THE LAST WILDERNESS: A JOURNEY INTO
SILENCE (NON FICTION) by Neil Ansell, Tinder Press, £16.99 (ebook £9.49) ★★★★★
NEIL Ansell ruminates on the nature of silence as he travels around the beautiful wilds of north west Scotland. That silence is his own hearing loss blending into the increasing quiet he encounters as he walks beside gently-lapping lochs and through woods and glens. The land is quiet, but not empty, as he is joined on his travels by the local wildlife, which he describes both vividly and with evident tenderness. This book is like taking a long, deep breath as you close the door on the rat race.
THE AFTERLIVES by Thomas Pierce, Blackfriars, £14.99, ebook £7.99
WHAT happens after we die? Bright lights, hellfire, reincarnation? Or nothing? For lapsed Christian Jim Byrd, who suffered cardiac arrest and briefly ‘died’ aged 33, it’s the latter – and he can think of little else.
The narrative is punctuated with unfollowed leads, from jumbled flashbacks to implications about hackers and holograms. This confusion is compounded by Thomas Pierce’s inventive plotting and tries to bring their tantalising nature to his debut novel, but doesn’t hit the mark. Early mundane stretches make the climax seem almost rushed, so it’s a credit to Pierce’s engaging prose that the reader sticks with him.
THE ONLY STORY by Julian Barnes, Jonathan Cape, £16.99, ebook £9.99
“GET your characters up a tree, throw stones at them, then get them down,” is an excellent piece of advice for storytellers. In this delicate tale of English passion in the tennis-playing heartlands of London’s outer suburbia, Barnes gets his characters up the tree skilfully enough. And the stones he lobs at his protagonist Paul are as horrible as they are mundane.