Three seems to be becoming the magic number, as that’s what I have for you again this month. I found this month’s pickings to be fairly slim but came up with the following for your consideration.
I reviewed Christina Sweeney-Baird’s The End of Men back in December, giving it four stars. It’s a timely viral outbreak novel, although this time the virus is devastatingly fatal, but only to men. Peri-/post-apocalyptic stories tend to be either really good or really bad, and this definitely falls into the first category.
My second suggestion is Jeff VanderMeer’s Hummingbird Salamander. This one’s a bit of a shot in the dark, as the only novel of his that I’ve read so far is Annihilation, and I wasn’t all that impressed. However, I’ve also read a few short stories by this author, and they promised so much more than he gave in Annihilation, so fingers crossed.
As I said earlier, very little from April’s fiction offerings jumped out at me, so I went for a trawl through the non-fiction, and came across The Madman’s Library, a book that I don’t just want, I need. It’s a book about weird books – ‘odd and peculiar’ weird, not Lovecraft or Miéville weird. It looks to be the sort of book that pushes me into the rabbit hole and steals time. I foresee many hours of associated Googling and possibly a few museum visits arising from this book.
Reading update for March: twenty-two books so far (as of March 26th), of which only one was non-Kindle. I’ve become almost evangelical about my LED lamps, and now have three of them dotted around the house. They make such a difference to my vision, and I’m annoyed with myself for not trying one before when my vision started deteriorating – maybe I could have delayed the need for operations. We’ll never know.
From the author of Annihilation, a brilliant speculative thriller of dark conspiracy, endangered species, and the possible end of all things.
Security consultant “Jane Smith” receives an envelope with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and clues leading her to a taxidermied salamander. Silvina, the dead woman who left the note, is a reputed ecoterrorist and the daughter of an Argentine industrialist. By taking the hummingbird from the storage unit, Jane sets in motion a series of events that quickly spin beyond her control.
Soon, Jane and her family are in danger, with few allies to help her make sense of the true scope of the peril. Is this the only way to safety to follow in Silvina’s footsteps? Is it too late to stop? As she desperately seeks answers about why Silvina contacted her, time is running out—for her and possibly for the world.
Hummingbird Salamander is Jeff VanderMeer at his brilliant, cinematic best, wrapping profound questions about climate change, identity, and the world we live in into a tightly plotted thriller full of unexpected twists and elaborate conspiracy.
Released 6th April 2021
The End of Men
Set in a world where a virus stalks our male population, The End of Men is an electrifying and unforgettable debut from a remarkable new talent that asks: what would our world truly look like without men?
Only men are affected by the virus; only women have the power to save us all.
The year is 2025, and a mysterious virus has broken out in Scotland–a lethal illness that seems to affect only men. When Dr. Amanda MacLean reports this phenomenon, she is dismissed as hysterical. By the time her warning is heeded, it is too late. The virus becomes a global pandemic–and a political one. The victims are all men. The world becomes alien–a women’s world.
What follows is the immersive account of the women who have been left to deal with the virus’s consequences, told through first-person narratives. Dr. MacLean; Catherine, a social historian determined to document the human stories behind the male plague; intelligence analyst Dawn, tasked with helping the government forge a new society; and Elizabeth, one of many scientists desperately working to develop a vaccine. Through these women and others, we see the uncountable ways the absence of men has changed society, from the personal–the loss of husbands and sons–to the political–the changes in the workforce, fertility and the meaning of family.
In The End of Men, Christina Sweeney-Baird creates an unforgettable tale of loss, resilience and hope.
Released 27th April 2021
The Madman’s Library: The Strangest Books, Manuscripts and Other Literary Curiosities from History
This fascinating and bizarre collection compiles the most unusual, obscure books from the far reaches of the human imagination throughout history.
From the author of the critically acclaimed bestsellers The Phantom Atlas and The Sky Atlas comes a unique and beautifully illustrated journey through the history of literature. The Madman’s Library delves into its darkest territories to hunt down the oddest books and manuscripts ever written, uncovering the intriguing stories behind their creation.
From the Qur’an written in the blood of Saddam Hussein, to the gorgeously decorated fifteenth-century lawsuit filed by the Devil against Jesus, to the most enormous book ever created, The Madman’s Library features many long forgotten, eccentric, and extraordinary volumes gathered from around the world.
Books written in blood and books that kill, books of the insane and books that hoaxed the globe, books invisible to the naked eye and books so long they could destroy the Universe, books worn into battle and books of code and cypher whose secrets remain undiscovered. Spell books, alchemist scrolls, wearable books, edible books, books to summon demons, books written by ghosts, and more all come together in the most curiously strange library imaginable.
Featuring hundreds of remarkable images and packed with entertaining facts and stories to discover, The Madman’s Library is a captivating compendium perfect for bibliophiles, literature enthusiasts, and collectors intrigued by bizarre oddities, obscure history, and the macabre.
• MUST-HAVE FOR BOOKLOVERS: Anyone who appreciates a good read will love delving into this weird world of books and adding this collection to their own bookshelf.
• DISCOVER SOMETHING TRULY UNIQUE: The Madman’s Library will let you in on the secret and obscure histories of the strangest books ever made.
• EXPERT AUTHOR: Edward Brooke-Hitching is the son of an antiquarian book dealer, a lifelong rare book collector, and a master of taking visual deep dives into unusual historical subjects, such as the maps of imaginary geography in The Phantom Atlas or ancient pathways through the stars in The Sky Atlas.
Released 6th April 2021 (Originally published 1st October 2020)