FICTION

E-books and audiobooks reviews: David Duchovny, and Hunger Games meets Divergent

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 February, 2015, 10:48pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 February, 2015, 10:48pm

Holy Cow
by David Duchovny
Hachette
(audiobook)

Yes. The Fox Muldering, Californicating David Duchovny. We shouldn't be that surprised. Rumour has it that he was researching Samuel Beckett when acting took over. There are hints of literariness in this light froth of a young adult novella aimed at older adults. Our heroine is Elsie Bovary, a nicely punning heroine who instead of running away with the handsome beefcake (or the spoon) absconds with some fellow animals. The reason is television, which Elsie calls "Box God". Elsie sees a documentary laying bare the evils of the meat trade and gets the willies. She runs for her life, heading to India where - holy cow - cows are holy. Helping is a pig called Shalom who is a convert to Judaism, and Tom, a turkey and techno-geek. What really strikes the ear is the mixture of screenplay, postmodern comedy and rock-culture references to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Cat Stevens. Elsie does a fine impression of Duchovny in the audiobook, which makes for a slightly eerie effect. A talking female cow whose deepish, dead-pan, tones do a mean Duchovny? You betcha.

 

The Mime Order
by Samantha Shannon
Bloomsbury
(e-book)

Samantha Shannon is the new J.K. Rowling, 2014-style. Signed to Bloomsbury, which published Harry Potter, for a seven-book deal - the number of Potters - she might as well have changed her name to Robert Galbraith. The set-up is perhaps not pure Potter but crosses wands with Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and Veronica Roth's Divergent. Part one, The Bone Season, re-imagines Oxford in 2059 as a massive prison - perhaps inspired by Shannon's studies at the university. Paige Mahoney, a Dreamwalker - aka a clairvoyant - is arrested by the Scion, a ghoulish government that opposes individuality. This sequel takes place largely in a feverishly described London, where Paige returns to her techno-Dickensian gang, headed by the ambiguous Jaxon Hall, her Mime Lord. On a more positive note, Paige has friends, some of whom can be trusted while others are yet to show their colours. The Mime Order's prose, while rather overblown, can't obscure its tighter, pacier and more effective narrative than part one, with a good twist in the tale. I will await part three.

 

Wrote for Luck
by D.J. Taylor
Galley Beggar
(e-book)

Having produced novels, biographies, criticism and literary history, short stories were just about the only gap on English writer D.J. Taylor's CV. No longer: Wrote for Luck gathers together 15 stories from two decades. Most are set in middle-class settings; two are set in America. Almost all the miniatures share a sense of melancholy - for lost love, a lost age, for love slipping away, or the realisation that life hasn't live up to expectations. The Disappointed is set during 1990's World Cup semi-final between England and Germany. The phrase "I'm disappointed" drips at the end of the day, with sporting, artistic and romantic defeats of the first three-quarters. Blow-ins follows a bookseller as her life falls gently apart. The quiet drama of the finale sounds a note of defiant self-expression: "on and on into the beckoning blue-grey horizon, where there was no Mrs Trent-Browne, no Nick … only herself, her books and silence". Best known for his historical novels, Taylor proves that he is an acute commentator on contemporary manners.