books · Dystopian · fiction · literature · review

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

At times of political uncertainty, dystopian fictions seems to appear more frequently. It’s through fiction that we can attempt to explore our own issues in another time and place. A distraction as it were of today’s issues.

Machine’s Like Me does just that. Instead of today’s political issues, we’re transported to an alternative 1980s London. Familiar enough so we recognise the world we’re in. Different enough to allow us to question the future. Current issues are very much weaved into Machines Like Me: the climate crisis, war and the fear of losing our jobs to technology. There are still the human issues on love and friendship but perhaps the biggest question of all is what makes us human?

Can humanity be created?

Charlies comes into some money, he could have bought a house, instead he craved a companion. One of the very must human machines, he openly stated he wanted an Eve the female version, but wasn’t quick enough to secure one. He brings home Adam instead.

Adam’s traits can be programmed, he can be customised to be the ‘perfect human’ depending of course, what we each consider to be the best traits in others. But Charlie halts in making Adam into his idealised human, after all, humans are created with a mixture of two people, he therefore chose half of Adam’s traits and asks his upstairs neighbour, Miranda to choose the other half. Thus making Adam more human.

But Adam is not human and that causes its own problems. He’s owned by Charlie, he’s not truly his own person. He’s restricted with what he can and cannot do, he can be switched off at a moment’s notice… Or he could until Adam begins to learn to overcome the restrictions humans have placed on his technology.

Machine’s Like Me made me question our human traits, behaviours and restrictions. Our freedom of choice is one of the biggest things you could argue makes you truly human. But these freedoms are always restricted to a degree through the society we live in.

There’s fears of what the future can hold. Are technology advances too fast in today’s world? Is it making us lazier, more forgetful, more dependant on having the world’s information at our finger tips? Is it also making us more demanding, for something more, something we can fully control?

You won’t get the answers in this book, but it will make you question the world that might be. That could be. We are, after all, the race that has created these problems for ourselves, and it is our responsibility to view how they can impact the world, before it it too late.

The details:

  • Published in paperback: 5 March 2020
  • RRP: £8.99
book review · books · fiction · literature · review · Shakespeare

Hag-Seed

Margret Atwood introduces her Shakespearean spin-off in this clever tale; beautifully captivating the strength and hope of human life.

We begin with the Felix putting on The Tempest at a Canadian theatre festival, but things quickly don’t go to plan. While he is ousted by a colleague he goes off the grid for a quiet life, plotting revenge as he goes. His own daughter, Miranda, echoed as a ghost in his small abode follows him as he begins to work under a pseudonym.

The story opens out into a tale of hope, of humans pushed to the edge as Felix begins a production of the Tempest inside a correctional facility. Inspiring the inmates to put on the show in time for a visit from his previous colleague Tony. A slice of revenge served twelve years later… what could possibly go wrong?

A clever portrayal of human emotions wrapped around one of Shakespeare’s famous plays, it’s certainly one to read.

book review · books · classics · fiction · literature · reading · review

Love Story

We are surrounded by love stories before we even learn to read; fairy tales and Disney princesses condition our expectations of true love. It’s an emotion that influences every tale, evert text and narrative as we try to define this complex emotion.

Erich Segal’s Love Story is an American classic, Jenny and Oliver are an unsurprising couple brought together from two different paths in life. But the power of love is something that is beyond human comprehension. It’s a tale of love and loss; of gaining parental approval and choosing your own way in life.

There is something in Segal’s writing that manages to capture the character’s depth across the short tale. The writing is at times brutally honest in its depiction of the unfair problems of life, but also the moments of pure happiness are intertwined with more romantic prose.

If you’re looking for a short novel for an upcoming summer holiday — this is certainly one to read.

book review · books · fiction · literature · review

The Little Paris Bookshop

Sometimes I feel as though I can never find a good book, that’s probably why I reread my favourites again and again. But when I spotted The Little Paris Bookshop sat upon the shelves, I thought I couldn’t go too wrong.

The Little Paris Bookshop was an encapsulating read, comfortably set within a bookshop itself (could the setting be more perfect?) it takes you on a tale of adventure, love, and time. Although this bookshop is not one you’re used to walking into off the streets. The Literary Apothecary in a barge bookshop, and its owner can tell what book you require — without any previous description.

Ultimately the best thing about a barge bookshop is its ability to travel. The adventure of Jean is certainly amusing in his decision to cast off without any money, ensuring all necessities must be exchanged for books. Yet, there are more serious undertones to the novel, as Jean desperately travels to seek his forgiveness 20-years too late. The unopened letter previously forgotten holds a past that must be revisited, with intriguing turns to the tale.

This is a witty and funny book at times, with some serious questions on life and death, a book for those who seem to have read everything.

book review · books · fiction · review

The Help

the-help-stockettHaving just picked up The Help for the fifth time, I thought it was worthwhile putting pen to paper as to why I keep coming back to this book.

There’s something unique to Stockett’s writing that transports you instantly back to 1960’s Mississippi. Whether it’s Skeeter, Aibileen or Minny narrating we’re pulled back to a time of harsh segregation and a desire to alter the perspective of America’s racists.

I love how this book describes not only the real-time struggles of a coloured maid in the deep south of America, but the hope and resilience of people coming together. It’s a testament of friendship, hope and exceptions. It relies on a group of women willing to risk everything for a chance at making a difference.

It’s a book of defying the society we live within, that shows no matter how small, we can all make a difference.

