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Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself. One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow di Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself. One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories. Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too. Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless. As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.


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Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself. One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow di Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself. One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories. Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too. Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless. As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

30 review for The Book of M

  1. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me… --- Psalm 23But what if you were walking through the valley of the death of shadows? Who or what might be with you then? If, as Macbeth proclaims, life’s but a walking shadow, what becomes of the poor player when even the shadow has walked? Peng Shepherd - from her site - Photo by Rachel Crittenden There have been two major periods in my life when I kept a journal. The first was when I was fi Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me… --- Psalm 23But what if you were walking through the valley of the death of shadows? Who or what might be with you then? If, as Macbeth proclaims, life’s but a walking shadow, what becomes of the poor player when even the shadow has walked? Peng Shepherd - from her site - Photo by Rachel Crittenden There have been two major periods in my life when I kept a journal. The first was when I was fifteen and could not remember what I had done on all of the New Years’ Eves of my brief existence. It ended badly. I dipped into journaling again in my twenties, during my dating life, only in fits and starts though. Looking at those now-ancient texts is how I know that I really did go ice-skating once in Rock Center, something I still cannot actually recall. Pre-personal-computers, so no accessible files to download, only scraps of writing in small notebooks. I went at it more seriously for a few years when my first marriage died, decades later. Better data retention this time. Those documents are all storehouses of memory. Not that my memory is so feeble that I recall nothing. But the texture of times long past can succumb, along with details, to the erosive force of age. I can go back whenever I wish, which is very seldom, and get at least a taste of who I was before I became who I am today. And if those documents all faded entirely, I would not keel over and expire, but I would be damaged. photo by Pol Pol Ubeda Hervasof Barcelona We are more than the collection of our memories. It is the events in those memories that help shape who we are, but who we are is a living thing, not a construct. If I lose far more memories, I may have trouble recognizing faces that should be familiar. I may lose capabilities I take for granted. I confess to dreading that possibility. But I would still be able to throw together a decent sentence, I expect, although I cannot say for certain. It seems likely I would still enjoy listening to classic rock and movie soundtracks, as that would require no retention of actual skills. My senses would perk up when a Mets game appeared on the tube, (although if I was still able to recall the state of the team in 2018, I might yearn for a deeper forgetting.) I would find comfort in a fluffy feline curling up on my lap or by my side, and I would still thrill to the amazing light that dawn and dusk use to beautify the sometimes stark reality in which we live. It is not just the elderly in Peng Shepherd’s novel who succumb to a bleak forgetting. The entire population of the planet is at risk, with vast swaths succumbing to deep memory loss. Not only do people lose recollections of events in their past, their memory deteriorates to the point of threatening existential functioning. Forgetting who they are, where they live, where they were going, forgetting to eat, there is a widespread and rapid erosion of core capabilities, of innermost being. They often become violent and dangerous. It begins to happen when they lose their shadows. I just knew that I wanted to write a book that had something to do with shadows because, you know, they’re just cool. They’re eerie, mysterious and there’s a lot of different art, and stories and beliefs about shadows in different cultures. But I did not have anything more than that. I just knew I wanted to write about shadows. I started googling things about shadows and then I saw something about Zero Shadow Day and that was the rabbit hole. - from the Red Carpet Crash interviewWe follow four primary characters, Orlando Zhang, his wife, Max, an unnamed man referred to as “the amnesiac” (residue of an auto accident), who is later called The One Who Gathers, and a young Iranian woman, Mahnaz Ahmadi, an Olympic-level archer, studying and competing at a Boston university. image from Researchgate.net Out of the blue a man in India loses his shadow. In short order this condition spreads across the planet. Weird and alarming, but not necessarily menacing. Interesting gives way to oh, hell in short order, though. The loss merely foreshadows loss of memory. It kicks in faster for some than for others, and progresses with variable speeds, but the implications are fairly immediate and dystopianly dire. What if makers forget to make? What if repairers forget not only how to repair, but what their work is at all? What if the shadowless forget their names, their history, forget, even, that they are hungry, or where they live? Big mess time. So Zero Shadow Day, it's a real actual day in India where every year on a certain day, everyone's shadows actually do disappear for just a few minutes. It sounds completely fantastical but it's a real thing… I think humans have been fascinated with shadows for a really long time, but I didn't have a story until I started researching and then when I came across Zero Shadow Day it was just — I mean that was it. The idea sparked and I started writing. - from KJZZ interview photo by Pol Pol Ubeda Hervasof Barcelona Orlando (Ory) and Max were at a wedding in Virginia, a woodsy area, pretty exurban, when the event first becomes a thing. Ory is ok so far. Max, well, she lost her shadow pretty early on. Ory is determined to help her keep her memories for as long as possible. They have a code they use with each other, a kind of password exchange, based on when they first got together. Not knowing the response would be an indication of a serious loss of self. It is a moving mechanism that encapsulates their bond. Max fears that she will become unstable as her memories slip, and might become dangerous, so leaves their sanctuary, hoping to spare her beloved the harm she might cause him. Also, they have heard rumors of something going on in New Orleans, something that might offer a beacon of hope to the shadowless. Max heads south. Once Ory discovers she has gone, he determines to follow and find her. One of the things he did to help her retain her capacity was give her a tape recorder. It is through the voice-entries she makes there that we hear her story. We meet the amnesiac when he is still recovering from the accident that caused his massive amnesia, follow his interactions with his doctor, and his meetings with the first victim of shadowlessness and see his transformation into The One Who Gathers. Naz must contend first with contacting and then dealing with family members back in Iran, and later, with staying alive, and following the siren call south. Arrows will be shot. …it seemed to me like, obviously shadows and memories are very different things, but on some kind of a very deep level, they both feel like, kind of integral and permanent parts of you as a person and if you were missing, you know, one or the other, would you still be yourself? I think the book asks that question a lot, you know, what can you lose and still be you? What would make you not you anymore? So they seemed to fit together really well, even though they're very different things. - from the KJZZ interview Image from DavidBordwell.net The use of magic is hardly unprecedented in dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels. In a piece for Tor.com (Five Books About the Apocalypse) the author notes a handful of them. But still, we are used to there being at least some attempt to assign the cause of our group demise to an identifiable, and presumably preventable or curable, agent. Viruses (viri?), nano-tech gone wild, alien invasion, global warming, loss of reproductive capacity, weirdness in the space-time continuum, the list of possibilities goes on. The inclusion of magic shifts the narrative significantly. Usually, we have scientists, or experts of some sort or other, racing the inevitable clock to figure out how this or that particular form of misery got started, and how to stop and/or reverse it. But when the source is non-scientific, the usual story line changes significantly. Magic just is. You may be challenged to figure out its source, or how to use the magic, but it is presented here as a fait accompli. No backsies. But shadowlessnes comes with a surprising side-effect, a strange form of magic. Interviewer - …the memory aspect strikes much closer to home and I’m sure it will for a lot of readers, aging, dementia, Alzheimers and such. Did you recognize that as you were writing this? PS - I