Another one from the Carnegie Shortlist; this is the first year I have read them all so you all need to hear about them!
At the beginning of the book there is a foreword by Marcus Sedgwick where he says that the book is split in to four different quarters that can be read in any order. All the sections are connected by the central theme of spirals or helix and the Fibonacci spiral – a scientific spiral that has a mathematic principle that occurs again and again in nature. For example, a snail shell has a Fibonacci spiral. I will freely admit that I had to Google some of this stuff as maths has never been my strong point but, the principle exists as an argument for creation as a design by someone rather than things occurring naturally or Creationism.
The first quarter is written in poem form. It is about a girl in Neolithic times who is chosen by the seer of her tribe to help cast magic spells to protect the tribe from danger during their annual hunt. She hasn’t really been chosen as the next seer, she is chosen to carry the equipment up the mountain but it obvious that she has special powers that the seer wants. She isn’t chosen because she is a girl and girls aren’t supposed to know about magical things. While she is up the mountain she sees the destruction of her tribe and she becomes trapped in the cave. she walks into the cave to see if she can find a way out but finds drawings from the tribe that killed her own and a picture of a spiral. She then seems to disappear. The use of poetry means the story is quick and easy to read.
The next quarter sees a girl in 16th century England who’s mother is a healer in her local village and, after her death, the girl is then suspected of being a witch and a witch hunter investigates her. She is accused of bringing about the death of a baby through witchcraft and, her brother, who seems to have epilepsy is said to be possessed. She is put to trial by water and, at the bottom of the water sees a spiral.
In the third quarter we meet a doctor in America who has lost his wife when the boat she is travelling on is sunk. He moves to a lunatic Asylum on an island and takes his daughter with him. There, he meets a man who at first he mistakes for a fellow doctor. He soon realised that the man is in fact a patient at the hospital. This section is set during the end of the 19th century and the treatment of the patients is brutal. The man, it turns out, has a pathological fear of spirals and can only win his freedom if he goes up the huge spiral staircase at the centre of the hospital to meet the cruel warden. He also seems to know a lot of things about the doctor that he couldn’t possibly have known. The doctor likes the man so arranges for him to meet the warden – he manages to make it up the steps but the warden pushes his luck and disaster strikes.
The last quarter is set in the future. The human race is dying and the world government have given the population an opportunity to start a new colony on a planet called New Earth. The only thing is it takes 100 years to get there. They are all put on a ship in statis and are assigned some guards who are woken up every 10 years to check that the ship is all ok. The ship contains 500 hundred people and it is in the shape of a spiral (for aerodynamic purposes). The sentinel Kier Bowman is on his second waking cycle when he realises that some of the 500 are dying. He checks the CCTV and realises that they are being murdered by another sentinel who he cannot see. As the story progresses he realises that the ship and its contents are all based on a lie. Really interesting twist at the end as well.
Of all the parts, I think I enjoyed the one in the lunatic asylum the most. They all fitted together so well but, to me, this one was the most well written. This book is a marvel. It is so so clever, but you don’t really realise how clever it is until it ends and then I was like ‘wow’! Give it a chance, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Further reading : Cloud Atlas and Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Read Cloud Atlas first) Also Slade House by David Mitchell.