OK, that was really weird I m not sure that I got the point If there ever was a point The one thing I know is that I didn t read the book the blurb led me to expect I might have somewhat liked it without the alternate universe travel stuff whose role was just so insignificant it might as well not have been here for starters , and if the events had made sense, and Well, all right, I would have liked it if it had been another book.Maybe I didn t get it and maybe there just wasn t anything to get I don t even care any Those six days spent reading it felt like an eternity. This book was horrible The first half is incredibly boring, and then it just becomes an awful, transphobic, sexist, incestuous, plotless mess at the end The bad writing of the book and the horrible person who must have been behind makes me want to barf I have no issue with books that tackles controversial subjects, but when these aspects are never challenged, questioned or put in a moral light I have to object This book is just plain sick I m glad I didn t waste my money on this shit I have read plain stupid books before, but this is probably the worst book I ve ever read. IMPORTANT ISH NOTICE To forestall any accusations of underhand inter author bumlickery, I m going to make my relationship with David clear up here David and I shared the Pratchett prize, and by a strange quirk of fate share a second name We met once, at the awards ceremony, and spoke for five minutes Since then, we have had irregular email and twitter chat With that knowledge in mind, you can take or leave the following review as you see fit The first thing to say about this book is that David Logan, as Terry Pratchett says on the back cover, is an excellent writer Half Sick of Shadows is brimming with big concept ideas, beautiful turns of phrase, gentle humour and a healthy dollop of strangeness.The story follows Edward Pike as he grows up from a callow five year old living on The Manse, a remote farmhouse that seems out of time Along the way, he meets a mysterious time travelling stranger, his sister makes a promise that may lead to future tragedy, and he becomes acquainted with an unusual child called Alf, who is far than he initially seems.I m not going to get into any plot details, as that would spoil your enjoyment, which should be considerable, other than to say that one of the larger themes is where creative inspiration comes from.The publisher s statement upon David Logan winning the inaugural Terry Pratchett first novel prize that the book is a darkly atmospheric, richly written coming of age novel in the spirit of Iain Banks s The Wasp Factory is only partly true Yes, in many ways this is like a Banks novel, dealing as it does with a dysfunctional family and dark secrets, and the entire middle section could have been written by Banks when he was in his pomp However, the final third, where events begin to take a turn toward the strange, deviates from the Banks template.Once again, I don t want to say anything about the actual story, as even small hints may give too much away While not quite as hard to puzzle out as David Lynch, this is one of those books that leaves you thinking and turning your mind back to various points that may or may not provide clues as to what it all means I have my own interpretation about the ending, and I m sure many other readers would disagree with it It is the kind of book that can turn book club discussions into bloodbaths, broken wine glasses being wielded to ram the point home This means the book may not be for everyone if you like your stories spoon fed to you, you may leave disappointed However, if, like me, you enjoy a book that forces you to engage and figure things out, you ll love it.I only have one gripe, a rather minor one, and that is the voice employed in the first third I felt there was a little too much of Pike s wide eyed innocence as a child, and too many humorous misunderstandings about what words really meant The pacing was also slow at this point However, I trusted the writing enough to keep going, as this was clearly a writer in complete control, and every page had at least one sparkling sentence Still, I was very glad when Pike grew up and his voice matured a transition skilfully handled by Logan It was at this point that the writing really came into its own.In short, this was a fascinating and beautifully written debut from an author who clearly thinks very deeply about the universe and humanity s place within it I look forward to If this were a scale of 1 to 10, I would have given the book 9 because of this The rest of the book makes up for the slow start. Sir Terry is absolutely right David Logan is a most excellent writer Despite living in a relatively warm and sunny place, I felt the Dark and the Cold of the Manse It s hard to describe what I liked without giving away too much The book is than a strange family with dark secrets, although it does remind