The Book of Koli M. R. Carey

The Book of Koli – Eco Horror

The Book of Koli,

M. R. Carey, Orbit Books, 416pp, Pub 16th April 2020


Koli is a teenager who comes from Mythen Rood, a village with two hundred ‘souls’ in a dystopian world. unlike the majority of his siblings, he is mixed race with brown skin, and he’s one of seven.Ramparts are the ones who can ‘wake’ technology and out them to use as weapons, but there are only three ramparts who are all associated with the one family.The only weapon they really had was to uproot or burn, as choker seeds forinstance, will root straight in and take over if they land on skin.We’re quickly made aware that historically, the Biological engineering of trees to grow faster and nurture in any soil or environment after the trees had all died, caused ‘genetic triggers’ Nature now destroys and the trees will eat them if given half a chance, so those who remain live in protected archaic settlements.
Part one of a trilogy, we know that the narrator is Koli as an adult thinking bsck, recording his memories. The narrative is written in a wonderfully lyrical, first person, colloquial voice. When Koli says “It’s so their names won’t fall out of the world and be forgotten. I owe them better, and so do you.” he hooks us into the story, straightaway like storytellers of old, who travelled the world sharing their tales for food and shelter. His literary voice grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go until his story is done. And what a terrific story It is.It is somewhat reminiscent in style to books such as Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying’ or Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’.He’s your everyman; a regular guy who doesn’t mince his words, but even when he tells us that “The things they left behind save us and hobble us,” you don’t need fancy words to feel what he’s saying.The use of casual language and phonetic spellings for words which are half-recognised, such as ‘alarum ‘/alarm, or the the far off town of ‘Half-Ax’ in ‘Ingland’, helps Carey build a world filled with simple people trying to survive, a local dialect and world we vaguely recognise as our own, but something terrible has gone wrong. Like Faulkner, it is very much a stream of consciousness style, with odd vignettes narrated by others to show their observations of linked evens.The early clue we served to how dangerous this world is, is with the wood young Koli works on from the safety of Mythen Rood. Though he dreams of being Rampart, and having power, Rampart law says you can’t use wood to build anything unless ‘the planks had steeped in stop-mix for a month and was dead for sure.’ If you don’t, there’s a good chance that whatever you’re building from the wood will come alive.This is a type of eco horror I expect we will see more of as the effects of climate change are realised. Nature is the enemy and tech, or old tech, at least for Koli, is something that is positive and hopeful. Yet it is his naive desire for tech and a match with Spinner that has him make his first major mistake as he heads into young adulthood, showing that actions have consequences.Other characters we meet such as Ursala, who manages old medical tech, is one of the first people to make him think, and question, and though it starts him off on a journey – metaphorical and physical – it is the quest for answers that helps him grow as a person and we begin to understand just how smart he is. Like most of us, he’s human and makes mistakes along the way. One great thing about Koli though, is how he accepts the trans people he meets along thebway, who like now, are subjected to prejudice.Amidst the brilliant worldbuilding, we have some truly horrific, jaw dropping but also witty and outright funny moments. As for characters he meets along the way, it is Monono who surprises the reader in wonderful ways. Carey also through stories shares some truly terrible yet funny ‘dad-jokes’. Take for example the groan worthy ‘ top 100’ things to do before you die.This is a truly remarkable book, with a hopeful ending which will lead into book two, something we need right now

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