Saturday, January 29, 2011

Far North by Marcel Theroux

Where I got the book: my own selection, from the library.

Makepeace is a survivor in an age where drought and famine have wiped out most of the population. A remnant of a religious community that settled the farthest northern reaches of Asia, Makepeace struggles with the choice between isolated self-sufficiency and reaching out to other humans in an age where brutality is the norm.

Far North is a compelling book. I've always loved end-of-days novels, and if you've ever read John Wyndham's 1950s classic The Chrysalids (and if you haven't, you're missing out on a great book) you would probably, as I did, place Makepeace's society a couple of hundred years before the farming communities of that story, and find an echo of the older book in Theroux's novel.

What kept me turning the pages of Far North was the writing. Theroux's descriptions are wonderfully evocative, his writing crisp and unadorned. This keeps the story moving along at a fast pace, and I stayed up late because I just had to finish the last hundred pages.

Far North is a little short on plot, in my opinion, and the narrative takes sudden, unexpected turns that are both frustrating and intriguing. So if you're the sort of reader that likes all loose ends woven in and tied with a neat bow, you won't find that here. If you're of the camp that believes a novel should reflect life's untidiness, you'll love the meandering action. I hope that, like me, you'll grow fond of the unlovely Makepeace and find yourself projecting the character into the future.

I'm giving Far North an "excellent" rating for the writing and the author's imagination. It stopped short of rocking my world, but I'll be looking out for more books by this author.

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