did, not at first. And the further I got into it, especially upon revision, reading the whole thing and seeing how everything fit together, I really did see the parallels. - from the AZPBS interviewA core element here is that The Book of M is a love story. Max leaves Ory in order to protect him from what she expects to become. (a Trump voter?) Ory is determined to follow her, to find her, and at least share her final days as herself. Their love and determination are quite moving, as Ory’s quest, in particular, moves the narrative along. What would you do to help the love of your life, before they become a mere shadow of their former selves? So, a love story, but also a road trip of self-discovery (self-forgetting?) and a quest. Ticking a lot of boxes here. One cannot have an entire book about missing shadows without calling in at least a mention of Peter Pan. In a much larger way the saying an elephant never forgets comes in for some attention. A motif that permeates is varieties of communication. Is it possible, for example, for one consciousness to share memories with another consciousness, even though the two did not experience the same event? Are books means of communication alone or can they hold more? What about audio recording? And where does the essence of the thing recorded, in whatever form, diverge from the person who recorded it? There is no mention of a shadow economy. Small bits of the eerie are inserted here and there. Unexplained strange things occur just out of sight, (Ory heard something inhumanly heavy cross the interstate, walking over the top of it instead of below.) adding texture. Peter and his wandering shadow – image from Buzzfeed The primary characters in the book are drawn well enough. I would have liked a bit more on their individual histories, but my ARE comes in at 484 pages, and it is understandable that we are given what we need to sustain interest and keep things moving. While I can enjoy the unknowable when used as a Maguffin, I do prefer that authors make at least an attempt at explaining why such-and-such happens. But the joining together of fascinating concepts is magnificent. It may be the dystopian love story that keeps things moving along, but the strength of this book is the ideas. It is immensely creative. I would also take the combat scenes seriously. Before she opted to pursue writing as a full-time gig, Shepherd worked for Aegis Defence Services. One of the things that I did was go to Iraq. I was in Baghdad and Basra and then up north in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. There were some pretty tense situations there. It was such an amazing place, so amazing, but yeah, there were some really tough situations there and actually, there was a moment, there was a rocket attack that happened very close to us and that was actually the moment that made me really decide that I should write this book and really go for it…. It was like, you have to try. You have to do the thing that you have wanted to do your whole life. You got to do it now. (presumably before the incomings landed too close) - from the KJZZ interviewWhether looked at in the full light of day or glimpsed in the gloom of a darkened room, it is eminently clear that, lest you forget, The Book of M is an engaging, imaginative, exciting read and is destined, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to be one of the most memorable books of the Summer. Published – 6/5/18 Review posted – 6/29/18 =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, Twitter, Instagram, and FB pages A short story by Shepherd – Wolf Eyes A wonderful story of her relationship with the book Perchance about time travel Interviews -----Video - Arizona PBS - Arizona Horizon - 28:00 - by Ted Simons -----Audio - Red Carpet Crash - 11:25 -----Audio plus transcript – KJZZ – 91.5 - Arizona Native Makes Novel Debut With 'The Book Of M' - 7:21 – by Steve Goldstein A fun article on Zero Shadow Day (ZSD) from The India Express - Zero Shadow Day: How shadows played hide & seek with Chennai kids - by Sowmiya Ashok Songs -----Memory – Betty Buckley -----Me and My Shadow - Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. -----I Remember it Well – Hermione Gingold and Maurice Chevalier -----Remember Then – The Earls -----Remember - the Shangri-Las -----I Will Remember you - Sarah McLachlan -----Remember Me - Benjamin Bratt -----Try to Remember - Jerry Orbach ----- I'll Always Remember You - Hannah Montana Radio -----Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Adam Dalva

    Shepherd has crafted a gripping, multi-faceted debut here, a dystopic future novel that goes well past the expectations of the genre. I admired the textual experimentation of this measured book, as various symbols, fonts, and perspectives try to get across the lives of the characters, who mix emotional heft with sudden, rapid action. The leads, Ory and Max, are wonderfully drawn and make for an excellent emotional core. In this world, if someone's shadow disappears, they will soon be consigned to Shepherd has crafted a gripping, multi-faceted debut here, a dystopic future novel that goes well past the expectations of the genre. I admired the textual experimentation of this measured book, as various symbols, fonts, and perspectives try to get across the lives of the characters, who mix emotional heft with sudden, rapid action. The leads, Ory and Max, are wonderfully drawn and make for an excellent emotional core. In this world, if someone's shadow disappears, they will soon be consigned to forgetting all that they knew, turning into mysterious, frightening figures. The book opens with Max losing her shadow after two years of hiding with her partner Ory, and Ory desperately trying to enact a system of rules to protect her. This Robinson Crusoe section is wonderful, but after the two are, inevitably, separated, they each wind their way through a strange America that seems totally understood by Shepherd. This is an iceberg book whose logic and world-building are apparent at all times. There are many supporting characters who play into the action and exposition, and I admired the ambition of this book for jumping into so many different voices and perspectives until everything collapses together at the finale. In its control and logic, it reminded me of Auster's "In The Country of Last Things," and St John Mandel's "Station Eleven." Most of all, unlike some books of this ilk, the author's talent on the line-level invested its characters with real urgency and feeling. More than the global span or the unusual premise, the prose will stick with me: "I’m not ready. I’m not ready, I’m not ready, I’m not ready. I refuse to forget. It took all of me, but I refuse to let it have the last thing,which is you. Ory. I remember you. I remember your name. I remember I touched your face, on your eyebrow above your scar; I remember a football; I remember night and a mountain; I remember you gave me this speaking machine, but I don’t know why; I remember a darkroom, and writing numbered rules by candlelight, and you cried—why did you cry?"

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elyse

    Library- ebook - overdrive I seldom read dystopian novels, but in the past few years - having read a few other wonders: “Station Eleven”, “California”, etc., I had a hunch this book might be ‘one-of-the-special-one’s’.....”It was”!!!! For starters, the first chapter was one of the best first chapters of ‘any’ book I’ve read in a long time! The first sentence immediately grabbed my attention....holding it tightly until the last line. I felt punched in the gut with the last sentence in chapter 1 .. Library- ebook - overdrive I seldom read dystopian novels, but in the past few years - having read a few other wonders: “Station Eleven”, “California”, etc., I had a hunch this book might be ‘one-of-the-special-one’s’.....”It was”!!!! For starters, the first chapter was one of the best first chapters of ‘any’ book I’ve read in a long time! The first sentence immediately grabbed my attention....holding it tightly until the last line. I felt punched in the gut with the last sentence in chapter 1 .... ( and worried) I became ‘attached’ to the characters Ory and Max, fast!!! Soon I was attached to Naz and ‘The One Who Gathers’. They search for a cure - love - connection - and hope. The eerie universe the author has created is original and fascinating!!! “Zero Shadow Day” is a ‘real’ phenomenon which occurs in Mumbai twice a year. It takes place when the sun is at a 90° angle to the earth surface or when the sun is just overhead. This moment makes a persons shadow disappear for a few minutes. In “The Book of M”....people have a shadow —but as the world is collapsing, people start losing theirs. They lose their memories, too...(not all at once)...but like with dementia and Alzheimer’s....a little at a time. There are chapters about characters who have already forgotten everything before “The Forgetting began”... It made me wondered about love -how they experienced it with their memories completely gone. The realism was always right on the edge making this a very powerful read. It’s amazing how captivating and emotional this was. I felt terrified at times - and the agony of surviving with minimal resources. But, it was the sadness that lingered most. When so much is taken away - an aching feeling of love remains. “It’s said that your shadow is your most trustworthy travel companion. It never leaves your side. But that’s not ‘always’ true.” A beautifully written- debut- gripping and heartbreaking story!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emer