me of Iain Banks My husband read this before me and wanted me to hurry up so he could talk about what it all means Now I understand what he means So many questions, so little time. Half Sick of Shadows is one of those books that left me unsure of whether I had actually enjoyed reading it or not After having read Apocalypse Cow by the other Terry Pratchett winner, Michael Logan, I wasn t sure what to expect only that it would be, at the very least, whimsical, and in that sense, the book does deliver.The first half of the novel is fascinating and beautifully framed The descriptions of the Manse and its cemetery, interspersed with Edward s commentary on family life keeps the pages turning view spoiler I love the references to Tennyson hide spoiler Half Sick Of Shadows was published after winning jointly, with Michael no relation Logan s Apocalypse Cow Terry Pratchett s Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now speculative fiction prize for debut authors This makes me wonder, perhaps a little uncharitably, if the author had to hurry to finish his manuscript before the submission deadline for the competition, because although there are many positive things to say about this novel my main criticism of it is that to me, it reads rather like a first draft, particularly towards its conclusion.When I bought this book, I didn t know it had won the prize in question, and therefore I wasn t expecting a whimsical Pratchettesque romp I mention this because some reviews I ve seen on sites like Goodreads and have suggested this was probably the case for a lot of people who have consequently been disappointed, as this book is most emphatically not that sort of novel I suspect this expectation has been the cause of some unfairly harsh reviews from readers.Narrated primarily by Edward Pike although there are some short sections of third person omniscient narration about that later , it opens with a dysfunctional family living in the Manse, a rundown, isolated house in what appears to be somewhere at least similar to rural Ireland, burying their rather repellent grandmother At around the same time, the young Edward meets a gentleman in a Morris Minor who claims to be a time traveller and Sophia, his twin sister, promises their bullying father that she will never leave the Manse It soon becomes clear that Sophia s promise is far significant than it might have appeared, and as the story unfolds, the consequences for Sophia are grimly serious Fast forward a few years and Edward is sent to boarding school presumably a state boarding school for children who live in extremely isolated locations, as the Pikes are clearly living in considerable poverty where he meets Alf Lord, a boy with a particular liking for poetry and an odd tendency to disappear.While Half Sick Of Shadows is far from riotously comical, it is very funny at times in a dark, League Of Gentlemen sort of way Edward himself, frequently described by others as precocious and academically gifted beyond his peers, is also hopelessly naive and at times his inability to read social situations or grasp certain nuances of language seems suggestive of a condition akin to Asperger s Syndrome The tragicomic matter of factness with which he relates the casual cruelties and constant hardships of his childhood makes him impossible to dislike and lends a degree of warmth to the book which might otherwise be missing.However, at times Half Sick Of Shadows is genuinely bleak and borders on disturbing we can laugh guiltily at the almost Lemony Snicket like horrors of Edward s boarding school years and the black farce of some of the goings on at the Manse, but the story of Sophia, trapped with two older brothers one an aggressive bully, the other with serious learning difficulties and her ailing parents one of which is an obvious abuser and denied any sort of education or social life, is a different matter This isn t a negative as far as I m concerned, but some readers might find it so.You may have noticed I mentioned a time traveller appearing at the beginning of the review, and a mysterious disappearing boy, yet my review then seems to become a critique of a book with no spec fic elements whatsoever That s because while those elements are, in fact, present in the novel, but for the most part are heavily played down until the book is close to its conclusion As the story progresses we learn about Alf, and it becomes obvious that there is a reason why nobody in Edward s world has heard of Tennyson, and why some things about the novel s setting seem slightly out of kilter with what we think of as reality.Half Sick Of Shadows is an odd book, at times baffling, and there is no spoon feeding whatsoever from the author For example, the frequent parallels and allusions with Tennyson s poem The Lady Of Shalott , a line from which gives the book its title, are significant to the extent that if you re not familiar with it, as