Rating: 5 / 5
THE BOOK OF M by Peng Shepherd has been on my TBR for a while after seeing many rave reviews last year. When this year’s Around the World in 52 Books challenge asked for a book from the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards, I knew this was the book I wanted to pick up to see if it lived up to all the hype for me.
THE BOOK OF M is set in the near future. One day, seemingly at random, a man standing in an outdoor spice market in India is suddenly without a shadow. The world gathers around their screens, fascinated to watch this man show off his shadowless state as scientists scramble for answers that can’t be found. As it turns out, this isn’t an isolated incident.
As cases begin to show up around the world, sometimes impacting entire cities worth of people at a time, it also comes clear that more than shadows are being lost. Those without shadows begin to lose their memories too. Worse still, as people begin to forget things or mis-remember things, reality changes to match. If you forget that deer don’t have wings, maybe now they do. If you forget that you owned a green knife, maybe you own a red one now.
Ory and his wife Max who were stranded at a resort for a wedding when things began to go wrong in the U.S. As the book opens it is several years into the crisis and Max has just recently lost her shadow. While Ory is out scavenging, Max decides it will be safest to leave before she begins to forget in dangerous ways. Ory feels compelled to follow and try to find her.
This book really hooks you in quickly, jumping right into the action in the midst of the world torn apart. We get the background of what happens through dialogue and flashbacks which are well integrated into the story.
The book moves around between multiple POVs including Ory, Max, an amnesiac man who lost his memories before this new phenomenon and a woman who was training in the US to be an Olympic archer when the world fell apart. I don’t always love books told from a lot of different POVs, but I felt drawn in to each of the different narratives. I read quite a bit of this book via audiobook and it is very well done, using two different narrators to help give different voices to the different characters.
There is a tremendous amount of creativity in this narrative as it explores the way memory works and how false memories impact the world. Suddenly a weapon that was mean to protect you can become dangerous. Someone’s ingrained fear of something develops it into something much worse. Still, as is the case in many dystopian narratives, humans are humanity’s own worst enemy much of the time.
I also really liked how the book explored identity through memory. Getting the first person narrative from Max’s POV as she explores the world and tries to hold on to her memory of her husband and their life together gives an interesting view of the world. Over time as she loses more and more, her voice shifts as well.
I can absolutely understand why this book gained so much attention last year and I’m so glad I was encouraged to pick this one up! I will be very eager to see what Peng Shepherd comes out with next!