On reading: The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey

Title: The Book of Koli

Author: M. R. Carey

From the back: EVERYTHING THAT LIVES HATES US . . . 

Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognisable landscape. A place where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don’t get you, the Shunned men will. 

Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He believes the first rule of survival is that you don’t venture too far beyond the walls. 

He’s wrong. 

The Book of Koli begins a breathtakingly original new trilogy set in a strange and deadly world of our own making. 

The gist: The Girl with all the Gifts was a fantastic zombie novel, Fellside brought some creepiness to the Yorkshire moors (yes, already kinda creepy, I admit), and The Boy on the Bridge brought us new angles on the land where the girl was gifted. Carey has a knack for bringing a child’s viewpoint to the horrors of the adult world, and shining their naïve light on a world we wish was safe.  

The Book of Koli is a full-blown character study of what it might be like to grow up in a post-apocalyptic world where the trees might eat you, the cannibals might cook you, and the rest of society might well just leave you out to rot if you happen to question their ways. Reading it I felt a sense of responsibility towards Koli. I wanted to protect him, but technology has gone and nature has returned and she has has got one hell of a bite on her (and who can blame her). And then we have the characters that really win this novel – Monono and Ursala. I won’t say too much about them, to avoid potential spoilerage, but they absolutely make this book for me. Particularly given the contrast Carey so carefully sets between Koli’s language and ours. 

Carey writes with his familiar action and energy, somehow translated into a language that is both different and the same as our modern-day vibes. Reading it feels like unearthing a long-forgotten artefact, a lost tome. The Book of Koli reads like a portentous tale, a chance to sit up, take notice, because it might not be too late yet. 

This book is an interesting ride, and the way in which it’s written is unusual, so essentially vocal – maybe not the style for everyone, but give it a chapter or two and you’ll be sucked into the dialogue. Imagine you’re sitting around a fire, roasting cockroaches on sticks, shooting bantz (or whatever the kids call it these days). Settle down, and say hello to Koli, because the stories he has to tell are ones you are gonna want to hear, and I hear there’s more to come once this tale is over. 

Favourite line: “There’s only ever one day that matters, and it moves along with you.” 

Read if: You want a dystopian adventure told with a distinct voice, exploring a world where nature is winning and technology is artefact.

Read with: Plenty of space between you and the nearest tree, and your media device to protect you.

Get it: The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey (available 14th April 2020)

ARC gratefully received from Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK 

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