I fortunately was, you ll miss out on a large part of what Half Sick Of Shadows is about or at least what I interpreted it to be about.I enjoyed a great deal of this book, and I certainly don t feel my time was wasted by reading it, but I do think it was lacking something, and it s this that made me wonder if the author rushed to finish it On a technical level, there are some devices which I had an inkling were desperation passed off as style the occasional jarring switch into third person omniscient narration, for example, and a few pages near the end in which conversations are related in a sort of script format I have no problem with switches in style if they add something to the book, but these felt suspiciously like the author realising too late that his plot relied on Edward not being present at essential moments and having to find a way around this, or that he needed some very talky passages to explain some difficult concepts and didn t really have a better way of relating them I also felt, as I read the final quarter of the book, that either the ending needed to be less rushed or the middle section about Edward s schooldays needed to be shorter At it is, the structure seems to lack balance.Much of Half Sick Of Shadows is excellent, full of fascinating concepts, well executed characterisation and pitch perfect prose but ultimately it just didn t feel quite complete to me, as if it were missing some revisions and a final polish I ll look out for from David Logan, though, as I felt there was so much potential in Half Sick Of Shadows, and I d like to see what he produces next. That rating would have been 3.5 stars if possible but since it s not I ve decided to round it up 3 stars would be to severe.This has to be one of the strangest books I ve ever read even if it started straightforward enough.Edward lives in The Manse, at the end of The Lane where a cemetery is the back garden with his twin sister Sophia, his parents and two older brothers Edward s home is so isolated from the rest of the world that he has a hard time imagining what that world might be like for a long time.Edward s father is a born again Christian working as a farm labourer and a man who will turn to corporal punishment whenever one of the children break his strict rules.On the day their grandmother dies, five year old Edward and Sophia meet a stranger with a time machine A stranger who has a favour to ask of Edward he wants to be his friend On the same day, Edward s father asks Sophia to promise that she will never leave the Manse or her mother The young old girl makes the promise not realising what it means and unaware that she condemns her own future in the process.Soon afterwards the twins, who had up until then been constant companions and each other s world, are separated when Edward is sent to boarding school.It is in school that Edward meets Alf Alf is a boy who is even stranger and isolated from the rest of the school than Edward is, but he is also a philosopher, poet, muse and, most of all, a mystery Nobody else in the school seems to know who Alf is or where he sleeps and for long periods of time Edward doesn t see Alf either At important moments in his life at school though, Alf turns up at Edward s side.When, years later, Edward finishes school and returns to the Manse in preparation of starting university life disintegrates for him, Sophia and the rest of his family with Alf as the rather unexpected bystander.On the surface, and for most of the early part of the book, this is a story about two children growing up in a dysfunctional family Because the story is told from Edward s perspective the reader only slowly comes to the realisation that there are a lot undercurrents in this family than are immediately apparent.The young Edward, while being a very smart child, takes his surroundings and the things that happen there at face value and although the reader can sense things Edward isn t aware of, the full scale of revelations don t become clear until Edward is old enough to understand them.There were a few things that happened in this story which left me feeling very uncomfortable, and while I can see that they made the dysfunction in this family vivid, I can t help feeling that there might have been other ways to paint that picture.There were also parts of the story, especially with regard to physics and time travel that just went straight over my head.My final reservation about this book has to do with the way the story ended, or as I experienced it, didn t end While the final scene was foreshadowed early on in the book, it left too many questions unanswered for my liking.Having made all those reservations I do have to add that I was fascinated with this story for most of the book and found it hard to stop reading I felt a deep need to find out how it all would end, if Edward would be able to save his sister and whether or not Alf would be explained fully.I also