For quite some time I've been in possession of a Blackwell's gift card but haven't been in an area with a branch locally. So during my lunchbreak from work at the Scottish Book Trust today, I moved swiftly to the Edinburgh branch on the hunt for a novel to sink my teeth into. I'm telling you this because I'd like to share the joy I experienced on, not just finding three books (actual physical books that I can flick through the pages of, scribble notes on with a real pen and chew to bits, if I feel inclined) I'm eagerly anticipating reading, but also not paying a single penny for any of them. (My gift card credit has been sadly extinguished, save 7p, which the store assistant cautioned me to 'not spend all in one go!') So with three crisp tomes sitting on the coffee table, the collection erring satisfyingly towards the dystopian, I'm faced with a dilemna: which one to start reading first? The length of this blog post is very much dependent on how long it is before I disappear away to make a start on this new collection.
My usual approach would be to start the novel that intrigues me the most, or perhaps the shortest, then begin the other two on subsequent days, until I'm alternating between all three. My teenage brain was very adept at keeping track of three, four, more plots in my head simultaneously, but I'm not convinced I could do the same now.
So, my choices include:
- Veronica Roth, 'Divergent'
- Kate Atkinson, 'Life After Life'
- Dave Eggers, 'The Circle'
Veronica Roth, 'Divergent'
As an avid reader of YA in my teenage years, developing into a vivacious consumer of dystopian literature, I expected myself to lap up Suzanne Collins' 'The Hunger Games' series. As it happened, I've only made it through a sample chapter of 'The Hunger Games' and only recently watched the film adaptations. Perhaps it's from a sense of having missed the opportunity to join the Katniss fanclub that I've picked up what looks like it could be the next YA novel sensation.
The recently released film adaptation of 'Divergent' looks slick and intriguing. I've not yet seen the film (I think I'll wait until I've read the novel - as usual!), but from the trailers, I get the sense that the plot deals with the idea of a society conditioned into accepting their social 'class', reminiscent of the forms of societal control employed in Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World'. Friends and regular readers of this blog may be aware that Huxley's dystopian fiction is one of my favourite novels, so it's unsurprising why this similarity would've drawn my attention towards 'Divergent'.
Kate Atkinson, 'Life After Life'
I've had my eye on this title for a while. I'll have to admit that the fox on the front cover may have played a part in drawing my attention, but this seems like a superficial reason to pick up a novel. Though now I feel vindicated, as 'Life After Life' was the Costa Novel Award Winner 2013. The blurb reads
What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
suggesting perhaps a 'Groundhog Day' scenario. I'd like to think I have a broad taste in novels, but cynically I find myself thinking that it's the 'Alternative History' theme, so prominent in Science Fiction, which I find so appealing.
The blurb promises much in concept, though doesn't give away much in terms of plot. I'm very intrigued to see how Atkinson handles this idea.
Dave Eggers, 'The Circle'
Having not heard of this novel, nor Dave Eggers, till this afternoon, this was a spontaneous purchase, but one I'm sure I won't regret. It seems I couldn't have cherry-picked a more ideal blurb for my current interests, so I hope the novel lives up to my expectations.
The Circle runs everything - all your internet activity in one easy, safe and visible place. No wonder it is now the world's most powerful and influential company.
Sounds a little like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, along with more private sites, all bundled together.
I'm expecting a dystopian novel that makes use of the internet as the main device for control and surveillance, and some satire of our over-reliance on technology. If you've browsed the rest of my site, or had the misfortune of asking me what I've been working on in the past year, you may have heard me talk about my plan to write a series of short stories that depict troubling aspects of our world full of technology, dominated by the internet and social media. I'm interested in how this affects people and their way of looking at the world and how it might impinge on our way of life. I'm hoping I can get inspired by Eggers' novel.
At risk of sounding like a Huxley-fangirl (if such a thing has known to exist), the quote from the 'Washington Post' that cinched it for me was that:
'The Circle' is 'Brave New World' for our brave new world. Fast, witty and troubling.
I know I shouldn't believe everything I read on a newspaper, just like I shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but I'm very very excited to read 'The Circle'!
So, please get involved. If you've read any of the above, I'd like to hear your thoughts on which ones you enjoyed or disliked. If any one stands out and you'd like to hear my review of it before the others, let me know. I need to decide which to start first and it's up to you!
Listing image: Summit Entertainment