    Happy UK Publication Day to this brilliant dystopian! Wow. This book was a revelation. From the start I did not know what was happening, how the story would develop or where it would end... BUT I WAS 100% HOOKED!!!! From page one I was thoroughly ensnared and did not want to put this down for a second. The premise for the book I think is genius; one day in the near future a man's shadow suddenly disappears in the middle of a market in India. It's initially treated as a holy event but after a few Happy UK Publication Day to this brilliant dystopian! Wow. This book was a revelation. From the start I did not know what was happening, how the story would develop or where it would end... BUT I WAS 100% HOOKED!!!! From page one I was thoroughly ensnared and did not want to put this down for a second. The premise for the book I think is genius; one day in the near future a man's shadow suddenly disappears in the middle of a market in India. It's initially treated as a holy event but after a few days it's realised that the man has begun to forget everything about himself and the link between a person's shadow and the storage of their memories is made. The phenomenon isn't just an isolated incident and soon this forgetting plague spreads worldwide causing complete destruction of life as we know it. Flash forward a few years and shadowed survivors Ory and Max are trying to eek out a living for themselves in an abandoned resort in the American wilderness until Max loses her shadow and runs away. The book follows their separate paths and their stories interlink with other characters to create a tale of love, hope and survival of all that is human but also interweaves this humanity with an unknowing darkness and magic. And a cult. A reeeeeeally messed up cult that were so freaky and bonkers and... Just a brilliant piece of storytelling really. Honestly, the first half of this book creeped me out. It did such a brilliant job of describing how it must feel to be losing your memories and how once you give in to that loss you can use this forgetting power to unlock a sort of magic that the power of mind can have... I really can't explain this well at all because *spoilers* but just.... GAHHHHH. IT WAS FABULOUS AND I WAS INTRIGUED AND TERRIFIED AND ENTHRALLED AND TERRIFIED AGAIN!!! I loved the characters in this book. They were fantastic. I really rooted for them all to succeed in their journeys and to hopefully figure out for once and for all what was happening. They were so brilliantly human. And I loved how these groups of strangers came together to really show what the human spirit is all about. BUT THIS FORGETTING THING!!!! Woah. It was utterly terrifying. I simply won't divulge anything more about it because going into this book and discovering all for yourself is an utter joy and I really don't want to rob anyone of that experience. But top notch writing for sure. One of the things I love about science fiction writing which I suppose this is... Could possibly class it as dystopian too?? Anyway, one of the things I loved about this book is that it could almost happen. Obviously some crazy stuff has to occur but the characters, the world they are inhabiting initially... It's our world. The world building in this is initially our version of events (it obviously evolves as more chaos and destruction occurs but still.. Starting point is us.) And that to me adds this wonderfully terrifying and grounding dynamic to the storyline. This could almost be true. We could all wake up tomorrow to the news that someone had lost their shadow and this could become our truth. And a book that makes you think like that even for the briefest of moments... A quality book! Okay, as the story developed into the second half and I begin to understand more about what was going on some of that feeling of terrified wonderment wore off but I was ultimately treated to a very satisfying story filled with myth and legend made real. And an ending that... Less I say the better but *nods head approvingly*. Loved it. Highly recommended, very strong four star read. *An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins UK, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    I love books that are not easily classifiable – and this is just that. It is speculative fiction but also incorporates a feeling of magical realism, it is a romance (and it is really not), it is just absolutely lovely. I adore the premise above all else: at some point in the not so distant future people start losing their shadows and with them, slowly but inexorably, their memories. First the small things but then bigger and bigger things until they forget to breath. With the loss of memories co I love books that are not easily classifiable – and this is just that. It is speculative fiction but also incorporates a feeling of magical realism, it is a romance (and it is really not), it is just absolutely lovely. I adore the premise above all else: at some point in the not so distant future people start losing their shadows and with them, slowly but inexorably, their memories. First the small things but then bigger and bigger things until they forget to breath. With the loss of memories come weird powers: if a person without a shadow remembers something wrong, that thing becomes just so. Peng Shepherd uses this to create achingly beautiful scenes that edge on unsettling. The book is told from four perspectives: - Orlando Zhang (Ory), whose wife has just lost her shadow and left him behind, is single-minded in his pursuit of his wife, - Max, his wife, is losing her memories and keeps recording herself speaking to her husband to make sure she does not remember him wrong, - Mahnaz Ahmadi, an Iranian archer, is stuck in Boston, far away from her family and most importantly her younger sister. - The Amnesiac has lost his memory in an accident and as such has a unique understanding of memory loss and its effects on sense of self. My favourite parts by far were those concerned with Max – her journey into forgetting is mesmerizing and her resilience is wonderful. Spending time in her head made what was happening on a grander scale much more personal and affecting. I also loved spending time with Ahmadi – I love sibling relationships anyways and hers just made me weepy. The Amnesiac’s story at points had a feeling of fairy tale, which obviously I adored. My problem lay with Ory (and his perspective encompasses the bulk of this book) – he did not feel like a fully formed person to me. For most of the book he is single-minded in his pursuit of Max, never pausing, never considering her as a person in her own right, to be honest. I have some spoilery thoughts that might explain this but even so, I never really got along with his point of view – even though some of the most stunning scenes were from his perspective. Overall, I adore the way Peng Shepherd structured her book – I am often a huge fan of multiple perspectives and here they are handled expertly and with a brilliant sense of timing. I thought her language flowed beautifully and her imagination is just breathtaking, many scenes unfolding cinematically in the best possible way. Her use of imagery and colour really added to this already wonderfully layered story. I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. You can find this review and other thoughts on books on my blog.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Just like Peter Pan, the people in Peng Shepherd’s novel, The Book of M, are having trouble with their shadows. For reasons that never become known, shadows are disappearing, sometimes from an individual, sometimes whole cities at once. Told by four linked characters, with a multitude of diverse experiences threaded through their stories, this book follows their course through a world fundamentally changed by destructive magic. If you’d asked me any time during the first half of this book what t Just like Peter Pan, the people in Peng Shepherd’s novel, The Book of M, are having trouble with their shadows. For reasons that never become known, shadows are disappearing, sometimes from an individual, sometimes whole cities at once. Told by four linked characters, with a multitude of diverse experiences threaded through their stories, this book follows their course through a world fundamentally changed by destructive magic. If you’d asked me any time during the first half of this book what the final star rating would be, I would have said 5. Easily. There is an intriguing introduction to our main narrators, their distorted normality revealing that in the ‘now’ of their world something is very wrong. Flashbacks within each tale take the reader to the start of it all, when shadows were first lost. Initially, people are stunned, but excited- it’s a whole new phenomenon, something inexplicable and even wondrous. One shadow gone, then a group here, and another there. It’s newsworthy and everyone’s talking about it. Scientists are baffled. Religion is called into play. Anyone who’s anyone has an opinion and wants to know more. At this point, so did I. The situation is perfectly pitched, so realistic in the way each new piece of information is passed around the world, from person to person, with video clips uploaded and scrutinised, all kinds of rumours whispered. When things start to go wrong, when people without their shadows begin to forget, the tentative panic and fear is equally genuine. Just like an outbreak of some unknown virus, people are quarantined and studied. Then the overriding question, ‘why is this happening’ shifts to ‘how can we stop it’ as the violence and terror overwhelms everything. What becomes clear is that The Forgetting is more than just memory loss, the inability to remember what was or what is allows the shadowless to create their own reality. And