 

book review · books · classics · fiction · modern classic · review

The Handmaid’s Tale

 

handmaidTo continue the dystopian literature of 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale is another incredible story of resilience and hope in a new world.

We follow Offred in the religious land of Gilead, living the life of a handmaid. Offred has the rare ability to bear a child and must attempt to conceive with her commander. She holds no political or personal presence, she is simply a piece of property for which the state and her commander has sentenced her to one job.

While the life of a handmaid is exhibited, Offred also gives the reader glimpses of her life before this new regime. A life with purpose, love and hope. It in this, that we begin to sense her rebellion for the current world.

It’s a clever tale that connects our past with a possible future, one that holds complete power and overriding hierarchy. It is certainly a modern classic to be read by all.

books · classics · fiction · literature · reading · review

Nineteen Eighty-Four

This morning I grabbed one of the first books my hand came across as I headed out the door. It’s been at least a couple of years since I’d last read Orwell’s masterpiece, and I’d quite forgotten the treat I was in for.1984

Nineteen Eighty-Four is now a much-loved modern classic, it contains ideas and words we forget were created entirely for the novel. Big Brother and Room 101 still hold power over the everyday public, with little acknowledgement for Orwell’s creation. Similarly, Winston Smith sits as a well-known character, and the tale’s fist line is often featured in a pub quiz. Not to mention the linguistic heaven of Newspeak, an entirely reimagined version of English- a way to control not just our language but our very thoughts. Orwell was incredible.

It’s a story of rebellion, revolution and self-control. But also of love, finding happiness and a desperate search for truth. Orwell encapsulates the desire for justice and a life of honesty. The laws that surround this world, open your eyes to the freedom we have today, not just freedom of speech, but freedom of thought and expression.

Although the world still has a long way to go, this tale allows the importance of truth and integrity to overcome everything, no matter what the cost.

books · fiction · literature · reading

Comfort Reading

This time of year I become stuck in the revision madness that makes up exams, essays, and general deadlines. So in order to keep myself sane, I end up reaching for the same battered titles on my bookshop and revisiting a story I know well. I always go back to the same few books, normally it’s a Harry Potter book that ends up on my bedside table, but other things pop in there too. There’s always something comforting in the choice I make, it’s a book I’ve read tens of times, a book that I already know the ending to but I re-emerge into the tale again and again.

It might be that somewhere subconsciously I’m trying not to get sucked into a new story when I have work to do, or it could be a way to be securely kept in a world and with characters I know. Regardless of the psychosocial reason behind it, I love revisiting a story I know I will enjoy, a novel I could never become bored with.

Which book do you find yourself reaching for again and again? Is there such a thing as comfort reading? Just a few thoughts from a girl who’s had too much Shakespeare.

 

 

book haul · books · classics · fiction · literature

Spring Book Haul

The days are getting longer, the sun is starting to shine; I believe spring has sprung. Now, with all this extra daylight, what better way to spend it than reading way into the evening, or if you’re really lucky, escaping to the park with a book in hand on a sunny afternoon. I have some small hopes that the Manchester weather will allow this in the weeks to come, so I’m going to indulge myself with a spring book haul.

IMG_6811First things first are some classics I’ve had on my list, and even on my shelves for a little while now.

The Collector – John Fowles; When Frederick takes his butterfly collection to the next level by capturing an art student and keeping her in the confines of his cellar. Dark and eerie, the tale explores the desire for ownership at all costs and the fight for freedom and understanding that unfolds.

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller; Heller’s masterpiece has been on my to-read list for years, the war tale of the century will have me gripped to see what this ordinary man will achieve.

The Hanging Garden – Patrick White; Another war-time tale, this time, two children find themselves evacuated to Sydney, trapped at the other side of the world, they bond through their shared abandonment. A story of finding hope and adventure in the unknown.

IMG_6812The next two books seem to share a few similarities; they are both trying to find their relatives and strangely both begin their tales with the arrival of a suitcase.

The Finding of Matha Lost – Caroline Wallace; Martha is lost, abandoned and alone. She embarks on a tale of returning, lost possession to their owner and even herself to her parents. It’s a search of beginnings to find endings.

Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase – Louise Walters; Two stories are wound together through this novel, Roberta’s love for collecting old letters and postcards takes her on her own mystery. While Dorothy, hides a secret that takes 60 years to unearth.

I’ve given you a peak at what I’ll be reading in the coming months, let me know what you’re reading this spring.

book review · books · fiction · literature · religion · review · war

In A Land Of Paper Gods

In a land of paper godsStuck between two worlds, Ming-Mei arrives at Lushan, a boarding school for missionary children in the mountain tops of China’s Jiangxi Province. Ming-Mei lies forgotten, as does her forbidden Chinese tongue; she is Henrietta Robertson a girl of British missionary parents teaching the gospel to the people of China.

Yet something mysterious occurs to Dormitory A, the girls soon find themselves in the Prophetess club, searching out prophecies in the out-of-bounds section of the school. From the hidden lake and caves to behind the washroom, these secret areas bond the girls together and show the innocence and difficulties of their childhood.

Told from Etta’s point of view, the tale is a coming-of-age story in which Etta must find not her only her place in the world, but also her calling. Full of adventure, prophesies and war this is a novel that will keep you enhanced by Etta’s world. Through Etta, we explore not just her religion and culture but her sense of duty that showcases the power a girl can have, in an unrecognizable world.

In A Land Of Paper Gods is published by Tinder Press and currently available in hardback, it’s certainly worth a read.