The Book of Koli – M. R. Carey – Audible Book Review
by Pat Viale
Set sometime in the future, “The Book of Koli” is the first of a trilogy of novels recounting the struggle for survival of a teenager, Koli, living in a world where climate change has caused nature to become the enemy, where overgrown forests filled with choker trees and deadly vines, stimulated by the rays of the sun, will crush you to death where you stand and where only night and darkness can bring relative safety. Living in a quasi-medieval village reminiscent of Addicott St George in Robert Harris’s sombre dystopian work “The Second Sleep”, encircled with palisades to protect the inhabitants from encroaching animals and plants, Koli helps his mother and sisters eke out a meagre existence. A group known as the “Ramparts” control wealth and power in the village – their status based on their ability to manipulate mysterious “tech” from former times.
With some of his friends, Koli takes part in an initiation ceremony hoping that he too will be selected to join the ranks of the Ramparts but it is not to be. Disappointed he steals an obsolete piece of tech stored in their cellar and, quite by accident, discovers how to make it work which none of the Ramparts had ever been able to do. His find, a Sony DreamSleeve, a mini-computer which seems to store not only infinite knowledge but also a repertoire of music worthy of Spotify, seems totally miraculous to him. He is even more fascinated by the voice of the girl, Monono Aware, who speaks to him from the machine, and feels sure that, armed with this wonderful discovery, he will now be allowed into the ranks of the Ramparts. But things do not go to plan and soon Koli finds himself not only exiled from his village but pursued by a cannibalistic tribe of “shunned men”, ruled by a despotic religious fanatic who shares a lot in common with the tyrannical Jim Jones, leader of the Jonestown People’s Temple in Guyana.
Best known for the hugely successful, “The Girl with All the Gifts”, M. R. Carey is an extraordinary storyteller who holds the reader’s attention from the first page to the last. The world he creates here is familiar in many ways but with enough unsettling elements to keeps us on edge as we follow Koli’s journey into the unknown. Though set in the future it is peopled by characters we recognise, with the same hopes and ambitions as ourselves and trying to survive in a world governed by greed, corruption and fanaticism that is all too believable. Koli has all the insecurities and flaws of an adolescent trying to make his mark in a hostile world but through the course of the novel, we see him grow in confidence and learn to overcome the hurdles he is forced to face.
The Book of Koli is a tense and totally engaging novel and is excellently narrated by Theo Solomon who captures perfectly the argotic delivery of Koli’s “Inglish” and makes it very easy to understand. It is hard to imagine a better reader for this book which may well be more accessible as an audiobook than as a written text. If you enjoy dystopian or post-apocalyptic stories, this is definitely one for you and I guarantee you will be eager to listen to the sequels, also read by the same narrator.
“The Book of Koli” lasts 14 hrs and 11 mins and is available from audible.co.uk., as is “The Trials of Koli”. The third book in the series, “The Fall of Koli” will be released on the 25th of March.