it is chilling. If a shadowless doesn’t remember a whole marketplace? Well then, it’s gone. What happens when you can’t remember how to use your front door? Eventually it disappears and you remain, stuck until you waste away in a box of your own creation. And if you forget to breathe? Death. The picture of a world destroyed builds with each horrifying possibility, many of which stopped me in my tracks because I’d never considered it could go like that… This new place is a twisted, nightmare reality of clashing memories and monstrous creations. Of course, the author plays fast and loose with any notion of rules. What about all the people that remembered the market? If you can forget a place or person and it disappear, why would not remembering you need to breathe kill you, since not breathing would be the new reality? Anyway, who cares, this bit was brilliant. Especially as all the usual pathways of societal disintegration in dystopian fiction is exacerbated to a ridiculous and wildly fun degree by this one hook. Then at the halfway point it loses its cohesion. All of a sudden, it felt slow and I had to force myself to pick it up again. Each narrator’s story descended into a surreal dreamscape, with only tenuous links to their original goals, and their sense of urgency to do whatever the hell it is they wanted to do lost its power. In fact, the whole book from this point was convoluted and bloated with unnecessary sidelines that read like creative writing exercises, shoehorned in to fulfil the requirements of the final battle for New Orleans. Yes, an actual magical battle. The book morphs from dystopia to fantasy, from humanity facing a crisis to a city ruled by a blind man with an elephant shadow. Seriously. And that doesn’t even cover the kick in the teeth by the way it all ends for the ‘M’ from the title. The sheer randomness feeds into the mounting feeling of pointlessness and disappointment. More than most dystopian fiction, this aims for literary adroitness, and for the most part, achieves it. Parts are exquisitely written, with focused attention to the tiniest details of character and place. But just because you’ve allowed magic into your world, doesn’t mean you can go crazy with it. The author lost sight of both the characters and the plot in her desire to play tricks. Any time you wonder at the logic or likelihood of path taken, the answer is MAGIC. But the essential problem with disconnecting people from themselves, each other, and the world around them is that you remove the emotion that goes alongside. By the end, even by halfway, there was none left. Ultimately, this is a book about forgetting that will be easily forgotten. ARC via Netgalley

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    I am really into apocalyptic novels of late and this is an innovative and extraordinary one. It is a truly outstanding debut for an author that I will be putting on my "ones to watch" list. Peng Shepherd, I salute you! After reading the synopsis, I got unbelievably excited about the prospect of diving into this, having that amount of pure anticipation is a rarity for me. I'm usually cool, calm, and collected. I knew then that it was going to either - live up to my uber-high expectations and blow I am really into apocalyptic novels of late and this is an innovative and extraordinary one. It is a truly outstanding debut for an author that I will be putting on my "ones to watch" list. Peng Shepherd, I salute you! After reading the synopsis, I got unbelievably excited about the prospect of diving into this, having that amount of pure anticipation is a rarity for me. I'm usually cool, calm, and collected. I knew then that it was going to either - live up to my uber-high expectations and blow me away, or disappoint me beyond belief. There are such a lot of writers who create a highly original concept, but fail miserably in their execution, meaning that the unique premise is wasted. Luckily, that was far from the case here. "The Book of M" is set in the not-too-distant future and tells the story of a mysterious natural disaster that causes people's shadows to disappear, shortly followed by their memories. This phenomenon gives the individual the use of a strange type of magic, but it comes at a high price - each time they use it they will be robbed of a memory. Many try to resist the urge to use this magic power, but for most the temptation is too great. As the victims forget more and more of who they are, reality begins to bend to reflect their fractured recollections, plunging the world into a terrifying, ever-shifting alternate landscape. This is a surreal and rather creepy read that I enjoyed immensely, although I did find that the pace in the middle section of the book was a little slower than I would've ideally liked. The language flowed beautifully and naturally and I appreciated the multiple points of view. The way Shepherd has structured the novel around these varying perspectives gives you a look at what each character is thinking/feeling at the time. There are some stunning twists involved in the plot too, which caught me off guard! For a debut author the worldbuilding is exquisite and I appreciated that the characters were drawn from diverse backgrounds and were developed well. All in all, this is a superb dystopian thrill ride following the characters as they fight for survival, a haunting and thought-provoking read! Many thanks to HarperCollins for an ARC. I was not required to post a review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This book deserves ALL the stars!! ALL!! It’s brilliant, beautifully written, and one of the most hopeful post-apocalyptic books I’ve ever read. The Book of M is by far my favorite read so far of 2018. Whenever I think of my favorite all time epic books in this genre (The Stand, The Passage, and Swan Song) The Book of M will now and forever more be in my list. I’m not sure how to even tell anyone what this book is about. It’s a story about how most people lose their shadow and with it, little by This book deserves ALL the stars!! ALL!! It’s brilliant, beautifully written, and one of the most hopeful post-apocalyptic books I’ve ever read. The Book of M is by far my favorite read so far of 2018. Whenever I think of my favorite all time epic books in this genre (The Stand, The Passage, and Swan Song) The Book of M will now and forever more be in my list. I’m not sure how to even tell anyone what this book is about. It’s a story about how most people lose their shadow and with it, little by little, all of their memories, until they don’t even remember that they need to eat. Also with the loss of their shadow comes the ability to do magical things, like putting wings onto the head of a deer. But for each magical act, more memories are lost until there is nothing left of the original person. We follow the journey of Max who after two years has finally lost her shadow and run away, Ory her husband who travels the countryside looking for her, Naz who was an Olympic archer in the time before, and the Amnesiac who lost all of his memories due to an accident before The Forgetting. I seriously had major chills all up and down my spine as I read the last few pages of The Book of M. My heart!! I am sure I won’t be able to get this book out of my head for a long while and have already caught myself looking for my shadow several times! Peng Shepherd is a new author that I will be watching out for. If her first novel is this amazing, I can’t imagine how incredible her next ones will be!!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    The first half of this book was a solid 5 stars for me. The plot was so gripping I couldn't put the book down. But then....it took a turn. The latter half of the story just didn't do it for me. It was all over the place and confusing. The phenomenon of shadows disappearing was never fully explained and the whole part with "The One Who Gathers" was a jumbled mess of loose ideas. The culmination of everything really fell flat for me which is so disheartening because the first half of the book is s The first half of this book was a solid 5 stars for me. The plot was so gripping I couldn't put the book down. But then....it took a turn. The latter half of the story just didn't do it for me. It was all over the place and confusing. The phenomenon of shadows disappearing was never fully explained and the whole part with "The One Who Gathers" was a jumbled mess of loose ideas. The culmination of everything really fell flat for me which is so disheartening because the first half of the book is so well written! This had all the potential to be a great story but the follow through was confusing and unsatisfying. Bummer.