The Sudden Appearance of Hope – 5*

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

This is me trying to get through my backlog of books I have read this year but haven’t reviewed yet. This one I bought back in February at SFXCon after I met the author and decided she was cool and I wanted to get something and get it signed and this one stood out to me from the books on offer.

It’s a story about a woman who everyone forgets, the amount of time it takes her to be forgotten depends on how long the interaction has been but as soon as she is out of sight the process starts and after a short while they have removed all memory of those interactions. Given it’s hard to hold down a job or a place to live when everyone forgets you, she makes her way in the world as a thief. The story takes place with the rise of a social media device that aims to make people “perfect” and she gets involved with someone who wants to bring that device down.

I don’t want to go into much more detail than that because otherwise it will get too spoilery so instead I am going to gush about some other things instead.

Basically I loved this book, one of the best things I have read this year. The writing style is very interesting, there are a few places in the book where she plays with how the words are written on the page to invoke certain feelings and effects and it really works. The language is also lovely and evocative and results in a very clear idea of who the character is and isn’t.

Also, how often do we get to see a book with a female protagonist who is a thief and yet still has a clear moral code despite her situation in life and the aching loneliness that is forced on her. Hope is a flawed person portrayed in a very realistic way and you find yourself desperately rooting for her and the ending of the book is both lovely and also in some ways still unexpected.

Seriously, read this book because it is wonderfully written and carries you along with it through a fascinating and very well crafted story.

The Hate U Give – 5*

The Hate U Give (THUG) by Angie Thomas

So this is a break from my usual Fantasy and Science-Fiction reads, but I have been wanting to read this book since I first read about it and with the film coming up soon I bumped it up my reading list so I could read it before I see the adaptation.

Firstly I want to say that the fictional take on a subject which I seem to read about more and more is not an easy read, but it is definitely worth reading. I am white, I am British, the experiences in this book are pretty far from mine. I have read about various police shootings in America, I have even read things about police violence in Britain too, but it’s not something I am likely to experience first hand but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try and understand it.

I think it’s really important to read the stories of people with experiences you will never have and this was a powerful one. It’s easy to judge situations from the outside of them. To fail to understand why poverty and oppression can make entire communities places of rage and pain. I’ve never had to be afraid of the Police, I’ve never had to be afraid of people in my own neighbourhood but this book gave me a window into the lives of people for whom that sort of thing is a painful reality.

The story deals with the shooting of a young, unarmed black man from the perspective of the young woman who was his friend and companion at the time. It shows you her life, the life of people in her family and how what unfolds affects them and their wider community.

I saw a review of this book on Goodreads where a white guy had a massive rant because at one point in the book one of the characters makes a comment to a white character about how he cannot really understand their experiences and how this was massively racist and unfair.

Look, fellow white people. I get that hearing people who are oppressed rag on your skin colour in general can hurt your feelings and make you defensive. If you are male and straight then it is likely that you have never really had the sort of experiences that generate this sort of rage and no, that is not your fault, but also remember that the rage isn’t really directed at you, but at institutions that you benefit from without realising it.

I get that angry about feminist issues for similar reasons, so whilst I have not experienced racism and oppression related to it, I do know what it feels like to walk the world as a woman and to have to deal with that set of issues. Different experiences but the rage is very similar.

So please, give this book a chance. Not just that, read widely into the subject matter of police shootings. Don’t just assume the person shot did something to deserve it, to cause it. Don’t dismiss the pain and rage of the communities where this keeps happening. Listen to them, really listen and then ask how you can help and do what they say.

I am tired of this world not being as wonderful as I know it can be. I am tired of us treating each other like shit for arbitrary differences that we have no control over (you can control your opinions so please don’t assume I mean it’s OK to be a bigot, it’s not).

Read this book, watch the film, learn and then act on that and maybe, just maybe we can all do a little something to stop this shit from happening.

Writing Update 1

On Tuesday I attended my third Super Relaxed Fantasy Club meeting. This is a group in London where every month 2-3 authors come do readings from their work and answer questions. There is also socialising. It is attended by quite a few published authors, plenty of writer, agents, editors as well as people who just love to read.

I am very much enjoying it, it gives me a chance to socialise with people who are doing what I want to do, perhaps get assistance with my goals and also get introduced to new and interesting sounding Fantasy and Science-Fiction books.

This month was readings by R J Barker, Anna Spark┬áSmith and Jane O’Reilly. I had met Anna briefly before at SFX Con earlier this year and we got to have a slightly longer chat this time, most about neurodiversity and such, and I got my copy of The Court of Broken Knives signed (I am reading it at the moment).

R J Barker was hilarious, the reading was really engaging and it was lovely to meet him. We were talking about Leeds as that is where some of my family is from and where he lives, including how weird looking Armley Prison is. I bought the first book of his trilogy, Age of Assassins, got it personalised (he had signed them already) and have added it to my ever growing unread book pile.

The last author writes space operas and her work did sound interesting and I may look into it in future, but I decided to be good and not add it to the pile for the moment.

Yesterday I turned up to my first meeting of a writing group based in a bookshop in Wood Green. I heard about it from the book shop owner at Nine Worlds and decided to go along. I was a bit nervous, but there are other Sci-Fi/Fantasy writers there and people were plenty friendly. I didn’t do any readings this time, but I shall next time as the feedback seemed really good and I think it could be very useful to me to see what non Sci-Fi/Fantasy people think of my stuff.

I also think I have gotten around a 1000 words written this week and I am hoping to get more done over the weekend if I can manage it. So some progress there. I have also set myself up a Facebook group for the people who volunteered to do Beta reading for me and have even given them a short story I wrote a while back to look at.

Things are happening then and I am feeling pretty positive at the moment, let’s hope I can keep it up!

In future I am going to do some reviews of things I have been reading too, probably not intense critiques, but more what I liked and didn’t, with a likely feminist eye cast over them as well so look out for those in future.