23 June 2011

'Siberia' Book Review

'Siberia,' by Ann Halam, is an intriguing book. It is set in the future, and it only took me until the end of the book to realise that I had read Halam before, in the equally thrilling 'Dr Franklin's Island.' One of the things that I like most about her books is that, though they show a bleak and sometimes depressing world, they end rather happily. Enough to make the reader believe there is hope for the world she has created.
From the blurb: When Rosita was tiny...she and her mama had to go and live in an ugly place...a prison camp...she didn't understand her mama's magic...She only knew she had to keep the secret until Mama said it was time to start on the great journey...But once Rosita grew up to be a tough, cynical girl called Sloe...Mama was gone. Sloe had to make the journey alone...Sloe becomes a heroine, equal to anything, in this dazzling blend of science, adventure, and fairy tale.
I really enjoyed reading this book.  Like the blurb says, it is a mix of science, adventure, and fairy tale. Each element is warped and rearranged to fit with the others but they are no less pure for that. The world as Halam created it was spectacular. I could see everything as though it was before me, and the people fit cleanly into it. It might be true that people will easier believe a big lie than a small one, and that is true here. How odd this book seems, though no less odd than the other I read, but it is...believable. Sloe's love for the tiny animals is real and her adventures as she tries to make it back to her mother are difficult and trying. The other characters are vibrant. I think this was a great book. In fact, I might recommend it on the strength of the note at the end alone.
Halam writes:
The greatest seedbank in the world is held in Lenigrad....In the Second World War...half a million people starved, but the curators of the seedbank barricaded themselves in, and defended their stocks - the hope of the future - from the starving citizens. When Allied soldiers finally entered the facility, they found the emciated bodies of the botanist lying beside full sacks of potatoes, maize and wheat, a priceless genetic legacy for which they had given their lives. This is the story that gave me the idea for Sloe and her adventures...The Siberia I'm talking about in this story is not a place. Siberia is a sate of mind.

I give it:

Plot: *****
Characters: *****
Voice: *****
Originality*****(is six possible here?)
Dialogue: ****

Which means... five stars

Amazon listing here.

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