Station Eleven, The 7th Function of Language and Night Heron
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
The central premise of this novel is not especially new – a virus wipes out most of human race and civilization as we know it collapses. However, the approach is a bit different from most treatments of this scenario. These tend to focus on either the event itself and its immediate aftermath, or a point in time when it’s become something of a dim and distant memory and a new post-apocalyptic society has formed. Station Eleven, by contrast, moves back and forth between points in the characters’ lives that are either before the crisis - when people had no idea what was about to hit them - and a point sometime after it happened - when the initial shock has worn off but people are still struggling to come to terms with it and a new post-apocalyptic society has barely begun to form. That might make it sound a bit meandering and lacking in focus, but I found it particularly effective in conveying how little we appreciate the many benefits of our technology-rich civilisation, how easily and quickly it could be swept away and how we would be likely to feel afterwards for having taken so much of it for granted.
The 7th function of language by Laurent Binet
This definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea – and if French intellectuals drive you up the wall, you should probably steer well clear. On the other hand, you might be pleasantly surprised and amused to find those intellectuals becoming embroiled in a Dan Brown-esque plot involving the fictional murder of Roland Barthes and the urgent need to recover some vitally important information relating to a new theory about linguistics (on which the future of the world as we know it depends, naturally). Anyway, I thought it was quite good fun but perhaps I’m just a sucker for this sort of thing. I read it in French on my Kindle (he adds, pretentiously) – which I only mention here because a really great feature of the Kindle is that when you get to word you don’t know, you just stick your finger on it and it translates it for you (a feature which, I confess, I needed reasonably frequently for this one). It is a shame more foreign language books aren’t available in the UK via Kindle in their original language – I can’t see what’s stopping publishers doing it. I also enjoyed HHhH by the same author, which I reviewed here.
Night Heron by Adam Brookes
An excellent espionage thriller set mostly in China. I have no idea if the depiction of the inner workings of MI6 was accurate, but it certainly came across as authentic and up to the minute – as did the depiction of China. For once, I felt the Le Carre comparison was justified. I also highly recommend the 2 further books in the series, "Spy Games" and "The Spy's Daughter".
Posted by Paul Samael. Posted In : Book reviews