Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #SpeculativeFiction TOKYO MAYDAY by Maison Urwin

Today’s team review is from Aidan. He blogs here https://ricketttsblog.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Aidan has been reading Tokyo Mayday by Maison Urwin.

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Maison Urwin’s book takes a novel approach to addressing the increasingly isolationist perspective of England by flipping the problem on its head. Instead of other migrants trying to enter the UK, citizens of the FREW (Federal Republic of England and Wales) are desperately trying to migrate to the economic powerhouses in Asia. It turns an unrelatable situation into a relatable one with great success.

When car manufacturing giant, Matsucorp, decides to close its plants in the FREW due to lack of economic viability, it decides to keep one worker on from each. For Jordan May, this opportunity provides stability in an uncertain time. However, the cost is uprooting his family and bringing them to a new, sometimes hostile climate.

My favourite element of the book was its strong political themes, which were well developed. I really felt as if I had a window into the world of migrants, and the problems they face, ranging from the language barrier to being the target of hate attacks.These themes stayed strong throughout the novel, and gave the book depth.

The plot also held up well, binding the novel together without being over the top. There were plenty of twists, some of which I saw coming, others I didn’t, which continued to drive the book forward. Each of the May’s have their own plotline, which all show different facets of the challenges they face, and are all equally good.

The majority of the important characters are conflicted, and don’t always make the right choices, but are inherently good. The exceptions to this are Matsubara and Struthwin who are morally grey, as they balance their business agenda with human decency. They presented a different perspective on situations that aren’t typically found in books. 

The biggest issue I had with the book was the writing style. It just felt a bit rigid to me, and I thought it threw off the flow of the story a little. I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the dialogue either, which often felt unnatural and not different enough between characters, with the exception being Struthwin, who I thought had decent lines. Also, the japanese terms were often not translated. Although this does help put the reader in the May’s shoes, I would have liked a glossary of terms at the end of the book. Throughout the novel, there were also places where the perspective would shift to a different character with little warning. While this was initially off-putting, I grew to quite like this element. 

Overall, I’d give the book a 4.5 out of 7. If you enjoy strong themes presented in a creative way, like I do, I’d easily recommend this book. I thought it was worth it, despite the issues I had with the writing style.

Book description

This is Maison Urwin’s debut novel, which follows the ordeal of a family’s economic migration from the Federal Republic of England & Wales to Tokyo

The power is in the East.

The Federal Republic of England & Wales is in crisis.

Western economic collapse has led to mass economic migration to China, Korea and especially Japan. Jordan May is offered a transfer with Matsucorp and takes wife, Shaylie, and son, Alfie, to a new and bewildering life in the Orient. The book is set in the 2050s when, following the end of capitalism in Europe, the Far East is now considered the developed world. Society in the West has fallen apart and the East Asia is the destination of choice for economic migrants who are prepared to take risks and endure prejudice in the search for a better life.

The May family emigrates from Harwich, England to Japan and husband, wife and son battle discrimination, are embroiled in political activism and forbidden romance, are targeted in racist attacks and are endangered by unwitting gangland involvement. As the climax approaches in a violent political demonstration on the streets of Tokyo, we begin to discover the extent to which a mysterious, wiry Englishman has manipulated each of them.

This work of speculative fiction sees the Mays thrust into industrial politics, illegal unionisation and hostessing. Teenage love and the organisation of a mass demonstration take place against a backdrop of racial tension and the rise of the far right.

Could Shaylie’s life be in danger? Is the mafia involved?

And just who is the Machaivellian Stepson Struthwin who sits on Matsucorp’s board and has such a hold over the lives of those around him?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Dystopia Knight In paper Armor by @NicholasConley1

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Knight In Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley

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Billy Jakobek was born with powerful psychic abilities and has lived most of his life in a town called Heaven’s Hole, under the care of the Thorne Corporation that dominates America.  Billy absorbs the physical pain, trauma and memories of everyone he meets, which, most of the time, causes him fear and sadness.  He is frequently visited by an entity called The Shape, which he perceives as being the darkness in man, and which predicts a calamitous future for mankind.

At school, Billy meets Natalia, with whom he feels an immediate, powerful connection—it is more than just attraction.  Elsewhere, we learn more about Billy’s ‘Mother’, aka scientist Roseanne, and Caleb Thorne himself.  I liked that the author wrote chapters from Roseanne and Caleb’s point of view, too, as it shows us what is really going on behind the scenes—and what Caleb’s plans are once he has harnessed Billy’s powers.

I liked the feeling of depressed doom about the town of Heaven’s Hole, in which immigrant workers live and work in appalling conditions, though I would have liked to know more about it, and also how the country came to be how it is now—more background would have been welcome.

The characterisation is good; I had a clear picture of who each of the main players were, and the dialogue is strong and realistic, the emotions portrayed well.  What I was not so keen on was the frequency of inner thoughts in italics (on just about every page), and the fact that the book was more YA-orientated than I thought it would be; I would class it as a YA book even though it is not listed as such.  One can have enough ‘teen speak’.

I thought this book would be very much my cup of tea, though it wasn’t so, but it’s good of its type, and it is clear that a lot of work and thought has gone into it; and the aspects I was not so keen on are down to personal taste rather than there being anything wrong with the book.  I’ve given it 3.5* for how much I enjoyed it, though it’s worthy of 4* for readers who enjoy teen-supernatural books with powerful themes of good and evil, and the overcoming of light over dark.