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    “The Book of M” is a dystopian apocalyptic novel that is, at its essence, a love story about Ory (a man) and Max (a woman). Peng Shepherd has based her debut novel on a real life event called “Zero Shadow Day,” which occurs annually in India. On this one or two days, at noon, the sun is directly overhead and, unless you jump, you cannot see your shadow. In Sheperd’s story, starting in India and then spreading over the globe, people begin losing their shadows permanently. When a person loses their “The Book of M” is a dystopian apocalyptic novel that is, at its essence, a love story about Ory (a man) and Max (a woman). Peng Shepherd has based her debut novel on a real life event called “Zero Shadow Day,” which occurs annually in India. On this one or two days, at noon, the sun is directly overhead and, unless you jump, you cannot see your shadow. In Sheperd’s story, starting in India and then spreading over the globe, people begin losing their shadows permanently. When a person loses their shadow, they begin to lose their memories. The more memory is lost, the greater the pull to “forget.” As the shadowless lose their memories, they acquire a strange new power – they can alter the physical environment so that it fits their altered or half-forgotten memories. Deer sprout wings on their foreheads instead of antlers, guns shoot thunder and lightning, and kites in the sky become sharp instruments of death. Ory and Max have taken shelter in an abandoned resort in Great Falls National Park in Virginia. Originally, a wedding party stayed on at the resort in hiding after the shadow disappearance epidemic hit the U.S. Over the past two years, the other wedding guest have left the resort leaving Ory and Max to their own devices. Ory periodically heads into Arlington to scrounge for food – game is hard to come by and although it’s dangerous to enter the now lawless cities, they need supplies. They are down to their last jar of spaghetti sauce when Max loses her shadow. Ory is terrified to leave Max alone while he looks for food in the city. What if she forgets everything and leaves or starts to alter their reality? Eventually, driven by necessity, he leaves Max with a small tape recorder around her neck where she can record her thoughts and memories to help her remember. He puts signs up around their shelter to remind her of the rules – Max cannot leave the shelter without Ory. Max can never answer the door. Max cannot touch the gun. Ory leaves on his quest. He encounters a group of twelve people, both shadowed and shadowless, who are leaving for New Orleans. Rumors of “The One Who Gathers” or “The One With A Middle But No Beginning” have been whispered and the twelve believe they need to be in New Orleans. They offer Ory the items they are leaving behind – bikes, curtains, and other odds and ends. No food, other than a jar of vinegar. Ory heads back to the resort with his scavenged items. On the way, he is mugged for his windfall. When he comes to and straggles back to the resort, Max is gone without a trace. The bulk of the story follows Ory’s desperate search for Max from the east coast (the Statue of Liberty is up to no good) to New Orleans. Max shares her side of the story via her tape recorded diary entries. Other major characters are introduced and play key roles: * Hemu Joshi – shadowless “patient zero” * Mahnaz Ahmadi – an Iranian woman archer training for the Olympics in the US when the shadowless plague arrives * The Amnesiac – never given a name, this man was in a car accident which left him without any memories, much like the shadowless. He still has his shadow. * Dr. Zadeh and Dr. Avanthikar – doctors working to find a cure for the shadowless, working with Hemu Joshi and The Amnesiac The plot is complicated and quite interesting. Indian legends and mythology play a significant part. Eventually, all of the story and character threads come together in a surprise twist with a perfect bittersweet ending. It did remind me in parts of “Station Eleven” and “The Passage” (minus vampires) but it occupies its own original space within this genre of literature. A very promising debut for Shepherd. Oh, and one more thing – this novel gets bonus points from me for its reverence for books. Books are ALWAYS the solution. Always.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Janelle

    Review to come...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    5/5stars okay its been a few hours and I think I'm ready to write a real review. So, this book was seriously incredible. I was so SHOOK after finishing it i literally got on the wrong bus NICE and I'm legit like BLOWN AWAY by the ending even a few hours later so. it was fucking awesome. The book on the surface, I would describe as "Bird box" meets "Station Eleven" meets "The Oracle Year" - if BB and SE were actually good lol. This book was what I wanted when I was reading those books and TOY just h 5/5stars okay its been a few hours and I think I'm ready to write a real review. So, this book was seriously incredible. I was so SHOOK after finishing it i literally got on the wrong bus NICE and I'm legit like BLOWN AWAY by the ending even a few hours later so. it was fucking awesome. The book on the surface, I would describe as "Bird box" meets "Station Eleven" meets "The Oracle Year" - if BB and SE were actually good lol. This book was what I wanted when I was reading those books and TOY just had a very similar feeling to this book? The plots are definitely not similar but the FEELS are definitely a like. The book follows the world when a phenomena begins where people all around the world are losing their shadows - and with them, their memories. And so begins the apocalyptic world that this book mostly takes place during. We mostly follow Orlando "Ory" Zhang (side note: THE NARRATOR OF THE AUDIOBOOK LEGIT NEEDS TO BE FIRED SIMPLY FOR HOW HORRIBLY HE PRONOUNCED "ZHANG" I LITERALLY THOUGHT HE WAS SAYING "JOHN" THE ENTIRE TIME WHAT THE FUCK) and Max who are a married couple - and Max loses her shadow while Ory keeps his. Just, wow, this book seriously blew me away. Everything from the characters (the whole Paul thing like wow maybe just stab me in the heart next time???) to the plot to the world to the mystery to the science to the ENDING WOW THE ENDING JUST WOW I have to highly HIGHLY suggest this book because its seriously incredible - anyone who likes scifi, post apocalyptic, etc. you GOTTA get this on your radar! Now I'm going to quickly talk about the ending because I have a LOT to say about it so dont read if you dont want spoilers. (view spoiler)[ I want to talk about the Ory not accepting Max in Ursula's body thing because WOW I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT IT. Never in my life have I gone from so solidly loving a character to 100% hating them. And no that didnt affect my love of the book - I enjoy when books make me feel a lot of emotions, including anger in a good way sometimes? yeah. Basically, this whole thing at the end reminded me of a hypothetical situation my friend and I sometimes bring up with people. We've asked MULTIPLE groups of people over several YEARS and that is; "if you were married to someone - you were 100% totally head over heels in love with them, you've dated for years and have now been married for years and you still totally love them, and they tell you that they had discovered that they actually identify as Transgender and want to transition, would you still love them?" i'm disgusted to report that every single person we've ever asked this question has answered "no." while my friend and I always say "that would never be something that could ever change my LOVE for someone." This ending with Ory and Max reminded me of this question we would ask people. Would you love someone if their brain, their memories, their personality and their life was extracted and put into a different body? The answer should still be "yes" but much like how our friends always answered "no" to the transgender transitioning question, Ory also answered "no." This got UNDER MY SKIN SO MUCH LIKE WOW I honestly couldn't believe we had gone through this ENTIRE book with him searching for Max, and he finds her, and because she doesnt look how he was expecting, he doesn't believe its her. Can you imagine if Max had gone through severe injuries? what if she had been a burn victim? or lost a limb? or something else? Would Ory have still not loved her? this ending made Ory go from this amazing, family-oriented, loving man who cares only about his wife and making sure shes safe to a fucking douche bag who I wanted to smash his face on concrete. Which, this might have been on purpose, maybe not, who knows? but thats my two cents. (hide spoiler)]

  13. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I really enjoyed this. The Book of M is set in a world similar to our own, until suddenly certain people's shadows start disappearing. With the disappearance of a person's shadow comes the slow deterioration of their memory. And with this memory loss comes magic. If someone forgets that cars require gas to run, their car suddenly no longer requires gas to run. If someone forgets that deer have antlers, not butterfly wings attached to their heads--boom, butterfly wings. If someone forgets that gun I really enjoyed this. The Book of M is set in a world similar to our own, until suddenly certain people's shadows start disappearing. With the disappearance of a person's shadow comes the slow deterioration of their memory. And with this memory loss comes magic. If someone forgets that cars require gas to run, their car suddenly no longer requires gas to run. If someone forgets that deer have antlers, not butterfly wings attached to their heads--boom, butterfly wings. If someone forgets that guns shoot bullets, not thunderstorms... The magic of this book is quite the literary device. At times, it creates images of stark beauty. But ultimately, Peng uses it more to depict horror. It's fascinating, and can be interpreted as a fairly blunt commentary on memory loss, or as a more nuanced look at things like memory in general. What happens when we are forced to interact with physical manifestations of a person's differing memory? What happens when we are forced to interact with the physical manifestations of a person's brain, if that brain perceives the world differently from we do? Unfortunately (in the case of this book), I am a HUGE fantasy reader. That means lots of magic, in particular rule-based magic systems. I got hung up on the logic of the Forgetting, and its subsequent magic. It works great as a literary device, but its logic doesn't hold up at some points in the book. The pacing at times felt a little funky--the end, after what was primarily a road novel, seems to accelerate to breakneck speed. But the ending's pacing issues are negligent in comparison to the final chapter, which is haunting and heartbreaking and just the kind of ending I wanted for a book like this.