So the last St. Mary's book, "And The Rest Is History"mangled my emotions with great skill, putting me through much more angst than any allegedly light story about time-travelling historians has a right to. In her introduction to "An Argumentation Of Historians", Jodi Taylor says that her publishers asked if she could make this volume a little less depressing. I think she managed that, but only just.
When Max says towards the start of the book:
"It had been a bad year but it was over now. I could look forward to the future"
I'm sure not a single reader will believe her.
There are lots of good things in this chronicle of St. Mary's. I was immediately back at home watching St. Mary's muddle through with stout hearts, awful luck and a reckless excess of pluck. We started off at a joust with Henry VIII and at the burning of Persepolis with Alexander the Great. It was all good stuff.
When it turned out that Clive Roland was back as the big bad and I became less pleased. This is a man with all of Time to choose from who still chooses to spend his energies plotting revenge on Max. He's apparently clever enough to avoid the might of the Time Police yet too dumb to kill Max on sight. I've had enough of that. I'd like a new bad guy. or at least the slow, painful and definitively final excoriation of this one. I found myself saying: "New balls, please!"
Then Jodi Taylor did it again. Just as I'd grown dissatisfied, Max ends up, lost, alone and with no hope of rescue in England in 1399 and we are treated to an engaging story of her efforts to make a life for herself there. This part of the book, which seemed like half of it, is wonderfully done.
The plot twist at the end holds up and explains a lot of the action but I didn't find it as satisfying as the 1399 section.
This was a good St. Mary's episode with some evocative pieces and it moves the story arc along but I'll be happier if/when we get a different big bad on the scene (although I'd be happy to applaud clever and violent revenge in the meantime.
(This is part of my summer reading goals, which include re-reading and reading the whole series).
What a sad, sad, story. Even while I was listening, I was hoping for a different ending.
Jeff Guinn is an excellent author of true crime. He is somehow able to relate the facts of the story without passing judgement. In this case, I learned a lot. The Peoples Church, (no apostrophe!), did a lot of work in the area of desegregation. Jim Jones and his wife even adopted a black child. In fact, they did a lot of good works together, for the elderly and for the members of their church.
But as so often happens, absolute power corrupts and all that. Jim ran his church with an iron fist. He slept with many partners and somehow made it so that it was okay within his church. He began to do drugs-a lot of drugs. There was corporal punishment for those who did not follow the rules. He began to become paranoid and unbearable to be around, at times.
Follow this to the end that we all knew was coming. I didn't realize how many people were involved in this mass suicide/mass murder, but I know now it was over 900. I say mass murder because children, (children!), were killed by having a syringe full of poisoned flavor-aide shot down their throats. It's one thing when your twisted beliefs cause you to kill yourself, it's another thing entirely to kill infants and children. It's just such a waste of life.
Despite my attempts, I will never understand this mentality. I'm fascinated with it, I admit, but I can't understand it. Perhaps, it's just not understandable? It's certainly not sane.
If you want to learn more about the Peoples Church and Jim Jones, then I highly recommend this book. I listened to it on audio, narrated by George Newbern and he was excellent.
*I downloaded this audio-book from my library for free. Libraries RULE!*
This was so good that it was one of those books I just could not put down. Being thrown into a dystopian nightmare that doesn’t seem so far-fetched is thoroughly unnerving because it’s feels entirely too familiar. We’ve read and seen a lot of imagined dystopias lately where women are quite brutally subjugated, but reading ‘VOX’ felt more subtle and thus a little more frightening.
‘VOX’ centers around Dr. Jean McClellan, a former doctor and professor who studied aphasia (loss of speech), and her family, and we quickly see how the new Government ‘rules’, and the ‘Pure’ Movement have affected her family. ‘Bracelets’ have been placed on all females’ wrists, and they track words spoken each day; the word counter allows them only 100 words in 24 hours and beyond that, they’ll receive electric shocks. Jean’s daughter has got to the point to where she barely speaks at all. Women can’t work anymore, use birth control, read, write, spend their own money; men have the ultimate say in everything. There are also stiff punishments for extramarital and premarital sex, even exiling and humiliating teenagers on public TV.
Jean is eventually called up by the very Government that has put all of this in place, for her help and expertise. The President’s brother suddenly has lost his ability to talk after an accident and they need her help, as one of the top experts in the country on aphasia. Her rather meek and quiet husband, who works for the Government, encourages her to do it, and she’s motivated by the deal of having her daughter’s word counter removed.
Does this all seem too convenient? Maybe. There are a few plot points that work out a little too easily. But it’s compulsive reading. As well as being one of those books that doesn’t feel so far away from being our truth, it’s hard not feel like this could happen to your family.
That makes it successful.
And the fact that we are drawn in by all the hints of other great dystopian novels written by Margaret Atwood, Naomi Alderman (just recently), or even George Orwell, so be it. There are some great action scenes in here, grand questions about how we should be living our lives, a huge argument that is playing now with the ‘Pure Movement’ concept (getting back to basics, and the religious right), and that is really why feel like Dalcher has hit the nail on the head with this. Great read!
*Thank you Penguin for my First Read! Having an early digital copy has not affected my ability to give an honest review.