I wouldn’t say it’s the end of the world—yet.
But there is certainly something about our current state of social and political affairs that puts us in a bit of an apocalyptic state of mind, am I right or am I right?
Whatever way it actually comes when it happens (my money is on nuclear warfare if mother nature doesn’t get fed up with us first), it seems like fiction has taken on the apocalypse from almost every angle imaginable. At least that’s what I thought before I read Peng Shepherd’s uniquely imaginative debut novel The Book of M.
In this narrative, the world begins ending when people start losing their shadows. It turns out that the shadow is in some way connected to memory and without it, we forget everything, and I do mean everything. It’s not just our memories about our past and our families and how to tie our shoes. It’s things like that animals don’t talk, that statues don’t get up and rove around, that lakes can’t appear and reappear on their own. And if you can’t remember the way things are supposed to work, things aren’t fixed anymore and it turns out that just about anything is possible.
The narrative switches between a few different characters, but the main thrust follows a couple, Max and Ory, who are separated. They each have their own journeys through the post-apocalyptic landscape, trying to find each other, a place to live, something stable, and just trying to understand who they are in this new world.
This book is about memory and how it is a part of our self-landscape. Does it really make us who we are? Do our thoughts, recollections, hopes, dreams, everything that resides within our heads—does that make up the whole of our being, our essence?
When there aren’t any of those functions left, can we really be the same people? Or perhaps on an even more fundamental level, are we even people anymore? And even further, what might restore our humanity?
I really enjoyed this book. It is imaginative, fast-paced, and beautifully written. It goes global, looking at people from different places in the world, different backgrounds, orientations, ethnicities—many walks of life are represented, and I really appreciated that.
It is also a lot of different kinds of stories rolled up into one, so it’s hard to pin it down as one type of tale. Yes, it’s post-apocalyptic, but it’s also an adventure tale, a love story, a philosophical quandary. It’s got action, flashbacks, history, fantasy, and even a surprising ending that made my heart drop out of my body.
I really recommend this book. I can’t wait to see what’s next from this author.
My thanks to William Morrow/Harper Collins for sending me this book to read and review.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.