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    The Book of M by Peng Shepherd is a very highly recommended, unique dystopian novel. This is a noteworthy debut. An epidemic called the Forgetting first starts in India when Hemu Joshi lost his shadow. Soon it spreads and a large part of the population succumbs to the phenomenon. What happens is that people lose their shadows and their memories follow. Once shadowless people forget, they are susceptible to misremembering the world and magically can create new things. They can also forget someone The Book of M by Peng Shepherd is a very highly recommended, unique dystopian novel. This is a noteworthy debut. An epidemic called the Forgetting first starts in India when Hemu Joshi lost his shadow. Soon it spreads and a large part of the population succumbs to the phenomenon. What happens is that people lose their shadows and their memories follow. Once shadowless people forget, they are susceptible to misremembering the world and magically can create new things. They can also forget someone exists and then... they don't. "Why had it turned out to be that shadows were the parts of bodies where memories were stored? Why did it happen to some and not others? Once it finally did happen, why did some people forget things after two weeks and some hang on much longer? And when they finally did forget, why did the earth itself seem to forget, too? The image of the strange creature in the woods outside came to him again. Why when a shadowless forgot that deer didn’t have wings on their heads, did it become true?" The Book of M follows a number of characters, starting with Ory and his wife Max. They escaped the Forgetting by hiding in a hotel in the woods outside Arlington, Virginia, and putting into place a set of protective rules. Now Max has lost her shadow. Ory has given her a tape recorder for her to record her memories and tell her story as a way for her to remember who she is and who Ory is. Then Ory leaves to scavenge for food in the city and Max leaves to keep Ory safe. Ory returns and begins his search for her. The narrative follows Max, Ory and several other characters. Everyone heads to the south where they have all heard rumors about someone called, among other names, "The One Who Gathers" in New Orleans who may have a cure for the Forgetting. The Book of M is an exceptional captivating and compelling novel that held my undivided attention from start to finish. The writing is incredible; it is hard to believe this is a debut novel. The concept that our shadows hold our memories paired with the importance of our memories on who we are, what we do, and how we relate to others and the world, becomes insightful and mind-bending in the narrative. Adding to the complex, absorbing plot are the dynamic characters Shepherd has created and placed in this changed world. The ending was surprising, nothing I would have predicted, yet it works in this intricate, ingenious novel. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers. http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2018/0...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    Best debut I've read in a long, loooong time! RTC - 153 pages in - “Did you know that the word that means a group of elephants together is memory?” he asked. “A memory of elephants.” I am so loving this book! 85 pages in and - for someone who researches identity and memory - this is pretty darn fascinating. I’m a bit creeped out, if I’m being honest. I hope that the explanation for losing one’s shadow and consequently all knowledge and memories will be fabulous. It has to be!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    Where did the shadows go? Ory wondered. He didn't even care about the why any more. Only the where. The why was inexplicable. Ory didn't believe in magic, but he knew in his heart that what had happened was nothing that could be understood by humans. It was no natural disaster, no disease, no biological weapon. The best name he'd ever heard for it was curse. Because in the end it didn't matter who you were. No one escaped – either because they were someone who lost their shadow, or because they Where did the shadows go? Ory wondered. He didn't even care about the why any more. Only the where. The why was inexplicable. Ory didn't believe in magic, but he knew in his heart that what had happened was nothing that could be understood by humans. It was no natural disaster, no disease, no biological weapon. The best name he'd ever heard for it was curse. Because in the end it didn't matter who you were. No one escaped – either because they were someone who lost their shadow, or because they were someone who loved someone who lost their shadow. In The Book of M's future world, through some inexplicable and magical process, people start to lose their shadows, and with them, their memories. This “Forgetting” is tragic but also dangerous: sometimes when a shadowless person realises that they have forgotten an important memory, that distant person or place simply disappears. And sometimes when a shadowless person misremembers something, people and objects and places can be transformed into monstrous, nightmare versions of themselves. This all sets up a familiar zombieland us-vs-them scenario with the unaffected constantly reassuring themselves that they still have shadows as they choose to avoid or fight the shadowless, but with no set rules for how a person transforms (it's not a contagion, spontaneously occurs, and doesn't affect everyone in a group) and with unbounded magic that some of the shadowless eventually learn to harness in deus ex machina plot-meddling, the “magic” supplants “logic” to the detriment of the narrative; when anything could happen, I stopped caring what did. The Red King was the size of two men, over ten feet tall, wearing a scarlet cloak of a hundred layers and haphazard armor made from whole, bent steel doors. A human skull could fit inside each scarred, crimson hand. Red dripped off him from everywhere, leaving trails behind him. The book is told from four shifting POVs: Max (with her husband Ory) has been hiding out in the woods for two years since the Forgetting, but now that she has suddenly lost her shadow, she has decided to run away in order to keep him safe from what she might unwittingly do (Ory has given his wife a tape recorder to help her keep her memories, and what she records on her adventure as her memory falters was my favourite thread); Ory, naturally, is determined to find Max, and he faces constant danger in pursuit of her; Naz is an Iranian-born Olympic archer, training in Boston at the time of the Forgetting, and she faces constant danger in an effort to stay alive; and "the amnesiac” was under the care of a memory doctor when the Forgetting began, and as he met and interacted with the first man who ever lost his shadow, this nameless one might hold the key to a cure. When rumours and graffiti all seem to point to the presence of a mysterious prophet in New Orleans, those with shadows and those without begin a pilgrimage that see the storylines converge. Later, he came to have many names. The One With a Middle but No Beginning. The Stillmind. Patient RA. Last, most important of all – The One Who Gathers. But in the beginning, he had no name at all. This convergence made me think of Stephen King and The Stand; and being Stephen King, he can be forgiven for bringing in supernatural elements; for setting up an ultimate battle between good and evil (but even he had his dystopia start with a simple virus). But that ultimate battle isn't really what author Peng Shepherd is going for in The Book of M – and my biggest complaint would be that I don't know what she was going for. Post-apocalyptic fiction can be wonderful for exploring how humans behave once civilisation collapses (as in The Road or Station Eleven), but between an army risking their lives to collect books and a murderous cult trying to “transcend”, I didn't connect with any recognisable motivations. And post-apocalyptic fiction can make for fun and adventuresome storytelling (as in The Passage or The Strain), but there have to be rules: inexplicable transmission and human people suddenly being able to transform reality with their minds drain the tension for me (and those were my biggest complaints about The Marrow Thieves, too; The Power followed rules, so it worked better for me). Okay, let's accept that people can lose their shadows, but how (or why) are memories stored there? I can't accept the basic premise and having more than one character shrug and say it's magic doesn't cut it for me. Madness, Zhang thought. An army of shadowed people led by a shadowless, who wanted to remove all human shade from the world – against a council of shadowless, led by a living shadow, who wanted to give everyone back their dark twin. Madness. In the last few dozen pages of the book, Shepherd approaches something like a point: if people's memories – their personalities, if not their souls; a word never mentioned – are stored outside of their physical selves, then what is the body? To avoid spoilers, I'll frame it as: If your best friend became a zombie and threatened a near stranger, but not yourself, could you look into her familiar eyes as you plunged a knife into her heart? If you could wish upon a monkey's paw to raise your child from the dead, but the child returned with someone else's memories, is that still your child? I liked that Shepherd referenced Peter Pan and a Hindu legend about the sun king and his shadow wife, but there isn't a lot of intertextual background for what happens, no scientific explanations, and next to no philosophical exploration after the fact: things happen, magical meddling constantly subverts any logic, and we get to the end. Yes, some interesting things happen, but it wasn't enough for me.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Resh (The Book Satchel)

