by Ma Jian, Vintage, £12.99 (ebook £7.99) HHHHH MA Jian, a writer banned in his native country, who has been hailed as ‘China’s Solzhenitsyn’, launches another blistering attack on the current ideology and political practice of the People’s Republic.
Ma Diode, a man of backhanders and endless mistresses, is director of the China Dream Bureau, a real body tasked with rolling out propaganda for the China Dream initiative of President Xi Jinping.
In the fictional version of the Bureau, Ma Diode plans to develop a microchip to be inserted into all Chinese brains to expunge the nightmares of recent Chinese history, allowing citizens to focus only on the Dream of the future. But his mind cannot hold back the horrors of his own past, and gradually the flashbacks, gripping and unflinchingly told, take hold. It’s a wonderfully well-paced narrative, absorbing, darkly satirical and even funny at times.
by Lee Child, Bantam Press, £20 (ebook £9.99) HHHHH JACK Reacher is the world’s deadliest Boy Scout: Practical, moral, knows the lie of the land and how to make do. Usually with his massive fists, although elbows may be used, too.
Past Tense is back-to-basics Reacher, fuelled by those fists. He sets out on an epic road trip but gets no further than the small New England town where his father was born.
A twin plot sees a young Canadian couple break down near the spookiest motel since Psycho. Their ‘hosts’ turn jailers: But why are they holding them and who are the mysterious guests with the strange cases? Soon the couple are in deep trouble.
Lee writes a brutal sort of poetry, aided by swigs from the adrenaline bottle. But don’t ask his hero to explain. Reacher says nothing, as usual. A rattling good read. Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The Meltdown: Jeff Kinney Past Tense: Lee Child The Librarian: Salley Vickers The Tattooist of Auschwitz: Heather Morris
Milkman: Anna Burns
The Wonky Donkey: Craig Smith Battle Scars: Jason Fox Tombland: CJ Sansom
The Choice: Edith Eger Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Gail Honeyman