I feel slightly broken by the Book of M but in a good way.
I’m pretty sure it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and I am going to keep a sharp eye out for more novels by Peng Shepherd.
I think your mileage could vary, depending on whether you or not you can get on with the core concept of the book. I was slightly sceptical but still decided to give it a go.
So, it’s the world as we know it, but suddenly people start losing their shadows (yes, physics etc, just go with it). But then they start losing their memories. And because they can’t remember things, they start to misremember things into reality. Like alligators that are the size of cruise ships, guns that fire lightening, or that you can’t actually talk to animals.
Which makes me think of what genre this book belongs in – is it science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, something entirely new? It’s just a fantastic mixture of concepts that really worked for me.
The world has become divided into the shadowed and the shadowless, society has utterly broken down, and we follow a few survivors throughout the book. Ory, Max, the amnesiac and Naz mainly. We visit Washington DC in a war between shadowed folk and the Red King’s army who are shadowless. As well as New Orleans where the amnesiac resides with Alzheimer patients and new shadowless. However, at some point, everyone is on the move and New Orleans becomes the ultimate destination for Max, Ory, Naz and Max.
There are some other groups and people, but I’m going to not mention who they are because I don’t want to ruin it as this book is SUPER TENSE. There is so much uncertainty and unexpectedness because of the shadowless (and what they can do), and also everyone who had a shadow could just lose it at anytime, that you’re just in a constant state of OH MY FUCKING GOD.
And the more you get attached to the characters, the more tense it gets. The more devastating it seems when one of the shadowless lose more of their memory or realise they’ve done something that wasn’t possible before losing their shadow.
And just as you feel you are cresting this wave of OH MY FUCKING GOD, WHAT IS HAPPENING, into what feels like some sort of ending, it just notches up a level of WHAT THE FUCKERY and HOW DARE YOU DO THAT TO MY HEART, OH MY GOD. THAT IS AWFUL, THAT IS AMAZING, HOW DID YOU EVEN THINK OF THAT. I AM DEAD.
It’s such a well balanced story, it’s pacing is perfect. The world and the weirdness of what it becomes is introduced slowly and then gradually speeds up. So when things get really fucking weird it doesn’t seem out of sync with the universe, as things have gradually grown weirder along with the plot progressing. The plot is mostly about the journeys and goals shift throughout the book, which could annoy some people but it still felt consistent with the flow of the whole book and individual character motivations
Also, I really love the characters. They are all so different and surprising in their own ways (and so diverse!) They all have their own ways of being a bit messed up (and in this world, who wouldn’t) which comes out in the way they act and the decisions they choose to make. Everything makes sense, even though the reality of the world as we know it is fundamentally broken.
Like, it’s totally weird and totally brilliant. AND THAT ENDING. UGH. Like it was amazing, but brutal and flawless.
All the stars. Just go read it, it’ll fuck you up.