Thursday, April 27, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Review: Chalk by Paul Cornell

Long Review after the Jump:

Chalk is not a fun book.  This is a book that feels almost autobiographical (and the author has said he's not saying how much of what happens is based upon his real life) and deals with a topic that is hard to deal with even on an impersonal level - bullying, abuse, and mutilation - and this book deals with it on a very personal level.

The story in brief:  Andrew Wagoner is an awkward boy at a private school in Britain in the 80s, who is distinctly an outcast.  On Halloween, group of five boys who bully him normally take him out behind the school and mutilate his genitals.  But he finds himself unable to tell anyone what has been done to him.

Instead, he seems to find himself joined by a second version of himself, just named "Wagoner" who starts taking fantastical actions in order to get the ultimate revenge on the five bullies as well as on society in general.  But Andrew finds himself also suddenly interacting with a strange girl named Angie, whose belief in pop music and the future clashes with his feelings of revenge, but who also seems to be in a relationship with the head Bully.

The story is told from First Person Perspective and Andrew is a very unreliable narrator by his own admission, so it's not clear how much of the fantastical elements are true.  Regardless, this makes the book seem very very personal, and very hard to read (or listen to, as I listened to this via audiobook).

The book is a powerful tale essentially about the cycle of bullying and battles between the past and the future, and certainly is not something I regret reading/listening to.  But man is it a hard subject to deal with, so I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who isn't able to handle dealing with it on a heavily descriptive and personal level.  Bad stuff happens in this book, bad real world stuff.

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