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Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Only Forward (Michael Marshall Smith)
4 stars ****
When a friend recommended this book to me and I looked it up, I thought 'science fiction'. However, when I read the blurb, it seemed like something else. Not until I read a preview of the first few pages did I understand quite what this book was - dark humour, crime, and mystery all at once. It also happens to be set in the future, in a world that is rather different from what we know now. Everyone lives in different neighbourhoods, known for one particular quirk. For example, in Colour, where our main character lives, the prerequisite is an appreciation of colour. Other examples include Idyll, which is a peaceful neighbourhood, Cat is inhabited solely by cats, Red is the most dangerous, and so on...
As soon as I met the hero, Stark, I was hooked on his ambivalent attitude and his cool demeanour that was hard to shake:
'I was tired.
I got up, crawled out of the maelstrom of sheets, at 9.30 this morning. I took a shower, I drank some coffee. I sat on the floor with my back against the wall and felt my muscles creak as they carried a burning cigarette from the ashtray to my mouth, from my mouth to the ashtray. And when I first thought seriously about taking a nap, I looked at the clock. It was 10.45. a.m.'
Copyright Michael Marshall Smith.
When I read reviews on Amazon, some people wrote that they thought the narrator was unreliable and kept saying that he would tell you the details later, which annoyed them as a result. I found that this was what I liked most about Stark. He wasn't always trustworthy and he wasn't always on the ball. This made him capable of making a few mistakes and at times, having to plaster over the cracks, as normal people do. For me, he felt quite real, if a bit too cool and witty in comparison to who you normally meet!
I won't ruin the story for you but if you like a good mystery in a strange world, with a smart-mouthed narrator that most people want to kick, you'll enjoy this as much as me. There were a few surprises too, not to mention the ending, which reveals the troubled personality hiding underneath Stark's cool persona.
What was also great was the explanations of the strange world and the side characters who were really interesting and complimented the plot. My only qualm might be the descriptions in the dreamworld, which were at times, a little too long in my opinion. Otherwise, it was an amazing read.
This is much recommended and I will definitely be checking out Marshall-Smith's other novels!
Find out more about Michael Marshall Smith on his blog and website