I received an advance reader copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me this copy.
The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
Published on the 28th of June 2018
The Book of M is situated in a post-apocalyptic world where people have started losing their shadows and with their shadows – all of their memories. The epidemic started when a person loses his shadow during a world-wide televised live show. The individuals without a shadow lose their memories quickly; within a few days they start to forget the names of their acquaintances, in a week many forget where they are and who they are called and soon after the shadowless will forget to eat, how to exit buildings, and that people cannot fly. While their memories abandon them, the shawdowless often become scared, frantic and violent. When people start losing their shadows all over the world, every place on Earth descends into chaos.
Ory and Max are hiding in an abandoned hotel but lack of food forces them to embark into the close-by town for scavenger hunts. They are doing alright until one day Max loses her shadow, and then disappears while Ory is out looking for something to eat.
We also follow Naz, who is a young archer from Iran preparing for the Olympics in the US when the shadowlessness shakes the world. She hides out in an abandoned building, but once she realises her sister is out looking for her, she has to go out to make sure she is safe.
The premise of the Book of M is absolutely fascinating. I was excited to start reading and I was expecting a fast-paced and heart-wrenching story. That is not quite what I got from the Book of M.
The story is mainly character-focused and told in a range of introspective dialogues. Overall the plot drags very slowly onwards. I’m fine with slow character-driven novels, but only as long as I enjoy reading about the said characters. The Book of M focuses mostly on Ory, who I passionately disliked. I cringed at his and Max’s relationship which was idolised in the book. Ory tends to dominate over Max and seems pretty dismissive of her thoughts. When Ory and Max are separated, the reader is supposed to root for them to get back together. Instead, I found myself hoping that Max makes it far away from him.
The Book of M also offers very little information on the characters motivations for doing the things they do. Many were doing things that – at least to myself – did not make the faintest little bit of sense. For example, in a war-zone those with a shadow have decided to collect thousands of books for no rational reason other than out of sympathy for their passionate leader who is in search of a specific book due to emotional reasons. Like how did the leader convince all these people to look for books when you’re barely staying alive? I kind of understand that as a bookaholic, but rationally thinking kind of not.
Sci-fi to me as a genre means that stuff is usually explained in more detail than in fantasy. Despite the Book of M being sci-fi, pretty much nothing was explained. I was keen on continuing to read because I needed to know what was behind the shadowlessness and why it was related to memories. I also wondered why there was such little consistency over what the individuals forgot. Unfortunately I was left disappointed. After finishing the book I am none the wiser. The Book of M includes book-hoarding, roadtrips and elephants, and most of the time I wanted to scream WHY while reading it. There were multiple hints throughout the story but I guess I would have to read the entire thing again to make any sense of it. Why the elephants though? If any of you have read the Book of M and you know, please tell me too. It might be that I’m simply not observant enough to enjoy this book.
I have said a lot of negative things above, but afterall – I was never about to DNF the Book of M. That’s because the premise really is fascinating! And I did enjoy some of the characters, especially Ursula. I am not a huge fan of the dystopian and apocalyptic genre even though I do love sci-fi. That taken into account, I’m sure you would enjoy this much more than I did if you loved Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or if you are a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre in general. I would recommend reading this book with a watchful eye, if I had known that the Book of M will include a multitude of unsolved mysteries I might have read it more carefully.
Have you read the Book of M? Do you read dystopias in general? I think the dystopia hype was high a couple years back, but I don’t see them around as much anymore. What do you think?
Thank you so much for reading!