feel that it is quite possible, if not likely, that I missed some of the nuances in this book So while this maybe wasn t quite the book for me, I ve got a feeling that it may well be the right book for other, less straight minded, readers. I d never thought of what sort I liked stories were stories, like cows were cows But there were different sorts of cows fat ones, skinny ones, standing up cows, lying down cows, black and white cows, and brown cows.Edward lives in the Manse with his twin sister, Sophia, his two older brothers, his mother and father and Granny Hazel With the exception of the odd visit from Farmer Barry in his lorry, this is Edward s world They have a cemetery for a garden and an outside toilet When Edward is five, a stranger arrives in a time machine with the words Morris Minor on the front but quickly departs Whilst young Sophie is made to promise her father that she will never leave the Manse, Edward is sent off to boarding school Distraught at leaving his other half behind, he buries himself in books and befriends the eccentric Alf, who no one else ever seems to have heard of.My new room gave me a phobia I had no name for Perhaps there s no better name for it than small person in big brothers former bedroom phobia Which isn t as bad as big brothers in dead granny s bedroom phobia.Edward starts out as a rather literal young child, as they so often are, and his observations are full of humour Growing up in the isolation and deprivation of the remote Manse, he and Sophia entertain themselves with reading the dictionary and the encyclopedia Edward s mother calls him precocious As the story progresses, Edward s voice subtly changes, something I didn t come to realise until the end when he sounds like an adult.Yet even at a young age, there are hints that there is something not right in their word The story turns darker with each page turned Their father is a zealous in his religious beliefs The Manse appears to exist in a time long gone, yet technology manages to creep in, inch by inch Sophia s promise to never leave is ominous and Edward s education is full of sorrow Yet David Logan, never gives you enough time to get depressed, there will be something witty to break the atmosphere on the very next line.Indeed, he stopped being The Old Bore and became The Dirty Old Sod I knew dirty old sods Father put them on top of Granny Hazel after he buried her.Out of the two offerings from the Terry Pratchett prize, Half Sick of Shadows is the literary choice This isn t going to appeal to everyone The blurb makes out that the story is about time travel Whilst it may very well be about time, don t expect lots of time travelling escapades The pace is rather slow, especially during Edward s school years, yet each page is a joy to read and contains something quotable The humour is very different to Apocalypse Cow, perhaps a bit cleverer but certainly charming In an infinite number of multiverses Plus one Sophie screamed and ran out of the room, waving her arms in the air and shouting, My head s exploding I know, Sophia, quantum physics does that to a lot of people.After a slow build, the pace quickens towards the end, yet it has a feeling of ending a bit too quickly after all the legwork It would be a great book group choice as it s an ending I want to discuss with people and work out if I like it or not I feel I didn t know enough about Alf even though he was a really interesting character If I knew there was going to be a sequel, I would be satisfied by the end Yes, I want a sequel On The Eve Of Granny Hazel S Burial In The Back Garden A Stranger In His Time Machine Visits Five Year Old Edward With A Strange Request And Edward Agrees To Be His FriendEdward Is Not Alone In The World His Twin Sister, Sophia, Is About To Bring Future Tragedy Upon Herself By Misunderstanding A Promise She Will Make To Their FatherWhile Sophia Stays At Home In The Manse, Edward Is Sent To Boarding School There He Encounters The Kind And The Not So Kind And Befriends The Strangest Child, Alf Whose Very Existence Hints At Universes Of Unlimited Possibilities And Who One Day Might Help Edward Free SophiaA Comical Tragedy, A Tale Of Childhood Wonder And Dismay, A Story Of Familial Dysfunction, Of Poetry, The Imagination And Theoretical Physics, This Novel Is All These And Rather Half Sick was joint winner of the Terry Pratchett prize.BUTit is NOT a Terry Pratchett like novel.If you like elves, wizards and stuffHalf Sick is not the book for you.Half Sick is dark.Sophia, a girl twin, brings tragedy upon herself by misunderstanding a promise she makes to her father.A time travelling muse enters her universe to bring her story back to Alfred, Lord Tennysonas inspiration for his classic poem, The Lady of Shalott.
My first novel Half Sick of Shadows was joint winner of the Terry Pratchett prize 2011.
- 304 pages
- Half-Sick Of Shadows
- David Logan
- 05 September 2019 David Logan