At last, a writer who isn’t up with the Willow Warblers – or at least, admits he isn’t. Great news for us slackers who always have been given the impression that 6 a.m. coffee was the prerequisite to successful production.
Michael F. Russell, author of Lie of the Land, has given us a novel that questions how far the state will go to preserve an orderly society and examines an Armageddon in which human technology plays a central role. The Reading Room is happy to welcome him as our guest reader on Tuesday, April 19.
It’s always useful to go to the person on the street to see how a product really performs, so I went to Amazon reviewers, all of whom were happy with their book purchase. One wrote, ‘The backdrop of a controlling state, universal lack of privacy and technological advances being used against the population all add to the sense of dread, which contrasted well with some of the richly descriptive passages about the Highland landscape. There are a couple of story strands in particular which were very effective and left me feeling uneasy. We might all like to think we’d behave honourably in difficult times, but would we?’
Another person said he bought this book on something of a whim from a bookshop in Portree, whilst holidaying on the West coast of Scotland, and hasn’t regretted it. ‘It’s something more than your standard post-apocalyptic fayre, largely because the author concentrates more on characterisation (particularly the lead, Carl) than on technicalities (though there’s enough of that for the plot to be believable). Altogether, a well-constructed book that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in sci-fi.’
Other readers expressed similar positive reactions:
‘I would not call it anything like ‘terrifying’ as other commentators have, but more an imaginative exploration about what happens when society breaks down.’
‘Loved the atmosphere, great story. What a great book, you can hear the silence as you read, the tension is heavy, like a storm building, slowly.’
‘What I liked about this, was the descriptive writing, you get pulled into the book, as if you are walking with the characters. It would make one hell of a TV show.’
The Scotsman’s reviewer, Stuart Kelly, observed that one of the most persistent complaints visitors (and residents) make about contemporary Scotland is the patchy mobile phone coverage. He wrote, ‘This serves as the novel’s clever, twisted conceit…Russell’s premise is similar to Stephen King’s in Under the Dome, but, I have to say, he does a better job with the conceit. While King, as usual, fluffs the ending (childish aliens did it!), Russell manages to give a coherent reason for the predicament, build to a closure without it becoming a black and white shoot-out, and suggest that the story of (the main characters) may not be over.’
Kelly added, ‘Despite the horrors that slowly, slyly emerge, there are also passages of genuine beauty.’ Russell impressed the reviewer by avoiding the ‘cosy catastrophe’ trap, and Kelly finishes with the comment, ‘It is as cosy as a handful of gorse raked across your back. It announces a talent to be followed closely.’
Michael F. Russell is deputy editor at the West Highland Free Press and writes occasionally for the Sunday Herald. His writing has appeared in Gutter, Northwords Now and Fractured West. Lie of the Land was shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award in November 2015. He lives on Skye with his partner and two children.
The evening will begin at 7:30 p.m., with the 2016 AGM, at Tigh na Sgire, in Portree, next to the Community Hall.
Mr. Russell will appear from 8:00 p.m. Everyone is welcome to join us for the evening. Entry for Michael F. Russell is £3, non-members; members are free.
Refreshments will be available. We also have some good reads for sale in our book corner and copies of our second anthology, A Stillness of Mind, are available for £8.50. See you there.