The Many Selves Of Katherine North by Emma Green. Bloomsbury Circus, £14.99 (ebook £8.96). Review by Natalie Bowen
Debut novelist Emma Green’s foray into literary science fiction focuses on Katherine “Kit” North, a 19-year-old who projects her consciousness into animals for research purposes. While living as an urban fox, she suffers an “incident” that threatens her job, then her life, as she discovers her employer is not as it seems. Green flips between past and present, human and creature to tell Kit’s coming-of-age story, which is reminiscent of the Matrix and KA Applegate’s Animorphs series. For the first few chapters it does read like a Young Adult novel, but Green’s psychological approach lifts The Many Selves into an engaging take on established tropes.
Portland Place: Secret Diary of a BBC Secretary by Sarah Shaw. Constable, £16.99 (ebook £8.99). Review by Anthony Looch
Reading this entertaining story of a highly unusual affair between two BBC employees in 1971 will unlock bitter-sweet memories for anyone who lived and worked in “Swinging London”. Sarah Shaw, the securely middle-class diarist, was 19 at the time. The object of her reciprocated affections was 62-year-old Frank, a married, working-class, Irish lift attendant. Shaw, now a retired librarian, takes us right back to a badly-heated world of typewriters and carbon paper and perennial cigarette smoke. There would undoubtedly have been a minor explosion if the hierarchy had discovered what Sarah and Frank were getting up to on the premises.
The Fireman by Joe Hill. Gollancz, £20 (ebook £9.99). Review by Phil Robinson
Stephen King’s son Joe Hill is enjoying his own successful run of novels. His fourth, The Fireman, is a welcome change to the “end of humanity” genre. A mysterious, fatal virus is spreading though the world; named Dragonscale, it takes over its host until one day they spontaneously combust. The story centres on school nurse Harper Grayson, who finds out she is pregnant, but also suffering from the virus. Her plan is simple – she must learn to control the fire and survive long enough to give birth, and avoid her husband who blames her for “sentencing him to death”. The plot is in no way a slow-burner – Hill creates a fast-paced thriller, with twists in every chapter.
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler. Hogarth Shakespeare, £16.99 (ebook £9.99). Review by Bridie Pritchard
This modern retelling by Pulitzer prizewinner Anne Tyler of Taming of the Shrew is the latest in Hogarth’s series of novels bringing Shakespeare up to date. Kate Battista is put upon by her scientist father and her younger sister, Bunny. Kate is stalled as the housekeeper to the family and in trouble at work for her forthright opinions. Then her father comes home with a problem: his genius assistant Pyotr is about to be deported. For Dr Battista the solution is obvious – his on-the-shelf daughter should marry Pyotr. It’s not a faithful adaptation and, in the age of feminism, some aspects of the “taming” can sit unhappily, but Tyler’s characterisation helps make it believable.