RaveThe Guardian (UK)Written in the years immediately before Covid-19, How High We Go in the Dark seems unnervingly prescient ... It is entirely possible that certain phrases and scenarios have been tweaked and highlighted during an editing process that will have taken place during lockdown. Yet the overall mood and tone of Nagamatsu’s fictional future is all the more affecting for being so much in sympathy with our lived present. The fact that he steers clear of the sensationalist and overfamiliar tropes of generic apocalypse, opting, instead, for a more subtle and unerringly humane response, gives the book both authority and pathos ... There is an argument that a novel constructed from what are, effectively, individual short stories will lack overall narrative focus. There is an equal and opposite argument that what might be lost in terms of a unified story arc is more than adequately compensated for by the rich, complex labyrinth of possibilities that this more exploratory approach allows. Nagamatsu’s skill lies not only in his evocative imagining of alternative realities, but also in how he builds bridges between them. What starts as a series of snapshots is assembled into a glimmering montage of interconnectedness ... Like a Polaroid photograph, How High We Go in the Dark takes time to show its true colours. When they finally appear, the effect is all the more dazzling ... How High We Go in the Dark is a truly genre-transcending work in which sense of wonder and literary acumen are given boundless opportunity to shine.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... successful in evoking alienation ... this novel’s primary interest is in language and form. The author has stressed the importance of theatre and novels-in-verse such as Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin to her work, and it is in its performative, dramatic aspect that Olga and Nikolai’s story comes fully to life. The text on the page resembles a play script, and Moskovich’s plastic handling of language forces us to experience the novel’s tension and unease almost as a physical sensation. We don’t often see writing like this: genuinely subversive and innovative, an experiment in form that is actually discomfiting.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)... In his summoning of our era’s most urgent themes—environmental collapse, the rise of artificial intelligence, the destructive conflict between the individual and the collective—Kingsnorth is clearly striving for contemporary relevance. Yet the way these themes are presented seems disappointingly old-fashioned. The first third of the novel has a quality of mystery that draws the reader under its spell; sadly, Kingsnorth is not content to let his mysteries speak for themselves. The bulk of the book is taken up with long and preachy infodumps ... removing the need to examine history’s moral grey areas, ignoring many of the systemic injustices that lie behind what Kingsnorth would have us interpret more simply as stupidity and greed. Similarly, while he might appear to promote gender equality by presenting the Order as a matriarchy and God as female, his far-future society seems peculiarly obsessed with replicating the heteronormative morality ... Kingsnorth is clearly writing to challenge himself as much as his audience, and his greatest strength lies, as ever, in the power and vision of his landscape writing. I just wish that, as a novel, Alexandria possessed the moral complexity and imaginative insight that would enable it to succeed in its own ambitions.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)The Absolute Book has the feel of an instant classic, a work to rank alongside other modern masterpieces of fantasy ... a tongue-in-cheek homage to...overblown literary detective stories as well as a triumph of literary fantasy, and this knowing, feisty, humorous contribution to the genre is a hefty piece of work. There is a lot to keep track of here, not only in terms of characters but in terms of worlds ... The strands of real-world myth, folklore and fairytale from which Knox weaves the philosophical rationale behind what is in its appearance and mechanics a classic portal fantasy are as richly diverse as her characters, revealing a fluent knowledge of her predecessors as well as a solidly practical grasp of magical storytelling ... a book like Knox’s offers the assurance that a more forward-thinking, experimental strand of fantasy is possible, and thriving.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)... fragmented, marvellously compressed ... it is this image of dripping water and its powers of erosion that comes to define his book as a whole, both as a novel that confronts the challenge of describing what climate crisis might look like, and in the way a slow accretion of pertinent detail gathers cataclysmic momentum ... has a terse, minimalist quality that is at least partly down to how the text is presented on the page. Short paragraphs and generous line spacing encouraged me to read the novel as a series of prose poems. The radical distillation of language, the sense that every word has been individually chosen, results in a blunt perfection that heightens this effect. Narrative exists, but it is secondary to form. On first encounter at least, the pleasures Stillicide offers appear to be more aesthetic than dramatic ... can be added to the growing roster of powerful and urgent meditations on the future. As a tract of written language, it is close to perfect. As a repository for ideas, it is imaginative and far reaching. As a story of and for our times, it is very human, and deadly serious.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)How far The Institute will satisfy you as a reader will depend on what draws you to King’s fiction in the first place. If you enjoy boss battles and grandiose conspiracies, the allure of cosmic forces moving beneath the surface of sleepy reality, then this novel may be for you. If, like me, what you enjoy most in King is his obsession with minor detail and irrelevant backstory, his gift for portraying the lives of ordinary people, his sly asides to the reader and loving literary references, you are likely to find this book—in spite of its 500 pages—too cursory, too interested in the wrong things ... it feels too writing-by-numbers...insufficiently distinctive.