With each day wiped clean, Simon cannot immediately recall his arrival in the city. His parents died suddenly, his mother of “chimesickness”; but as his friendship with the inscrutable Lucien develops into a delicate love affair, it transpires that Simon has inherited his mother’s rare and dangerous gift for seeing others’ memories. Like most people, he carries a small bag of “objectmemories”: precious mementos whose origins may be forgotten but which on private examination provide some essence of consolation. The urgent message of a community’s need to share memories is compelling, but Smaill also touches on the significance of willed amnesia or fugue, as with “pactrunner” Clare, a self-harming survivor of abuse. Those who have had their objectmemories lost or stolen exist in a ghastly limbo: the hordes of dispossessed are known simply as the “memorylost”. There are echoes here of the vital life force of … [Read more...] about The Chimes by Anna Smaill review – an original dystopian debut
Science fiction books
Within the last couple of years, that East African stranglehold has been slightly loosened by fossils in Morocco – we may be moving towards our being a sort of pan-African Gestalt species. In 1979, Attenborough had picked the wrong team, and was an ardent multiregionalist. That’s all gone in the new edition, and the radical shift in our understanding of our own genesis includes humans unknown to science until the last decade, such as the Denisovans, and the facts that we repeatedly interbred with both them and the Neanderthals. We should now regard them not as oafish thugs, but simply as people, with sophisticated thought, art and culture. … [Read more...] about Life on Earth by David Attenborough review – how has science changed in 40 years?
Which books and authors have stayed with you since childhood?Harold and the Purple Crayon. I loved it because whatever Harold drew with this magic crayon came to life. And I think in that incredibly provocative set-up was the seed of somebody who wants that to be the case in his own life. That simply telling that story would be enough to make it vital enough to become real. … [Read more...] about Richard Powers: ‘I’ve read more than 120 books about trees’
She is a vivid and original character. At times, her survival in isolation comes close to superheroism, but Owens convincingly depicts the instincts and calculations that get Kya into and out of difficulties. Without too much sentimentality, there is a strong emotional line in her desire to have a “shred of family”. The potential soppiness of a coming-of-age romance is also offset by the possibility that Kya is a murderer, although Owens has studied the big beasts of crime fiction sufficiently to leave room for doubt and surprises. … [Read more...] about Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens review – in the swamps of North Carolina
Henry Cavill must sometimes wonder if his life might have turned out a little easier were it not for a certain illustrious forerunner in the role of Superman. Christopher Reeve nailed the dual roles of Kal-El and Clark Kent so splendidly in Richard Donner’s 1978 film that those who followed have often struggled to live up to the same standard. Superman is the film that all superhero films must compare themselves to if they are to aspire to greatness, the Citizen Kane of the genre. And Reeve could not have been more splendid in it. … [Read more...] about Searching for Superman: why Henry Cavill deserves another chance as the Man of Steel