Book review: The Anomaly

The cover of Hervé le Tellier's THE ANOMALY, winner of the 2020 Prix Goncourt.

The Anomaly by Hervé le Tellier
My rating: four stars

Doubles have always freaked me out. Perfect example? The Black Lodge sequence from the end the second season of Twin Peaks: you know, Cooper is running around trying to avoid a maniacal version of himself, identical except for clouded eyes. The perfect image of something so mundane, something an individual sees every day – themselves! – except multiplied, with presumably ill intent.

There’s a long history of doppelgängers being evil, or at the very least a sign that everything is very fuckin’ far from okay – and their appearance is, understandably, a cause for concern.

(A special shoutout here to the Irish for using the term fetch to describe the same thing, which brings new depths to the demand that people stop trying to make fetch happen.)

Le Tellier’s The Anomaly takes the idea of the sudden appearance of a doppelgänger but adds a bit of a twist: what if there was a planeload of doubles?


Book review: Waypoints

The cover of Adam Ouston's WAYPOINTS: a shot of an orange sky with an airliner proceeding from behind clouds, contrails behind.

Waypoints by Adam Ouston
My rating: four stars

So you know Harry Houdini, right? The straitjacket-and-locks guy? Big hater of spiritualist fraudsters? Escapologist, man with a dynamic gaze? Eventually bought low by a sucker punch? You know, this guy:

It’s a look, I’ll give him that.

Well, it turns out that prestidigitation and being a momma’s boy weren’t the only things he was interested in: he also had a brief flirtation with aviation. Including Australian aviation: on a trip out here (organised at great expense), Harry was keen to be the first to attain powered flight on the continent.

(He ended up being third, though that didn’t really stop people blowing his trumpet, so to speak.)

This quest for aviation supremacy – and one man’s quest to reenact it as a sort of psychic salve – form the basis of Waypoints, Adam Ouston’s novel of uncommon energy and beauty.


Book review: My Travels In Ding Yi

My Travels In Ding Yi.My Travels In Ding Yi by Shi Tiesheng (tr. Alex Woodend).
My rating: 2 of 5 stars.

So, I could be a bit dim. I mean, I didn’t pursue philosophy at university beyond first year, so Shi Tiesheng’s 156-chapter stream-of-consciousness journey through life, the universe and everything – by painstakingly recounted way of Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies and Videotape – might be just be something that’s rocketing over my head, satellite style, shooting across the heavens leaving a trail of profundity that I’ll never grasp, dullard that I am.

The film had fewer dumplings, though.

Could be. (more…)

Book review: The Beauty

The Beauty.The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I originally started reading the ebook of Whiteley’s enticingly strange The Beauty on my phone to fill in time between sets at a gig. The gig ended up being a bit of a wash, and so I found myself spending more time in the horror-ticultural (I know, right?) world created than in the land of beer and recapture-your-youth music, which is not really how I’d envisioned my Saturday night panning out.

But then, it’s pretty hard for a band, however good, to compete against encroaching vegetation.