The dark history of Ireland’s treatment of women runs through Sarah Maria Griffin’s Other Words for Smoke like a faultline, threatening to collapse it at any moment. The story concerns a pair of twins, Mae and Rossa, who are sent to stay with their Aunt Rita and her ward Bevan over the course of two summers. Mae quickly discovers that Aunt Rita is a witch, and is eager to learn more. She also falls in love with Bevan, but she doesn’t know that Bevan has contact with a dark, magical force called Sweet James.
Among Stephen King’s many titles, The Colorado Kid is something of a Marmite book. It’s only rated 3.39 on Goodreads, and in all the ranked lists of his work that I could find, it’s in the bottom half. At the time it was released, it was very popular, leading to a TV adaptation (Haven), but since then it’s not gained the reputation that others of his have. It’s not hard to see why, but at the same time it feels unfair, and I think it deserves a lot better.
On the 20th February 1974, science fiction author Philip K. Dick had an experience that would come to define the rest of his life. He was at his home, recovering from a wisdom tooth removal, when a young woman knocked on the door, delivering his medication. She wore a necklace with a fish-shaped design, and when he asked her what it was, she said ‘This is a sign used by the early Christians’. At that point, he saw a ‘pink beam’ that shone into his eyes, mesmerising him. After more hallucinations that lasted weeks, he came to believe he was receiving transmissions from a ‘transcendentally rational mind’, referring to it later as God, Zebra, and VALIS.
An acronym for ‘Vast Active Living Intelligence System’, VALIS was the title Dick gave to his 1981 novel, a fictionalised account of these experiences. He wrote it in part to help him understand what had happened to him, an effort which he continued in all his writings until his death in 1982.
One of my favourite films of all time is A.I. Artificial Intelligence, released in 2001 and directed by Stephen Spielberg. It’s about a robot boy named David, who is adopted by a couple wanting a child. He is programmed to love, and for a while he does, but when circumstances change he is forced to leave and fend for himself. Believing in the story of Pinocchio, he sets out to find the Blue Fairy, who he is convinced will make everything alright again.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s wonderful book Klara and the Sun reminded me a lot of this film. In the book, Klara is an Artificial Friend (or AF) who lives in a shop waiting to be picked by a child. She forms a connection with a girl named Josie, who takes her home to live with her. However, Josie is very ill, and Klara (who is solar-powered) believes that she can convince the Sun to heal her.
Atticus Book Reviews
Book reviews and reading recommendations written by volunteers and friends of the shop!