Thursday, 14 June 2018

A Superior Spectre - Angela Meyer

Jeff is dying. Haunted by memories and grappling with the shame of his desires, he runs away to remote Scotland with a piece of experimental tech that allows him to enter the mind of someone in the past. Instructed to only use it three times, Jeff – self-indulgent, isolated and deteriorating – ignores this advice.

In the late 1860s, Leonora lives a contented life in the Scottish Highlands, surrounded by nature, her hands and mind kept busy. Contemplating her future and the social conventions that bind her, a secret romantic friendship with the local laird is interrupted when her father sends her to stay with her aunt in Edinburgh – an intimidating, sooty city; the place where her mother perished.

But Leonora’s ability to embrace her new life is shadowed by a dark presence that begins to lurk behind her eyes, and strange visions that bear no resemblance to anything she has ever seen or known…

A Superior Spectre is a highly accomplished debut novel about our capacity for curiosity, and our dangerous entitlement to it, and reminds us the scariest ghosts aren’t those that go bump in the night, but those that are born and create a place for themselves in the human soul.

A Superior SpectreA Superior Spectre by Angela Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When books are sold as being like a well known or well-loved book that you've already read, I'm always a little sceptical. A Superior Spectre was described on the NetGalley email, encouraging me to request it, as being similar to A Handmaid's Tale. I have to say, that although this is set in a dystopian future, it isn't really like it in any way. If it were like any of Atwood's frightening glimpses of a possible future, then it reminded me of the world the Oryx and Crake trilogy or The Heart Goes Last. Really, comparisons are pointless, this is a great read in its own right.

The book is really two stories, that are linked by technology that allows the futuristic Jeff to see into the mind of Leonora, a young Scottish girl from the 1800's. Jeff is dying and uses these journeys into Leonora's mind as a form of escape. The more he joins with her though, the more that his thoughts begin to break into her conscious and life. While Jeff battles his own demons and illness, Leonora struggles to find her place in life and questions her sanity. More than once I couldn't help but wonder if Jeff was a figment of Leonora's imagination, or that perhaps Leonora was a figment of Jeffs.

This is an interesting and engaging read. I wanted to follow the paths of both of the main characters and find out what would happen to them. It is in some ways a book with a science fiction setting, but to describe it as such really sells it short. The tech that allows this all to happen, isn't really the point, but it is about the two main characters and how they deal with their lives and situations.

A Superior Spectre is a fantastic read and I found it gripping from the beginning. I found myself involved in the storyline and just couldn't put it down.

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