    This book was AMAZING. Set in a post apocalyptic world, a strange phenomenon is taking over the world. People lose their shadows and in due time their memories one by one until they die (might forget how to open door/eat food/breathe). Inspiration: inspired by Zero Shadow Day, an astronomical phenomenon restricted to a few geographical locations in India. Twice a year shadows disappear for a few moments due to an alignment of sun and earth. What to expect? - characters of a wide variety of ethnicit This book was AMAZING. Set in a post apocalyptic world, a strange phenomenon is taking over the world. People lose their shadows and in due time their memories one by one until they die (might forget how to open door/eat food/breathe). Inspiration: inspired by Zero Shadow Day, an astronomical phenomenon restricted to a few geographical locations in India. Twice a year shadows disappear for a few moments due to an alignment of sun and earth. What to expect? - characters of a wide variety of ethnicities - I can speak only for India. But there was accurate representation and no stereotyping. There are mentions of Mumbai, Pune and Thiruvananthapuram. The names and other mannerisms were done perfectly well; so it was a nice surprise since the author isn't Indian. -Indian mythological stories included. Also Peter Pan (Yes! This book is a delight) - Four POVs. All are different from one another. The author writes for the reader who can bind all the POVs together. I loved that! No spoon feeding. - THAT CLIMAX. THAT TWIST. OH MY GOODNESS. BROKE ME! I definitely did not see that one coming. -might be a little slow -I read this as a mix of physical book+audio. I think the audio might help with the slowness in the plot's progress Disclaimer : Much thanks to Harper Collins India for a copy of the novel. All opinions are my own. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    I think this is my second 5 star book of 2018, so that should tell you something. When I get done editing my current manuscript I'm going to have SO many reviews to catch up on, and this is one of those books I will definitely write a review for. I will say, the ending is not what I had hoped for. But it did fit with the book as a whole. I'm always looking for authors who can craft a good story from beginning to end, and it's actually a pretty hard thing to find. That was not an issue here. The w I think this is my second 5 star book of 2018, so that should tell you something. When I get done editing my current manuscript I'm going to have SO many reviews to catch up on, and this is one of those books I will definitely write a review for. I will say, the ending is not what I had hoped for. But it did fit with the book as a whole. I'm always looking for authors who can craft a good story from beginning to end, and it's actually a pretty hard thing to find. That was not an issue here. The writing was simply gorgeous, and though the book is a bit on the longer side, I read every word, skipping over nothing. It's the kind of writing where you just want to absorb it into your skin and your soul and remember it for the rest of your days to come. The world-building didn't work for me at first, but the more you read, the more it sucks you in. It's weird how that works, but this book kind of straddles the genres, so don't think of it as just a post-apocalyptic book. There's also a bit of magical realism and fantasy in there. It was a little Alice in Wonderland crossed with The Road for me. I still say it's a readalike for Station Eleven because it has those gorgeous turns of phrase, themes that apply to the real world, fantastic people on a journey--it even has a cult! I definitely recommend this book. Don't MISS it. There hasn't been much promo that I've seen and that is a travesty.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    For me it was The Book of Meh. On paper (pun intended) this should have been the perfect book for me. When I read the description I thought, "Have I just stumbled upon another post-apocalyptic favorite? Could this be a book to squeeze onto the shelf with The Road, Oryx and Crake, The Stand, Birdbox, and World War Z?" Sadly the answer is a resounding no. For several reasons. 1) When the writing was good, it was pretty good. Often however it was choppy and awkward. I don't recall another book that For me it was The Book of Meh. On paper (pun intended) this should have been the perfect book for me. When I read the description I thought, "Have I just stumbled upon another post-apocalyptic favorite? Could this be a book to squeeze onto the shelf with The Road, Oryx and Crake, The Stand, Birdbox, and World War Z?" Sadly the answer is a resounding no. For several reasons. 1) When the writing was good, it was pretty good. Often however it was choppy and awkward. I don't recall another book that I had to re-read so many clumsy sentences to get the point. 2) The characters names. Some might find the unusual names refreshing, I found it over done. On top of that one character goes by three different names, one as a chapter heading, one that is used by the other characters, and one used by the narrator. Ouch my head. Another character decided to go by a different name 3/4 into the book for no good reason except as a weak twist used by the author. 3) Inconsistent story line regarding the loss of shadows and the effect it has on the victims in the book and the world as a whole in the book. To go into details on this point would introduce spoilers so I will leave it at that. The silly library encounter was groan worthy. 4) The pace and length of the book. Perhaps the editors were a little to generous here or maybe they nodded off while reading it. In any event it could have been better with less. I felt like there was always a lot going on but at the same time nothing much was happening. This book was closer to the fantasy side of the color wheel than the science fiction I was hoping for. I finished it with the hopes of some kind of miraculous turn around at the end but it wasn't to be.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    An interesting apocalyptic story that uses Indian mythology and lots of magical realism. As people lose their shadows, they also begin to lose their memories. At 17 hours, though, this audiobook was a bit long, and the story probably could have been pared down without losing the central theme. 3.5 ⭐ An interesting apocalyptic story that uses Indian mythology and lots of magical realism. As people lose their shadows, they also begin to lose their memories. At 17 hours, though, this audiobook was a bit long, and the story probably could have been pared down without losing the central theme. 3.5 ⭐️

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chihoe Ho

    The Book of M uses a simple premise: sometime in the future, the population is afflicted by "The Forgetting" - a phenomenon where people lose their shadows, and with that their memories. It seems like a far-fetched idea, but as the story unravels, it becomes (almost) believable that this could be a reality. What are the memories you hold dear? Who are we without our memories? Peng Shepherd's writing is beautiful and conjures up images of what this world is like for the very relatable and diverse The Book of M uses a simple premise: sometime in the future, the population is afflicted by "The Forgetting" - a phenomenon where people lose their shadows, and with that their memories. It seems like a far-fetched idea, but as the story unravels, it becomes (almost) believable that this could be a reality. What are the memories you hold dear? Who are we without our memories? Peng Shepherd's writing is beautiful and conjures up images of what this world is like for the very relatable and diverse cast of characters. It is light on the sci-fi and fantastical elements, has some thrilling suspense and action, and has broad appeal as it really is an encompassing novel on the relationships we form and the memories we make (and lose). By the end of the novel, I was left in quite the state of contemplation and introspection, and the heaviness I felt in my heart seemed like something that was going to weigh on me for a while - even as I write this review after having read it a month ago, all that ache comes rushing back. I love dystopian literary novels - Never Let Me Go and Station Eleven are some of my favourites. The Book of M fares well in comparison and is definitely one of the most unforgettable debuts I have read in a while.