds me, I said I was excited about the film…but having read the book I have no idea how they’ve made this into a film, it’s impossible. There’s no one storyline or lead character, anything needed for the plot to a coherent film. Obviously they’ve made it from one person’s perspective but that destroys the whole point of the book, so how this can even really be called World War Z is a mystery to me. I will now still watch the film, however I dread to see the mess they’ve made of such an original take on a worn-out genre.)

You can buy it from Amazon, of course, but I’m not going to link it. Go find it at your nearest independent. We don’t like Amazon.

The Unknowns – Gabriel Roth

I’m telling you straight up, this post will be short. Not because I can’t be bothered to cover the book properly or anything like that but for the simple reason, I just don’t think it’s worth the time of day.

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                The potential was there – the reviews decent enough, the comment from Sebastian Faulks, ‘Fast, funny, full of snappy dialogue, and never losing its poise. Gabriel Roth is a find.’ Even the the book itself was a good looking one and I won’t lie, I was looking forward to it, and maybe unearthing a new favourite author. Unfortunately I didn’t.

It started strongly, but I suppose every book does in its own way, and I got into it pretty quickly. The first chapter captivated me and I rushed on, even more hopeful. However it wasn’t much later that I felt my attention begin to waver. The overly neurotic lead character annoyed me. Now I know such a person probably does think like this but to see it on the page in such a way about ridiculous things just didn’t seem right to me, and instead of sympathising with him I just got angry.

It wasn’t just him who annoyed me, pretty much all the characters did. None of them felt real, whether it was the lead and his supposed millionaire status (this just seemed ridiculous all the way through as he would keep saying things like ‘when should I tell her I’m rich), his reporter girlfriend, or the recently ‘out’ lesbian Cynthia. It all felt caricatured and stereotyped.

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In the end I was left wholly unsatisfied, rushing through the second half just so I could move on to the next, and hopefully better read. Promises made on the cover (‘Will our hero be driven to uncover the whole truth about his lover – or will they continue in bliss and wonder?’) were not kept and to be honest nothing really happened. Actually the word ‘hero’ there is absolutely ridiculous. And then it just ends. The ‘climax’ is reached and the book is suddenly over. It’s not that it prematurely ejaculates; more that it never even gets the chance to get close enough to pussy to even have the chance. For that to happen you need to be turned on, and this just won’t get you there.

Rant over.

Move on.

★★

(P.S. I know it says I’m currently reading World War Z and that review is just around the corner but I’m just waiting on my copy to come back so I can check a few details before posting…)

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