Book description

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Dystopia KNIGHT IN PAPER ARMOR by @NicholasConley1

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here, https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Knight In Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley

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Set in the not too-distant future, a dystopian future where the United States seems to have become more parcelled out and separate than ever —different populations are segregated into newly created states [immigrants have to live in certain areas, the Jewish population in another state, the well-to-do elsewhere…]—, where huge corporations have taken over everything, and prejudice is rampant. From that perspective, the book fits into the science-fiction genre, and there are also other elements (like Billy’s powers, the way the Thorne Corporation is trying to harness those powers…) that easily fit into that category, although, otherwise, the world depicted in it is worryingly similar to the one we live in. Although there aren’t lengthy descriptions of all aspects of the world, there are some scenes that vividly portray some parts of the town (Heaven’s Hole), and I would say the novel is best at creating a feeling or an impression of what life must be like there, rather than making us see it in detail. Somehow it is as if we had acquired some of Billy’s powers and could “sense” what the characters are going through.

I don’t want to discuss the plot in too much detail, as there is much to discover and enjoy, but the book is also, at some level, a rite of passage for the two young protagonists, who might come from very different backgrounds and traditions but have much in common (they’ve lost beloved family members to unfair treatment, discrimination, and manipulation; their grandmothers have played an important role in their lives; they are outsiders; they are strongly committed to others…), and who help each other become better versions of themselves. Although there is a romantic aspect to their relationship (it is reminiscent of “insta love” that so many readers dislike) and even a sex scene (very mild and not at all descriptive), the story of Billy and Natalia’s relationship goes beyond that. I don’t think I would class this novel as a Young Adult story, despite the ages of the protagonists (at least during most of the action), but that would depend on every reader. There is plenty of violence, death of adults and children, instances of physical abuse and serious injuries of both youths and adults, so I’d recommend caution depending on the age of the reader and their sensitivity to those types of subjects.

The book can be read as a metaphor for how the world might end up looking like if we don’t change our ways (and I thought about George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm often as I read this novel), or as a straight Sci-Fi novel where two young people, one with special powers and one without, confront the government/a powerful tyrannous corporation to free society from their clutches (think the Hunger Games, although many other examples exist). It’s easy to draw comparisons and parallels with the present (and with other historical eras) as one reads; and the examples of bullying, abuse, extortion, threats, corruption… might differ in detail from events we know, but not in the essence. There is also emphasis on tradition, memory (the role of the two grandmothers is very important in that respect), identity (Billy’s Jewish identity, Natalia’s Guatemalan one, although she and her family have to pass for Mexicans at some point), disability, diversity, poverty, power, the role of media…

I have talked about the two main characters, who are both heroes (each one in their own way) and well-matched, and their families feature as well and play an important part in grounding them and making us see who they are (although Billy’s family features mostly through his memories of them). We also have a baddie we can hate at will (he is despicable, but I didn’t find him too impressive compared to others, and I prefer baddies with a certain level of humanity rather than a purely evil one), another baddie who is just a bigot and nasty (not much characterization there), and some others whose actions are morally wrong but whose reasons we come to understand. The circumstances of Billy and Natalia are so hard, and they have such great hearts that it is impossible not to root for them (I’m a big fan of Natalia, perhaps because she saves the day without having any special powers and she is easier to identify with than Billy, who is such a singular character), and their relatives and friends are also very relatable, but as I said, things are very black and white, and the book does not offer much room for shades of grey.

The story is told in the third person, although each chapter follows the point of view of one of the characters, and this is not limited to the two protagonists, but also to Thorne, and to one of the scientists working on the project. There are also moments when we follow some of the characters into a “somewhere else”, a vision that might be a memory of the past, or sometimes a projection of something else (a possible future?, a different realm or dimension?, the collective unconscious), and these chapters are quite descriptive and have an almost hallucinatory intensity. The Shape plays a big part on some of those chapters, and it makes for a much more interesting evil character than Thorne (and it brought to my mind Lovecraft and Cthulhu). Readers must be prepared to follow the characters into these places, although the experience can be painful at times. I was touched and close to tears quite a few times while I read this book, sometimes due to sadness but others the experience was a happy one.

The book is divided up into 10 parts, each one with a Hebrew name, and as I’m not that familiar with the Jewish tradition I had to check and found out these refer to the ten nodes of the Kabbalah Tree of Life. This made me realise that the structure of the book is carefully designed and it has a significance that is not evident at first sight. That does not mean it is necessary to be conversant with this concept to read and enjoy the book, but I am sure there is more to it than meets the eye (and the Tree of Life pays and important role in the story, although I won’t say anything else to avoid spoilers). The writing is lyrical and beautiful in parts, and quite horrific and explicit when it comes to detailing violence and abuse. This is not a fast page-turner, and although there is plenty of action, there are also moments where characters talk, think, or are even suspended in non-reality, so this is not for those who are only interested in stories where the plot is king and its advancement the only justification for each and every word written. I often recommend readers to try a sample of a book before purchasing, and this is even more important for books such as this one, which are not easy to pin down or classify.

From my references to Orwell you will know that this is a book with a clear message (or several) and not “just” light entertainment, but I don’t want you to think it is all doom and gloom. Quite the opposite, in fact. The ending is positive, hopeful and life-affirming. Those who like endings where everything is resolved will love this one, and those who are looking for an inspiring novel and are happy to boldly go where no reader has gone before will be handsomely rewarded.

I had to include the quote that opens the book, because it is at the heart of it all, and because it is so relevant:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies. To be in the window and watch people being sent to concentration camps or being attacked in the street and do nothing, that’s being dead.” Elie Wiesel.

Book description

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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