Sunday, 18 January 2015

Project 1001: Two Book Reviews

My two 1001 Books projects have got off to a flying start.  From my adult list, I picked up Michel Faber's Under the Skin, which I received for Christmas.  I was already a Faber fan before starting this novel, the fourth of his that I have read.  And it's completely unlike the others, being dramatically different in tone and content to his more famous work The Crimson Petal and the White. 

The story opens with Isserley, who spends her time driving along the roads of the Scottish Highlands, looking to pick up male hitch-hikers, but only the large, muscular ones.  Apart from that, there's nothing else I could say about this novel without ruining how unexpected, different, surprising and chilling it is. There's so much I could rave about, particularly concerning Faber's brilliant use of language, but the reveal in this book is so wonderful that I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone.  Just trust me when I say that it is an amazingly gripping book, one that will lodge into your brain.  There's one scene in particular that I can not get out of my head, and that has made me completely re-evaluate a certain aspect of my life.  Under the Skin is a book that seeks to challenge and confront, and it does so very cleverly.  It's a book I will remember and think about for years to come. If you like thrillers, sci-fi, or books about ethical issues, you really need to pick this one up. 5 out of 5 stars.

From my children's list, my first selection was Lian Hearn's Across the Nightingale Floor, mainly because it was readily available in my library.  The main character, Takeo, is a member of a secretive religious group called the Hidden in a fantasy world based on Japan, when he witnesses the massacre of his friends and family. Escaping with the assistance of the mysterious Lord Otori, Takeo comes to learn more about his past, and the supernatural talents he has inherited from his ancestors.  When he discovers who is responsible for the massacres of the Hidden, and for the autocratic rule large parts of the island are suffering under, he becomes involved in a plot to assassinate the tyrannical Lord Iida.

Across the Nightingale Floor is best described as a crossover novel between YA and adult.  It's shelved in the adult section of my library but the two main protagonists are teenagers, and a lot of the plot deals with Takeo finding out who he is and what is important to him.  What I liked about the novel was that Hearn didn't shy away from darker issues or pretend that everything was always going to be OK.  Death and grief are handled sensitively but straight-forwardly, without talking down to the reader at all.

I enjoyed reading Across the Nightingale Floor, as it's always good to find fantasy set in non-Western contexts.  I liked reading about the belief systems of the people in Hearn's worlds, and the different approaches to marriage and politics.  Although the beginning and end sections of the novel were pacy and engaging, the plot did seem to lag in the middle, and sometimes I had trouble keeping track of who was related to who, and what others thought of them, as there was much in the way of intrigue going on.  Still, I enjoyed it enough to want to continue with the series.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

15 comments:

  1. SO intrigued by Under the Skin -- I love a book where you really can't reveal much without spoiling it, yet it is such a compelling read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so worth picking it up, such a tense read!

      Delete
  2. Under the Skin sounds wonderful and so intriguing! Must add this to my to-read list :)

    Gemma

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think I have heard of Under the Skin (the plot sounds familiar), but I am not more familiar with it. I will have to check it out. It sounds too good. Glad that your project is off to a great start!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's best not to find out any more before starting it, and definitely don't watch the terrible film with Scarlett Johansson.

      Delete
  4. Glad you enjoyed the Hearn book. I read the first two books in the series awhile back but still have yet to read the rest. I should really make an effort to do so.

    Under the Skin sounds interesting. I've only read one Faber book, The Crimson Petal and the White, and enjoyed Faber's writing style.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm going to order the next book at the library sooner rather than later, otherwise the characters will fade from my mind and it will be too late.

      I love Crimson Petal too. Have you read The Apple, his collection of short stories set in the same world?

      Delete
  5. Your description of Under the Skin is making me so curious! I've heard raves about The Crimson Petal and the White, but I haven't heard too much about that one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Under the Skin is under-hyped. I was impressed at how different it was to Crimson Petal, but still brilliant.

      Delete
  6. I haven't read either of these but I like the sound of both of them. Well done for a good start to your project 1001.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy the books if you do get a chance to try either of them.

      Delete
  7. I've never heard of either one of the books you describe, but they both sound interesting. I'm not much of a thriller/sci-fi fan, but every once in a while I like to read from those genres, so I will keep Faber in my mind. Your review and the positive comments make me curious.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I can't resist a book described as 'unexpected, chilling.' I might have to read that soon. Sounds fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I've just added Under the Skin to my wish-list, you sparked my curiosity!

    ReplyDelete