Book review: Mud and Glass by Laura E. Goodin

What a delight it is to share my review of Mud and Glass by Laura E. Goodin!

Mud and Glass by Laura E Goodin

About Mud and Glass

Life is fairly workaday for Dr Celeste Carlucci, a professor at Krasnia’s finest university, until her best friend and colleague Pace involves Celeste in her research.

Before long, Celeste is being shot at from a hovering helicopter, attacked on a moonlit mountain path, and followed by shadowy minions – on the trail of the Littoral Codex, an ancient and indecipherable book.

The race is on to figure out its secrets. On one side are Celeste and her colleagues, armed with nothing but enthusiasm, brilliant minds, and the principles of geography. Against them are the repressive university governors and their jackbooted campus security guards; the rich and power-hungry Praxicopolis family; and a renegade group of researchers, the Littoral League.
Will this ragtag bunch outwit their foes before it’s too late?

My thoughts:

As the cover suggests, Mud and Glass is a quirky adventure story brimming with both action and comedy. Goodin takes her readers straight into the action as her protagonist, geography academic Celeste, helps her two colleagues recover a strange and awfully heavy box. From there, Celeste is thrust into a world of intrigue. She is not sure who she can trust as she encounters an array of characters and groups all with vested interests in the Littoral Codex. The plot pivots on the desire of these various disparate groups to lay their hands on the glass filters that will enable them to decipher this strange book. The race is most definitely on!

Mud and Glass is on one level a fantasy novel, in that the protagonist finds herself, somewhat reluctantly, on a quest in an imaginary world not quite but awfully similar to our own. Fantasy or fanciful – it really doesn’t matter, as ultimately Mud and Glass is a work of satire. Perhaps the novel belongs beside Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it is certainly reminiscent of both Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and AS Byatt’s Possession, in terms of the themes and ideas that motivate the plot. Yet Goodin’s novel is nothing like those two much heavier works of fiction. Mud and Glass is at once riveting and lighthearted, and at times a romantic read.

Goodin’s plotting is excellent, as is her characterisation, many of the minor characters vividly and convincingly portrayed. The pace is fast, the story enormously entertaining. I especially love the way Goodin portrays Celeste as an impoverished, half-starved and perpetually ravenous academic craving tenure. Mud and Glass is probably not a book to be read if you are feeling hungry, unless you have a ready supply of sustenance!

A light read Mud and Glass is, but it is not without depth. Quite the contrary, I found the novel insightful and thought-provoking. Through the lens of her protagonist, Goodin provides a powerful allegory for all the ‘have-nots’ the world over, pitting their wits against the corporate ‘haves’ who hold all the power. In Mud and Glass this latter group is represented by the university governors, but above all by the Praxicopolis dynasty. Now there is a word worth unpacking!

Unpretentious, punchy and upbeat, and filled with wit, Mud and Glass is an absorbing and compelling read, truly a novel to devour.

Purchase your copy of Mud and Glass on Amazon

Find Laura E. Goodin here

 

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Book review: The Amnesia Girl by Gerri R. Gray

The horror genre is vast and catches comedy in its net. Gerri Gray’s The Amnesia Girl is a shining example of top-class comedy-horror.

“Filled with copious amounts of black humor, Gerri R. Gray’s first published novel is an offbeat adventure story that could be described as One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Thelma and Louise.

Flashback to 1974. Farika is a lovely young woman who wakes up one day to find herself a patient in a bizarre New York City psychiatric asylum. She has no idea who she is, and possesses no memories of where she came from nor how she got there.

Fearing for her life after being attacked by a berserk girl with over one hundred personalities and a vicious nurse with sadistic intentions, the frightened amnesiac teams up with an audacious lesbian with a comically unbalanced mind, and together they attempt a daring escape.

But little do they know that a long strange journey into an even more insane world filled with a multitude of perilous predicaments and off-kilter individuals waiting for them on the outside. Farika’s weird reality crumbles when she finally discovers who, and what, she really is!”

My thoughts:

The Amnesia Girl is a witty, vivid, off the wall read that grips the reader from the first. The narration is so good, two paragraphs in and I had to set my kindle aside and pace the floor, waiting for my excitement to settle. An early reference to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar sets the tone, although Gray’s rendition is the earlier work’s alter ego, the antidote to all the suffering and injustice mental patients are forced to endure. A whacky and terrifying array of mental patients in the asylum is trumped by the even whackier and sinister psychiatric nurse and doctor.

Farika has no memory of who she is:

“But whatever memories her brain might have retained of her now-forgotten past were as grayish-white opaque as the smokestack clouds that rose high into the air with the promise of forming into something substantial, only to dissipate into nothingness.”

To my mind, such writing is gold, pure gold.

Thankfully, Farika and her friend, Mara, manage to escape, and they embark on a wild ride from New York to San Francisco, encountering many bizarre characters along the way, from prostitutes to religious fruit loops to radical extremists; everyone’s a nut job, no one can be trusted and the macabre is ever present. At times I was thinking Tarantino or the Coen brothers, others of Rocky Horror, and yes of course, Thelma and Louise. Above all, Gray has captured a slice of vintage USA with a hilarity that charms and a narration that glows. There are plenty of twists and turns as the plot drives forward, heading towards a satisfying ending when things come together and wrap themselves up in a tight knot.

I don’t want to have to defend horror, but I suspect if you want to find out where all the literary fiction authors are hanging out after being rejected time and again by publishers, it’s leaning against a graffitied wall of some dark alley, conjuring dread and revulsion. The Amnesia Girl is another demonstration of the places women writers of horror take the genre. An absolute delight!

Grab your copy here

Find Gerri R Gray here