When I saw the email promoting this book tour, I was intrigued. The synopsis (below) got me thinking, I love a good post-apocalyptic story and wanted to see if this could be added to my favourites.
Books are dangerous
People in Blanow think that books are dangerous: they fill your head with drivel, make poor firewood and cannot be eaten (even in an emergency).
This book is about Howul. He sees things differently: fires are dangerous; people are dangerous; books are just books.
Howul secretly writes down what goes on around him in Blanow. How its people treat foreigners, treat his daughter, treat him. None of it is pretty. Worse still, everything here keeps trying to kill him: rats, snakes, diseases, roof slates, the weather, the sea. That he survives must mean something. He wants to find out what. By trying to do this, he gets himself thrown out of Blanow… and so his journey begins.
Like all gripping stories, HOWUL is about the bad things people do to each other and what to do if they happen to you. Some people use sticks to stay safe. Some use guns. Words are the weapons that Howul uses most. He makes them sharp. He makes them hurt. Of course books are dangerous.
I finished this book five days ago and I’m still thinking about it now. It was so intriguing to me that someone could make up a whole new type of writing style and not let it completely take over the book. I admit that getting to grips with the grammar and style of writing did annoy my perfect grammar sensibilities but I got used to it and it actually made the story ten times better than if he’d tried to write it in English as we know it.
There were points where the story line did seem a little disjointed but having gone back to those points and re-read them; I can confirm that I was just being a little bit thick! David Shannon does helpfully explain what new words mean and how he devised the language at the end of the book (so flip there if you want to first BUT DO NOT READ THE ENDING).
Howul is a character that you don’t necessarily have to root for or like, he’s very honest that he seems unlikeable and this comes across a lot in the book. He does have his redeeming qualities but all in all, he was sometimes just a bit of an idiot! I do like books where I don’t particularly like the character or feel any sympathy for them so this book was perfect for me in that regard!
Howul on this journey does change and grow as a person and in the end, I came to realise just how much he’d sacrificed in his quest to do the right thing. There isn’t so much a twist as a slow burner that gradually comes to light and for me, it was still a pretty big ‘woah’ moment.
The relationships Howul has, with the people he meets on his journey, are varied and yet you can see the hardships these new age of people have to deal with and what they can overcome to have a modicum of normalcy, it rang quite close to home due to the current climate. Whatever had happened to the People Before, it can’t have been too distant in the past as they still had the tinned food that had been left behind. It was also quite fun to try and decipher the things that Shannon described to make them not obvious (his description of a goat had me guessing for ages).
David Shannon has woven together a whole new world like one I’ve never seen before. The class system is still alive and well (although less distinctive as everyone seems to be in a sort of poverty) and there are people who try and subdue and rule others through fear and violence. Shannon does a very good job of creating people that you do care about (Ivan) and that for me cemented this book into ‘great book’ territory.
I’d recommend this book to readers who, like me, like a post-apocalyptic story with a little bit of a twist to it and sometimes like having an unlikeable main character!
I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.