The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison

The Garden of Burning Sand

Title: The Garden of Burning Sand
Author: Corban Addison
Pages: 320
Buy: Play; Waterstones
Source: First Reads
Rating: 4 Stars

***I recieved this book for free under the Goodreads First Reads giveaway scheme in exchange for an honest review.***

When I found I’d won my first book under the giveaway scheme after entering dozens I was excited but this was slightly dissipated when I read what book I had won. Then when it arrived a few weeks later and it was a hefty hard-cover I thought, how am I going to lug that in my briefcase to and from work on the train?

I put it off for three maybe four books but I shouldn’t have. I was wrong to be disappointed. It is a very good story that carefully, skilfully, and compassionately explores the issues affecting women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa, and how the decisions we make as relatively rich westerners, who have access to healthcare, a relatively corruption free justice system (some police officers aside) and education, affect those who have none of these things and a lot less beside.

The story follows a rich young American female, the archetypical ‘sploilt brat with a trust fund’ trying to do good in the world and help those less fortunate than herself. Except that she doesn’t come across as spoilt, or a brat.

The exposition of the justice system in Zambia, the difficulty to achieve convictions, the superstitions that surround medical science as practiced in the west, and the horrors that AIDS and HIV has on societies in Africa are eye-opening, evocative, and effective.

The main character is developed well, others not so much, it is a first person book written in the third. I enjoyed it, it was interesting and informative. The story was good with a great deal of suspense, mystery, and twists that did mean the ending was not a foregone conclusion.

I heartily recommend it and will probably be purchasing have just received Mr Addison’s first novel, A Walk Across the Sun to see if it is just as good, or better.

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The Cleansing by Sam Kates

The Cleansing by Sam Kates

Title: The Cleansing
Author: Sam Kates
Pages: 312
Buy: Book Depository
Source: First Reads
Rating: 4 Stars

*I received this book for free as part of the Goodreads First Reads giveaway in exchange for an honest review*

I really liked The Cleansing by Sam Kates. I don’t read much post-apocalyptic fiction and entered the giveaway because this book sounded interesting. A warning though, reviewing this book without giving anything away is difficult, so be warned.

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything in a book called the Cleansing by revealing that humanity is (virtually) wiped out (it is in the blurb!). Although I’ve read little apocalyptic literature, the method of wiping out humanity is even something I’ve heard of before as a common method in this type of book. That being said, the way it is done, and why it is done is different and mysterious. You really want to know why this is happening and for what purpose.

This is a novel that is interesting, mysterious, and well written. There is a clear sense of the feelings of the survivors being brought to the fore, and the horror of the actual plague and the effects it has on society are explored well and in detail. During this phase of the book you are introduced to many families and individuals, including children albeit briefly.

The motivations, thoughts, and characters of the perpetrators are revealed slowly and the premise is something I found original. At times, despite the post apocalyptic setting, I felt I wasn’t reading a science fiction novel but a story about surviving in the face of adversity combined with a mystery.

I enjoyed it immensely, even if I do have to wonder about the empathy of an author who can write so easily about wiping out children. (The author explores that very thought and subject here.

In the book, not only is the horror that the survivors are living through skilfully and artfully explored and described but what happens to the world and society at large is littered throughout the story, cars everywhere, power failing, hospitals unable to cope without it being overbearing, it is just something that each character encounters on their arcs.

One of my favourite bits in the book (SPOILER AHEAD) is the President’s speech to the world.

The real shame for me was that the book was over so soon, at 300 pages I easily could have read more, two or three times the length which may have turned it into a brick book, but I like brick books (a la Peter F. Hamilton.)

So, Mr Kates, please write number two and I’d be happy to read it and find out what happens.

SPOILERS BELOW

Some questions I’d like answers to in the next book(s):

– How would the ‘People’ have wiped out humanity pre-20th century?
– Did they have any involvement in the Black Death or Spanish Flu?
– How did they hide their advanced technology for thousands of years?
– If they live underground on their home planet but rejuvenate through the Sun, how does that work?
– I recall Peter stating humanity was more intelligent, yet the ‘People’ could cure cancer and develop the Millennium Bug…

Also, if like me the first page didn’t make sense when you first read it, read it again once you’ve finished this book and it is actually a great big clue slammed in your face that you just missed first time around!

Overall a great book, looking forward to the second in the series.

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