The theme for ‘The Institute’ seems to be that great events turn on small axes. For decades, children showing TP (telepathic) or TK (telekinetic) abilities have been stolen from their homes and transported to the Institute Facility, and subjected to tests and experiments to increase their powers. To escape, they must learn to work together to overturn the evil that captured them.
As is typical in proper Gothic fiction, the environment in which the story is set is as important as the story itself. The plot itself is rather simple - our young protagonist, Catalina, goes to stay with her cousin who has sent a number of worrying letters, claiming her husband, Virgil Doyle, is trying to kill her. Catalina travels to ‘High House’, their mansion in the mountains, and finds the Doyle family to be uptight, weird and at times, disturbing.
Roger and Dodger are twins. Roger has a way with words, and Dodger a way with numbers. But they have no idea of their real connection - all they know is that one day, from across the world, they start to communicate telepathically. McGuire has created a solid and intriguing fantasy world, a dark but hopeful twist of science and gods and quantum entanglement and powers related to math and words.
Much like Silas’ delicate butterflies, suspended in presentation, each character tries to hold onto this attachment to beauty, but all find that it starts to decay as the story becomes more intertwined and the stakes increase. Silas takes the most drastic action to try to suspend and enjoy that beauty - and that’s what really ramps up the pace of the novel at the end.
‘Zone One’ is a zombie novel with braaaaAAAaaaaaains. By that I mean it takes the well-celebrated, detail-oriented style of Whitehead and attaches it to typically what is quite an action-packed genre. While it makes for a pretty interesting literary performance dressed in the zombie genre, the focus on the slow reality of a world (new advertisements and cleanup crews) after an outbreak meant there was little fast-paced action - leaving a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I'll stop.
As far as coming-of-age stories go, ‘Your fault’ is a great literary contributor to the genre. But as far as my enjoyment of the plot or the characters goes - I felt like it could have done with some extra ‘story’.
The Memory Police is one of those rare masterpieces - tackling a massive concept and philosophising on multiple important issues while not sacrificing the humanity of its characters. And on top of that, written in such a Kafka-like dream state that it leaves you, as the reader, feel totally untethered to the ground. It really unnerved me.
This absolutely captivating novel follows a lonely young protagonist Kya, who has been abandoned by her family in the swamplands of North Carolina at just 6 years old. Her mother leaves the house carrying a suitcase and doesn't look back - followed by her siblings. Baby Kya asks herself: “She knew Pa was the reason they all left; what she wondered was why no one took her with them.”
‘Now is the hour’ is set in 1967, and opens on a highway with Rigby Klusener, seventeen years old, with a suitcase and a flower behind his ear, trying to hitch a ride to San Francisco. We know he’s left behind a pregnant friend, his best four-legged friend and that he has a broken heart. We realise that this is almost the end of the story, and there’s much to learn about why Rigby is there, and how he got to this point.
With doors opening for unusual children from all over Earth, McGuire rightly shows the true rainbow of identities that would be represented, and in turn gives us a mirror to hold up to ourselves. She extends Eleanor West’s Home, and the promise of better worlds, to everyone who feels that they don’t belong. Read this series, or else forever know that you've missed out on something special.