PanThe Guardian (UK)All of this should paint a terrifying picture, but it doesn’t (though I will concede that the possibility of eye-tracking technology that prevents you skimming War and Peace is genuinely scary). The problem is that none of the characters is given anything resembling a personality, let alone an arc – except for the purpose of tracking when they start to give in to the Every’s ethos. There seem to be no inner lives. Not only are the characters subordinated to the plot, but they are subsumed entirely by the novel’s polemic, so there’s nothing at stake. The Every’s other problem is that in the wake of big tech’s own self-parodying behaviour – Amazon’s anti-union scandals, the Elon Musk-Jeff Bezos space race, Facebook’s rebranding as Meta and launch of the Metaverse – satire begins to feel redundant ... Eggers is a gifted writer who couldn’t write a bad novel; even if this isn’t a great one, it contains several funny sequences threaded together with skewer-sharp sentences...And it does administer a sharp Juvenalian lampooning of big-tech venality, though this would be far more successful were it not also so lengthy ... often entertaining, but not effective. It issues an urgent injunction to save humanity without ever really evoking the kind of humanity that you’d remember after turning the final page – the kind that may be the only weapon we have in the fight against big-tech totalitarianism. Early on, when Delaney ponders possible ways to destroy the Every from the outside, her friend Wes deadpans: \'Maybe one of us writes a novel.\' What a shame, then, that this novel feels like a damp squib.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)A short sharp shock of a novel ... [A] virtuosic debut ... To say that Assembly is slight would be an understatement: not only is it barely even novella-sized, it is also organised into vignettes, so that its already meagre portion of language is threaded through what seems comparatively like acres of space. The effect is to require readers to supply the connective tissue necessary to turn it into narrative – text that is sparse on the page expands on consumption; it swells like a sponge in the mind ... Achingly unique ... Brown nudges us, with this merging of form and content, towards an expression of the inexpressible – towards feeling rather than thought, as if we are navigating the collapsing boundaries between the narrator’s consciousness and our own.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)The project has been an attempt to narrow the gap not only between a novel’s conception and its publication, but between art and the reality it consumes in order to produce itself ... One rule of thumb would have it that the smaller the gap, the lesser the art. Can any novel produced at such lightning pace possibly be good? Summer provides a cheeky nod to this inevitable question ... Smith’s dazzling experiment in simultaneity has pointedly thumbed its nose at rules of thumb. The result is indeed a maestra’s portrait of her age, a project at once staggeringly ambitious and entirely of a piece with a quarter-century body of work that teases so delightfully along the limits of EM Forster’s question: \'What does a novel do?\' ... How fitting that this novel should narrate for you how you feel about reading it at the very moment when you feel it, text pressing so closely against life it’s as if we are being challenged to spot the difference ... But Smith’s experimentation always works in the service of good old-fashioned storytelling rather than at its expense, making it both wildly innovative and reassuringly familiar at the same time ... Each novel has been part of a larger jigsaw puzzle that may now finally be assembled. Each one has also been its own collage of ideas and stories, an exercise in artful juxtaposition and exuberant ekphrasis ... this novel is a remarkable and clear-sighted resolution of Smith’s project, which has felt all along as if it wants to nudge us towards hope, towards the idea that if we want to reverse the irreversible flow of history, we have to look to what the novel can do.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)...conceives of old age as a state of mutiny rather than stasis, a period of constant striving against the world, but also against oneself ... These women are living, not dying, even if the idea of mortality is now always staggering into the room. The best thing about this novel is its masterful condemnation of Montaigne’s expired thinking on its theme: \'Whoever saw old age,\' he wrote, \'that did not applaud the past and condemn the present times?\' Not nowadays. What gives this novel its glorious, refreshing, forthright spine is that each of its protagonists is still adamantly (often disastrously) alive, and still less afraid of death than irrelevance.
RaveThe GuardianEmezi has a gift for prose that is often as visceral, tender and heartbreaking as what it describes ... This novel shares Freshwater’s thematic concerns, in particular in investigating ideas of selfhood that transcend the boundaries of the body ... while the novel sets out to solve the mystery of Oji’s death, what gives it power is how it uncovers the story of a person shielded by the peace of self-acceptance against the pain of the world. Here is proof of what good fiction does best: it is an antidote to invisibility.
Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)... a book that is perfect for Baldwin aficionados or anyone experiencing staggering disbelief at America’s state of disarray and trying to make sense of it. What sets this account apart is that Glaude understands how Baldwin’s writing becomes a pathway for one’s own thoughts; he’s able to synthesise the novelist’s work in a way that transcends summation or homage and becomes instead an act of breathtaking literary assimilation that acquires its own generative power ... It is a scholarly, deeply personal, and yet immensely readable meditation, a masterful reckoning with the \'latest betrayal\' of the American ideal.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)... a refreshing take on an age-old question: can we connect across barriers of race, gender, wealth and privilege? ... a caustically funny skewering of the sort of well-intentioned liberal who congratulates themselves on having black guests at dinner ... Language styles of toddlers, yummy mummies and Emira’s homegirls are captured pitch-perfectly in the novel while true understanding flickers always out of reach ... to call this a novel about race would be to diminish its considerable powers, just as to focus on race alone is to diminish a human being. It skillfully interweaves race-related explorations with astute musings on friendship, motherhood, marriage, love and more, underlining that there’s so much more to us than skin. This is the calling card of a virtuoso talent, a thrilling millennial spin on the 19th-century novel of manners that may call to mind another recent literary sensation. I had thought of ending this review by predicting that Reid may be the next Sally Rooney. But Such a Fun Age is so fresh and essential that I predict instead that next year we’ll be anxiously awaiting the next Kiley Reid.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Some of Wainwright’s sections are marvels of verisimilitude (his diaries were published online in early 2019). Counterbalancing this mimetic quality, Halima’s observations sweep towards an aching lyricism ... What the novel achieves through the intersection of these jostling narratives is a stripping back of Livingstone’s legacy to reveal a man who was often petty and occasionally venal; who blundered through the continent propelled by a conviction of the superiority of his own ideas ... Out of Darkness is a satisfying reminder of [slaves\'] sacrifice as well as our obligation to memorialise them. There were moments when I found myself wishing for a revving of the narrative engine; when the novel felt loaded too heavily with information at the expense of plot. But in the scheme of this ambitious, meticulously researched work, perhaps a craving for more plot might be considered a failing on my part. The novel succeeds on the terms it has set for itself, which are not so much to do with making things happen as with a critical understanding of the usefulness of fiction for filling in history’s gaps.
RaveThe Guardian...[a] compelling debut novel ... Moore’s brand of magic realism is close kin to Beloved and The Underground Railroad, bending the rules of history and the natural world in order to move both closer to justice. When it comes to explorations of slavery in novels, there is little patience left for catalogues of atrocities, but an abiding interest in finding fresh ways of exhuming something useful from the murk. Give us alternative histories, unfamiliar forms, genre-leaping speculations. Moore’s novel pulls this off with an epic sweep. It’s a tour de force that crescendoes to its conclusion, reimagining the birth of Liberia in a way that is tender, humane and suffused with lyricism.