|What Lot's Wife Saw by Ioanna Bourazopoulou and Yannis Panas (Translator)|
|Category: Science Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A more-complex-than-usual whodunit set in the near future where the Earth is somewhat different but mankind is as unpredictable and power-hungry as always.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: June 2013|
|Publisher: Black and White Publishing|
It's been over 20 years since The Overflow came, flooding half of Europe. Around the same time Violet Salt, a new multi-functional mineral, appeared, its production now governed globally by the mysterious, all-powerful Consortium. Meanwhile back in Europe The Colony, a haven for those escaping floods and indeed justice, is ruled by Governor Bera and six officials, the 'Purple Stars'. All seems to be well in a despotic, lawless way until the six wake up to the realisation that the Governor has died mysteriously in the night. The Consortium needs answers so choose the greatest crossword compiler of the age, Phileas Book, to investigate, whether he wants to or not.
This is a highly original novel that jumps around the genres a bit. It's been described as fantasy, adventure, mystery, political satire and a story of unconditional love. At its simplest level it's a 'how-and-who-dunnit'. Both its complexity and originality was recognised in Greek author Ioanna Bourazopoulou's home country where it received the 2007 Athens prize for literature.
Phileas Book the reluctant detective tells us his story between pages from the witness statements of the six surviving Purple Stars and their maid. In this way we're drip-fed pieces of information, changes in perception, vignettes from daily life on a difficult, almost inhospitable planet and, through the memories of Phileas, the world before The Overflow.
The death has caused a shift in power and it's interesting to watch the manoeuvrings as the six recount their fight to fill the vacuum. Violet Salt also adds an interesting dimension; a substance that is used as fuel and so is depended on by the global economy while ironically blowing free across the planet's surface in powered form, inducing madness.
I had a slight problem with the format in that each witness statement is just that: reported speech going back over events. Therefore it's difficult to differentiate between voices (although we're told at the beginning of each letter) and the personalities are partially lost in the necessary formula of the statement. This meant I struggled to retain concentration in some places. However, looking at the pages of glowing reviews this novel has received I'm prepared to believe I'm a minority.
On the other hand the segments via Phileas' viewpoint were everything that the others' accounts could have been, demonstrating Ioanna's accomplished skill. Here the book really came alive as Phileas acted and spoke in the present without hindrance from the procedural strait jacket that the others spoke through. We feel for him as he's shut away in a room to solve the mystery and we understand his yearning for the world that we still have and he lost while in his youth, losing his family with it. His humour and intellect shine, providing the impetus for us to continue through the others' accounts.
The woven webs are intricate and twists leading to the big surprises at the end satisfying. For me the novel was similar to a warm, cloudy summer's day: I liked it but when Phileas was centre stage the sun came out and I could feel the difference.
If you enjoy a thriller with a futuristic twist, try Sleepwalkers by Tom Grieves.
You can read more book reviews or buy What Lot's Wife Saw by Ioanna Bourazopoulou and Yannis Panas (Translator) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy What Lot's Wife Saw by Ioanna Bourazopoulou and Yannis Panas (Translator) at Amazon.com.
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