Today I bring you a book that is due for release early next month (the first of July) but is already available in preorder, and as there is a Goodreads giveaway you can access here, if you live in the USA, I thought I’d share it ahead of time, so you can be prepared. I hope to read more books by this new author, and I wonder if there will be more books about this very peculiar world he introduces us to in this novella.
But now, without further ado:
Literature® by Guillermo Stitch.
We don’t know exactly when Literature® takes place and we don’t know exactly where. All we know is that Philip Marlowe would fit right in.
We don’t get Marlowe though. We get Billy Stringer. And Billy is on nobody’s trail.
He’s the prey.
The day hasn’t begun very well for Billy. He just messed up his first big assignment, he’s definitely going to be late for work, his girlfriend won’t get back to him and, for reasons she has something to do with, he’s dressed like a clown.
Also, he’s pretty sure someone is going to kill him today. But then, that’s an occupational hazard, when you’re a terrorist.
He’s a bookworm too, which wouldn’t be a problem–or particularly interesting–except that in Billy’s world, fiction is banned. Reading it is what makes him an outlaw.
Why? Because people need to get to work.
It’s fight or flight time for Billy and he’s made his choice. But he has to see Jane, even if it’s for the last time–to explain it all to her before she finds out what he has become. That means staying alive for a little while.
And the odds are against him.
Editorial and early reviews:
Literature®: a speculative noir that wraps the razor wit of Raymond Chandler around the extraordinary vision of Philip K. Dick…
“Wonderfully written…a beautifully rendered story, mixing the cynicism and moral ambiguity of classic noir fiction with startling flashes of humour and disarmingly tender moments.”
E.O.HIGGINS, CONVERSATIONS WITH SPIRITS, UNBOUND/PENGUIN
“A clever interweaving of speculative fiction, dystopian vision, and classic noir, what’s most striking about Literature® is the quality of the writing…lean and spare with moments of beauty fizzing through…it is also very funny.”
KATHERINE GRAHAM, THEATRE RE
“A futuristic look into a land where book-burning ceremonies are embraced and those who rebel are punished. Protagonist Billy Stringer is both vulnerably lovable and irritatingly suffocating all at once in his mission to save his future. Brave New World meets 1984 in this Big Brother masterpiece.”
KRISTI ELIZABETH, SAN FRANCISCO BOOK REVIEW
Literature® speaks to the industrialization of art and also to the link between alienation and radicalization in consumerist societies. Mainly, though, it speaks to our need for great stories. By providing one. There is heart here, and heartache. And, crucially, a chase scene.
“To put it in its simplest terms, “Literature®” is one of the most entertaining books I’ve had the pleasure to read, anywhere, at any time.”
WILLAM L. SPENCER, GOODREADS
“I was enraptured from the start. A beautifully balanced piece of writing. I love his style.”
SIUN O’CONNOR, A RICH INHERITANCE, RTE
“This is satire in the grand tradition: Fahrenheit 451 but with better jokes.”
JOHN PATRICK HIGGINS, EVERY DAY I WAKE UP HOPEFUL
“Here we have a classic treatise in the making.”
MADELON WILSON, GOODREADS
About the author:
Although the author provided me with a copy of his book, I haven’t found any personal information about him and after reading the book, I wondered if there was a good reason for that, or if it is only an oversight. Just in case, I decided not to dig. It seems, from this article (check here) that he lives in Spain, in Tarifa of all places. I live you some links, as you might want to investigate further.
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you’re looking for reviews) and thank Rosie and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this novella, which I freely chose to review.
It is difficult to describe the reading experience of Literature. I have read reviews comparing it to noir novels (absolutely, especially the voice of the characters and some of the situations), to Fahrenheit 451 (inevitable due to the plot, where fiction has been banned and nobody can possess or read books) and 1984 (although we don’t get a lot of detail of the way the world is being run, the sense of claustrophobia and continuous surveillance, and the way terrorism is defined are definitely there), and even Blade Runner (perhaps, although Literature is far less detailed and much more humorous). I did think about all of those while I read it, is true, although it is a pretty different experience to all of them.
Billy Stringer is a mixture of the reluctant hero and the looser/anti-hero type. The novella shares only one day of his life, but, what a day! Let’s say it starts badly (things hadn’t been going right for Billy for a while at the point when we meet him) and it goes downhill from there. The story is told in the third-person but solely from Billy’s point of view, and we are thrown right in. There is no world-building or background information. We just share in Billy’s experiences from the start, and although he evidently knows the era better than we do, he is far from an expert when it comes to the actual topic he is supposed to cover for his newspaper that day. He is a sports journalist covering an important item of news about a technological/transportation innovation. We share in his confusion and easily identify with him. Apart from the action, he is involved in, which increases exponentially as the day moves on, there are also flashbacks of his past. There is his failed love story, his friendship with his girlfriend’s brother, and his love for books.
The story is set in a future that sounds technologically quite different to our present, but not so ideologically different (and that is what makes it poignant and scary, as well as funny). People smoke, but you can get different versions of something equivalent to cigarettes, but they are all registered (it seems everything is registered). And you can drink alcohol as well (and Billy does, as it pertains to a hero in a noir novel). Transportation has become fundamental and it has developed its own fascinating-sounding technology (the descriptions of both, the vehicles and the process are riveting). It has to be fed by stories, by fiction, although literature itself has been banned. We get to know how this works and, let me tell you that it’s quite beautiful.
The book is short and I don’t want to spoil the story for readers, but I can tell you the writing is excellent and it is exquisitely edited. Despite its brevity, I could not help but share a couple of snippets.
“You like her?” he said. He was looking at the knife like a person might look at an especially favored kitten. “Been with me a long time,” he said. “She’s an old lady now. But she’s still sharp.” He looked up at Billy. “I keep her that way.”
In a day very generously populated with problems, Jane’s kid brother was Billy’s newest.
I loved the ending of the book. It is perhaps not standard noir, but nothing is standard in this book.
I recommend it to anybody interested in discovering a new and talented writer, with a love for language and for stories that are challenging, playful, and fascinating. A treat.
Thanks to Rosie and to all the members of her team, to the author, for the book, and to all of you for reading. Remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!