In the spirit of the Young Adult issue, I delved into M. R. Carey’s post-apocalyptic world of The Book of Koli. In a time where climate change has destroyed the eco-system, and genetic manipulation has turned the trees into moving predators, The Book of Koli follows young Koli as he traverses through the horrors of his time. Literary, sci-fi, and YA to the core, this book has all the hallmarks of iconic dystopian fiction such as Breathe, and even, dare I say it, The Hunger Games.
I will not lie to you; I found it a difficult book to get into. Koli’s voice is distinct, and his phrasing often awkward, but within it are lines of great beauty. Koli describes his mother:
“I think it was mostly her pride, though, that got in the way of her marrying. She need liked much to pull her elbows in, or to bow to another’s will. Thew as a fierce woman in all ways: fierce hard that she showed on the outside; fierce loving underneath that she mostly hid.”
Koli’s quiet reverence of the women he respects most in his life pull you in, almost as much as the horrific trials he faces just to survive the ravaged Britain he lives in. Breaking through the rhythm of the words makes you feel like you’ve achieved something; understanding references to places of our time, in Koli’s past, make you feel like an historian analysing some sort of forgotten text. Though I was tempted to give up in the first few chapters, I emerged on the other side desperate to read the next two books which, luckily for me, are also due to be published within a year of The Book of Koli.
Like any good YA book, The Book of Koli is also a journey to adulthood. Romance, literal tests, and heroic trials, the signs of all YA books, are present and correct, and damned fun to read. My heart broke for Koli; I was desperate to make sure he was okay, and was genuinely surprised at some of the fun tech-themed twists. Although this is not a usual read for me, I would certainly recommend it to any interested in the YA genre.
P. S. I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment - the central character of this book is brown. And he’s not chocolate-coloured, mud-coloured, or even caramel-coloured. He is just “dark brown”. And for that, M. R. Carey receives a thumbs up. Because even dystopian protagonists deserve better than being likened to foodstuffs.
The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey will be published 16 April 2020 by Orbit Books (Little Brown Book Group). An ebook copy of this book was given for free to Bad Form in return for a review.