All Their Minds In Tandem by David Sanger

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All Their Minds In Tandem by David Sanger

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A wonderfully written, character-led story of small-town America after the Civil War that then turns into an excitement packed, thrilling ride. Cracking stuff!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: March 2016
Publisher: riverrun
ISBN: 978-1784293956

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October 1879: A stranger walks into New Georgetown, West Virginia to keep an appointment. He calls himself 'The Maker' and has a gift that gives him access to people's minds. Gradually he'll become deeply acquainted with the townsfolk but it mustn't sway him from what he's here to accomplish. One man, one mission and no guarantee how it will end.

There's evidence that knows how to publicise a book – that's what his day job was at Scholastic. Now with the publication of this, his debut novel, he proves he can write them too. This has been described as an 1800s version of Twin Peaks but don't put too much store on that. 1. There's no cherry pie. 2. No one in TP could do what Emerson, The Maker, does and 3. I could never understand or like TP whereas I love this.

In this novel, David demonstrates a masterclass in drip-feeding information while simultaneously engrossing us. For instance, we have no idea what The Maker does for quite a while and yet the story is so enticing we're more than happy to continue collecting breadcrumbs of knowledge while meeting the towns' people, be they good, bad or downright sadistic.

These aren't cardboard cutouts but complex people for whom the Civil War had only been over 14 years and over whom the horror and divisiveness still hangs. This is especially true for Horace, a disabled war veteran trying to raise his sons in the new scar-tainted world. His sacrifices move from physical to material when it comes to his gifted son Odell. Odell just wants to play music which leads him into some unexpected (and dangerous) situations.

The three sisters that Emerson stays with are each different providing us with different views of the town and its affairs (in all its definitions) but it's the youngest, Kittie, he's drawn to. This isn't a traditional love interest though (chaps, please don't be put off). It flows in and out without dominating, although we wish for a happy ending just the same.

The story goes back and forth between present and past but, again, following our heroes and anti-heroes back and forth in time shouldn't be a reader deal breaker. It's easy to follow and enables us to do things like be present in the thick of the war. David here captures the barbarity while providing us with proof that stupidity in the officer ranks is a global and timeless phenomenon.

The writing is definitely evocative. In this and many other episodes, David plays our emotions like Odell plays his piano. As we're absorbed by the backstories and current revelations we travel through gritty, violent, blood, sadness, smiles and searing beauty. Indeed this is a very subtle sci-fi twist on the traditional stranger-walks-into-town story that will appeal to sci-fi fans and sci-fi abhorrers alike. That's quite a trick to get right but then this is quite a book.

(Thank you so much, riverrun, for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If this appeals we also recommend Kindred by Octavia E Butler, a story combining pre-Civil War US with a sci-fi twist by an author with a brilliant reputation. We think you might also enjoy Far As the Eye Can See by Robert Bausch and The Spirit Photographer by Jon Michael Varese.

Booklists.jpg All Their Minds In Tandem by David Sanger is in the Top Ten Historical Fiction Books of 2016.

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Buy All Their Minds In Tandem by David Sanger at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy All Their Minds In Tandem by David Sanger at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy All Their Minds In Tandem by David Sanger at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy All Their Minds In Tandem by David Sanger at


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