Review: Doggerland by Ben Smith

42363317Verdict: Bleak, but beautiful.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction

Published by HarperCollins UK/ 4th Estate, April 4th 2019

Find it on Goodreads.

Doggerland is brilliantly inventive, beautifully-crafted and superbly gripping debut novel about loneliness and hope, nature and survival – set on an off-shore windfarm in the not-so-distant future.
‘His father’s breath had been loud in the small room. It had smelled smoky, or maybe more like dust. ‘I’ll get out,’ he’d said. ‘I’ll come back for you, ok?’ The boy remembered that; had always remembered it. And, for a time, he’d believed it too.’
In the North Sea, far from what remains of the coastline, a wind farm stretches for thousands of acres.
The Boy, who is no longer really a boy, and the Old Man, whose age is unguessable, are charged with its maintenance. They carry out their never-ending work as the waves roll, dragging strange shoals of flotsam through the turbine fields. Land is only a memory.
So too is the Boy’s father, who worked on the turbines before him, and disappeared.
The boy has been sent by the Company to take his place, but the question of where he went and why is one for which the Old Man will give no answer.
As the Old Man dredges the sea for lost things, the Boy sifts for the truth of his missing father. Until one day, from the limitless water, a plan for escape emerges…
Doggerland is a haunting and beautifully compelling story of loneliness and hope, nature and survival.

This book is possibly a definite contender for the bleakest book I have read in years. Set in the future on a slowly breaking down wind farm maintained as much as possible by the Old Man and the Boy whose names remain a mystery for most of the book. To say that not much is happening would be unfair (there is actually a lot of action here) but everything crumbles in slow motion and there is not much either person can do against it. The comparisons to The Road are spot-on; this future is bleak and narrow in the way th world can be seen by the protagonists. The atmosphere is equally distressing and overwhelming while the language remains a sharp edge that can dazzle the reader.

That this book was written by an author who also writes poetry, is impossible to overlook – the sentences are beautiful and unusual and by far my favourite thing about this book. The way Ben Smith’s prose flows reminded me of the ocean – something that has to be intentional given that the North Sea is as much of a protagonist as the three other people in this novel.

But I don’t particularly like The Road and I feel a lot of the same feelings towards that book as I do towards this book: I can see how it is very well done, impressive even, but for me the bleakness became overwhelming and I had to force myself to keep reading. But this has everything to do with the kind of reader I am and nothing to do with this book. It is a book I can see many people loving and I hope many people will pick it up – because it is so very well done and so interestingly told.

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and HarperCollins UK/ 4th Estate in exchange for an honest review.

Wrap Up: December 2018 or there goes the year.

I cannot believe the year is over. It feels like it went both super quick and super slow. My reading in December was a bit erratic because the first half I felt mega burned out (mostly due to work) and could not concentrate on anything difficult, then there was Christmas were I did not get any reading done – and then I had a few days to wrap up all the books written by men I was still reading.

Books I read in December:

  1. Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko: 5 out of 5 stars
  2. Dopesick by Beth Macy: 5 out of 5 stars
  3. Angel’s Blood (Guild Hunter #1) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  4. Archangel’s Kiss (Guild Hunter #2) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Archangel’s Consort (Guild Hunter #3) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  6. Archangel’s Blade (Guild Hunter #4) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  7. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou: 4,5 out of 5 stars
  8. Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels #10) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  9. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club #1) by Theodora Goss: 3 out of 5 stars
  10. Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling #1) by Nalini Singh: 3,5 out of 5 stars
  11. New Suns ed. by Nisi Shawl: 2 out of 5 stars
  12. Doggerland by Ben Smith: 3 out of 5 stars
  13. Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) by Ben Aaronovitch: 4 out of 5 stars
  14. Heavy by Kiese Laymon: 4 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

I adored Vita Nostra – every single second of reading this was a pleasure. Dopesick was another book that I appreciated immensely – it is wonderfully researched and impeccably told. Both books made my best of the year lists.

Continue reading “Wrap Up: December 2018 or there goes the year.”

Wrap Up: November 2018 or Genre Fiction is the best

I had a pretty horrific month, personally. But my reading recovered from the abysmal month that was October, which is at least something; within 10 days I had read as much as I had read in the whole month before.

Books I read in November:

  1. The Outcast Hour ed. by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin: 3 out of 5 stars
  2. Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson: 4 out of 5 stars
  3. Vengeful (Villains #2) by V. E. Schwab: 4 out of 5 stars
  4. Binti (Binti #1) by Nnedi Okorafor: 2 out of 5 stars
  5. Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  6. White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) by Ilona Andrews: 4,5 out of 5 stars
  7. Wild Fire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  8. Broken Magic (Chronicles of Amicae #1) by Mirah Bolender: 3 out of 5 stars
  9. The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein: 4 out of 5 stars
  10. Be With Me Always by Randon Billings Noble: 3,5 out of 5 stars
  11. Sadie by Courtney Summers: 4 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

Continue reading “Wrap Up: November 2018 or Genre Fiction is the best”

TBR: ARCs on my shelves part V (2018)

I have not talked about the ARCs I added to my virtual shelves in three months and while I did not request as many ARCs as I have done in the past, I have acquired a few and want to talk about them.

Still to be read:

38633526Vita Nostra by Sergey & Marina Dyachenko

Publication Date: November 1st, 2018

Publisher: HarperVoyager

Blurb (from Goodreads): The definitive English language translation of the internationally bestselling Ukrainian novel—a brilliant dark fantasy with “the potential to be a modern classic” (Lev Grossman), combining psychological suspense, enchantment, and terror that makes us consider human existence in a fresh and provocative way.

Our life is brief . . .

While vacationing at the beach with her mother, Sasha Samokhina meets the mysterious Farit Kozhennikov under the most peculiar circumstances. The teenage girl is powerless to refuse when this strange and unusual man with an air of the sinister directs her to perform a task with potentially scandalous consequences. He rewards her effort with a strange golden coin.

As the days progress, Sasha carries out other acts for which she receives more coins from Kozhennikov. As summer ends, her domineering mentor directs her to move to a remote village and use her gold to enter the Institute of Special Technologies. Though she does not want to go to this unknown town or school, she also feels it’s the only place she should be. Against her mother’s wishes, Sasha leaves behind all that is familiar and begins her education.

As she quickly discovers, the institute’s “special technologies” are unlike anything she has ever encountered. The books are impossible to read, the lessons obscure to the point of maddening, and the work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school does not punish them for their transgressions and failures; instead, their families pay a terrible price. Yet despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of . . . and suddenly all she could ever want.

A complex blend of adventure, magic, science, and philosophy that probes the mysteries of existence, filtered through a distinct Russian sensibility, this astonishing work of speculative fiction—brilliantly translated by Julia Meitov Hersey—is reminiscent of modern classics such as Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Max Barry’s Lexicon, and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, but will transport them to a place far beyond those fantastical worlds.

Why I requested it: I love Russian literature and this one sounded right up my alley. And then my slump hit. Continue reading “TBR: ARCs on my shelves part V (2018)”