The Devil’s in the Detail: A Haiku Review…

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Top o’ the afternoon to all you lovely readers! It’s Mad Martha with you today sharing a haiku review of a tome full of the unexpected red tape and beauracracy that accompanies some unfortunates from this life into the next.  I was lucky enough to receive a digital copy of this book for review through Great Aussie Reads, who specialise (in case you couldn’t guess!) in promoting fantabulous Australian authors and their works. Pop on over there to say hello and see some of the enticing contents of their virtual shelf – you won’t be disappointed!

The Devil’s in the Detail is penned by Melbournish author Matthew S. Wilson and revolves around one David Shepherd – middle aged London cab driver and all-round nice bloke.  After waking up in a prison cell in Purgatory, David is dismayed (to say the least) to find that he has died and must now face a court trial to decide where his eternal soul will end up, his choices being Heaven, or one of the ten circles of Hell.  For reasons unknown to David, Hell’s minions seem particularly enthusiastic about winning David’s soul for the home side, and in his trial, he must attempt to rebutt accusations that he has knowingly and willingly broken all of the Ten Commandments.  With only the mildly helpful angelic defence lawyer Olivia to assist him, David may just be facing the legal fight of his life….or indeed, death.

devil in the detail

What rewards await

the soul of the upright man?

It’s all gone balls-up

Having recently read a number of afterlife-y type books (and with a few more in the TBR pile), I felt very comfortable falling straight into Wilson’s world, which contained elements of Christian, Jewish and Buddhist religious traditions as well as some interjections from Dante and Greek mythology, and some wholly original bits and bobs.  I’m not sure what I expected on reading the blurb, but I was surprised by the reflective, philosophical nature of parts of the book.  The story is told partly in the present, as the reader eavesdrops on David’s trial, and partly through David’s memories, as he recalls the situations throughout his life that have led to the current accusations being levelled at him by Hell’s own prosecution lawyer.  The combination results in an interesting blend of action and intrigue, and slightly melancholic memoir.

Admittedly, as I was reading, I did begin to wonder a little at what the point of the story was, but it seems I had pondered too soon, because at the end of the tale a surprising little twist emerged that put a whole new spin on what had gone before*.  This twist was perfectly timed and a very nice way of wrapping up the story.  I must admit, as I got closer to the end of the book I did wonder how on earth the author was going to tie up the loose ends, but the ending here left me feeling very satisfied with my efforts at having perservered despite being unsure as to where it all might end up.

The Devil’s in the Detail ended up being a lot more cerebral than I initially expected, which while certainly not a bad thing, had me wondering who I would recommend it to.  Perhaps those who, like myself, enjoy a bit of speculation with a spiritual twist.

* As a side note, I must say that the cover of the book had me thinking that maybe David would end up having to be the Devil’s cabbie or something, but that’s not how things work out.  Perhaps Mr Wilson could consider penning a sequel to satisfy this thought.

To conclude, I have been asked by Bruce to display his latest “Obscure Proverb of the Day” from his Tumblr feed, as he believes it is appropriate to the theme of today’s book.  (For which I apologise – honestly, he shouldn’t be allowed out on his own, as this is the type of thing that ensues).  Here it is:

obscure proverb casket

Hilarious.  For more of this fare, as well as zombified children’s book covers, please form an orderly queue to click on the Tumblr button at the end of this post.

Bruce and I have also conspired to produce this small piece of political statement.  It won’t be a regular thing, just something we feel passionate about right at this moment:

hands off our abc

Until next time my sweets,

Mad Martha

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Afterworld ARC Review: Read it if….

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Evening all!  Today’s young adult ARC, Afterworld by Lynnette Lounsbury, was received from Allen & Unwin Teen in return for an honest review  – thanks A&U T!

Afterworld is the story of 15 year old Dominic Mathers’ journey into a life-beyond-life after his untimely demise in a car accident in India.  Dom finds himself in the Necropolis, a city that was originally intended as a place of preparation and learning for the newly dead before they attempt to progress to the next stage of their journey in the afterlife, but has degenerated into a place of hopelessness, inertia and eternal waiting for most of its inhabitants.  Humans share the Necropolis with the Nephilim, a race that are the offspring of humans and angels.  Satarial, leader of the Nephilim, has instigated the spectator sport of the Trials, in which hopeful denizens of the city can compete, and if successful, win the right to move on to the next part of the afterlife, known as the Maze.  A loss in the Trials, however will doom the contestant to a fate worse than death.

When Satarial manages to bring Dom’s sister Kaide into the Necropolis while she is still alive, Dom is forced to participate in the Trials.  With his Guide Eva and Guardian Eduardo, he just might have a chance to be the youngest person ever to beat the Nephilim at their own game. But then again, he might not!

afterworld

Read it if:

* your idea of heaven inolves making new friends while picking fruit on a slightly dreary working holiday

* you adhere strongly to the personal motto, “time is money”

* you suspect that being presented with a functional and fashionable accessory (like a fancy new satchel) on your entry to the next plane of existence would go a long way to making up for the untimely nature of your demise

* you’re looking for a cracking good read that will exercise your little grey cells and give you something to chew over while you chew over your breakfast bagel, lunchtime linguini, or other reading-related snack food

Three (serendipitously alliterative!) features about this book struck me while I was reading it – its cohesion, its character development and the cerebral nature of the content.  Lounsbury has created an amazingly detailed imagining of an afterlife in this book and the world-building hangs together flawlessly.  There was never a point at which I had to question how the world worked or a description that jarred me out of my disbelief suspension.  When writers get that bit right, it becomes very hard for me to put a book down.  Score one to Lounsbury!

Another really enjoyable afterthought of the book was the thoughtful character development.  All of the main group of characters in Afterworld, bar one I felt, had depth – and even the one who could have done with a little more complexity had enough twists and red herrings in her plot trajectory to prevent me from dismissing her out of hand.  While there was a little bit of repetition in the behaviour of the characters – Dom and Eva tend to “smirk” a lot, and Kaide spends 95% of her time in a “laugh” – the dialogue, motivations and changes of heart of the characters seemed genuine and believable.  In-depth characterisation can be one of the things that’s often missing in YA novels, replaced by cliched villains and ordinary heroes, so I was happy to find it here.  It wasn’t the greatest part of the story (that was undoubtedly the world-building), but it allowed the concepts to be accessed more easily.

I did not find this book to be a light read.  At over 400 pages, it was never going to be quick either, but the way the author has woven multiple ideas and religious traditions into one cohesive vision of an afterlife really makes for a thought-provoking read. Or maybe that should be a thought-promoting read….Afterworld has enough heft in the storyline and world-building to give those interested in theories about the misadventures (or otherwise) of those who have shuffled off this mortal coil some new fodder to argue about.  The proof that I received had set the suggested age range at 13 to 18 years, but I really think this is a book that older teens will get the most out of.

Afterworld definitely offers a reading experience that is different from your average paranormal-type YA adventure.  If you’re looking for something that requires you to engage your brain as you read, then it might be the book for you.  It’s due to be published in February, so for now it’ll be one to pop on your TBR list.

Oh, and don’t forget to consider signing up for the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – YA books are most welcome.  BYO funky safari hat.

Until next time,

Bruce

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