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher. It does not impact my review. The Book of M is certainly an ambitious debut. Covering multiple characters, countries, and time in painstaking detail, it explores a new dystopian world where the loss of memories results in dangerous magic. While I did like the book, I wanted to like it more than I actually did. The pace is pretty slow as the world building is established and it took me awhile to really get into the story. The writing was very deta I received a copy of this book from the publisher. It does not impact my review. The Book of M is certainly an ambitious debut. Covering multiple characters, countries, and time in painstaking detail, it explores a new dystopian world where the loss of memories results in dangerous magic. While I did like the book, I wanted to like it more than I actually did. The pace is pretty slow as the world building is established and it took me awhile to really get into the story. The writing was very detailed and I personally would have appreciated a little less. I thought it made the book much longer than it needed to be. However, it was pretty character-driven and I did feel like I got to know the main characters pretty well. The story is told in the POV of Ory, Max, Naz, and The One Who Gathers. Ory and Max are married and when Max loses her shadow she decides to leave Ory so she won’t accidentally hurt him. She comes across a group of other Shadowless heading to New Orleans and joins them. Ory is desperate to find her and along the way comes across a group of other Shadowed, including Naz, a former Olympic hopeful in archery who now helps lead the soldiers of her group. Both groups are trying to find out if the rumors they’ve heard about New Orleans are true. The One Who Gathers was once just a man with retrograde amnesia who became connected with the first man to lose his shadow and his memories, but has become something incredibly different. I did think all the POVs were well done. I liked all of the characters, but I never really fell in love with any of them, which made it kind of difficult to really care about what happened to them. Overall, I enjoyed The Book of M, but I didn’t love it. I liked the characters and how they all became connected. However, I thought the plot was a little drawn out and felt the emotional impact I was supposed to experience missed the mark a bit. While this dystopian tale may not be for me, I think there will be a lot of people that will really like it. I recommend it if you enjoy character-driven novels with a touch of magical realism. I do look forward to seeing what Peng Shepherd writes next. Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aentee

    Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager in exchange for an honest review. I also read a large part of this book via audiobook, which was purchased through my own Audible account. The Book of M is a one of the best post-apocalyptic fiction I have read in recent years, and it’s hard to believe it’s a debut novel. It’s a poignant examination of human memories and connection, filled with powerful and surrealistic imageries. The last pages of the novel still haunt me, and I keep Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager in exchange for an honest review. I also read a large part of this book via audiobook, which was purchased through my own Audible account. The Book of M is a one of the best post-apocalyptic fiction I have read in recent years, and it’s hard to believe it’s a debut novel. It’s a poignant examination of human memories and connection, filled with powerful and surrealistic imageries. The last pages of the novel still haunt me, and I keep catching myself thinking about the book’s shadowless world. I did have some issues with the book which I will discuss below, but overall, this book marks Peng Shepherd as an author to be watched – I can’t wait to see what she will come up with next. A strange and impossible event has flipped the world upside down. People all over the began losing their shadows, and with it, their memories. They fill in the gaps in their memories with imaginings that takes literal form, filling cities with warped streets, strange buildings, and extraordinary creatures. The forgetting starts small, the name of a street or a household object. It then spreads to encompass the memories of loved ones, the ability to speak or breathe. The entire spectrum of the Shadowless’ inexplicable condition is showcased in The Book of M to great effect, it’s simultaneously frightening and mesmerising. The Shadowless and their disappearing memories was inspired by Zero Shadow Day, an astronomical phenomenon restricted to a few geographical locations in India. Twice a year, during a few precious moments, shadows disappear due to an alignment of sun and earth. I loved seeing how the author took this idea and transformed it into an expansive and imaginative post-apocalyptic landscape. The writing is descriptive and vivid, creating a foreboding and surrealistic atmosphere. While the book switches constantly between four different point of views, they each provided a different perspective on the world and meshed together seamlessly. Each point of view also narrated the plot at slightly different timeline, so the book felt like a puzzle that readers had to put together. Of all the different viewpoints, I particularly enjoyed Max’s chapters. She lost her shadow at the beginning of the novel, and seeing her thoughts and transformation was an incredibly emotional experience. If you have the chance, I highly recommend the audiobook. Max’s chapters were narrated by Emily Woo Zeller, who’s voice and performance enriched Max’s character. I also enjoyed the Ory and Naz’s chapters immensely, although I felt they were quite similar in tone. The remaining narrator is the mysterious One Who Gathers, and their chapter shed a completely different light on the unfolding situation. Their chapter included one of my favourite relationships within this book, shared between two men who are learning to live with the loss of their memories. I found the pacing of this book to be good, I got through the 17 hours audiobook in a matter of days. The mystery of the Shadowless and Max’s journey kept me digging for more. However, I have heard from other reviewers that they found the book slow – and I admit I would have found it difficult to finish the book so fast without the aid of my audiobook, there is a large section in the middle that felt largely repetitive. The book has a very diverse cast of characters coming from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds, and I appreciated the inclusivity of the various cultures in the books. However, I had a major issue with The Book of M due to the tragic deaths of the only gay characters in the book. While I understand that this book takes place in a post-apocalyptic landscape where there are numerous deaths – seeing the only two gay characters die while heterosexual characters managed to survive worse odds felt uncomfortable. The death of one of the gay characters were also a catalyst to advance a main character’s storyline and set him on the ‘correct’ path. It’s 2018, the book is released during Pride Month, having a tired and hurtful trope rear its head really affected my enjoyment of the book. Overall, The Book of M was a memorable debut with a haunting ending. However, I have some reservations about the book due to the pacing and the appearance of the hurtful ‘bury your gays’ trope.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    I'm not sure how or when I added this to my "to read" queue. But I saw the audiobook on Hoopla one day, recognized it as in my "to read" queue, and downloaded all 17 hours. It was entertaining! From start to finish. Good post-apocalpytic world-building, interesting characters, powerful and eery imagery, some admirable twists, especially toward the end. A few have compared it to Station Eleven, though. Which was a stretch. The writing, by first-time novelist Peng Shepherd, was tight and fast-pace I'm not sure how or when I added this to my "to read" queue. But I saw the audiobook on Hoopla one day, recognized it as in my "to read" queue, and downloaded all 17 hours. It was entertaining! From start to finish. Good post-apocalpytic world-building, interesting characters, powerful and eery imagery, some admirable twists, especially toward the end. A few have compared it to Station Eleven, though. Which was a stretch. The writing, by first-time novelist Peng Shepherd, was tight and fast-paced, but the actual tale, about the human race losing their shadows and subsequently their memories, felt a tad clunky. Still, for 17+ hours, a commendable level of engagement.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Check out my book review on my blog here: https://booksonthebookshelf.wordpress... Gripping, intriguing, fantastic! Three words to describe this book. This book was seriously amazing! I loved how it was very intriguing from the very beginning and draws you into the unknown and unfathomable, into a world where nothing is at it seems and the in-seemingly possible is possible. It was beautifully written and I loved Shepherd’s style of writing. The pages turned themselves and I found myself not wanti Check out my book review on my blog here: https://booksonthebookshelf.wordpress... Gripping, intriguing, fantastic! Three words to describe this book. This book was seriously amazing! I loved how it was very intriguing from the very beginning and draws you into the unknown and unfathomable, into a world where nothing is at it seems and the in-seemingly possible is possible. It was beautifully written and I loved Shepherd’s style of writing. The pages turned themselves and I found myself not wanting to put it down as I wanted to know what would happen next. Full of mystery and surprises, you can’t help but feel a whole bunch of emotions for all the characters in the book. This book takes place in a futuristic world and mostly follows the two main characters, married couple Ory and his wife Max. One day on the news it is reported that a man in India has lost his shadow. No one knows why or how it happened, or what it means, but it is a strange phenomenon that mystifies everyone. Slowly the news spreads around the world, leaving most people scared and confused. Until the phenomenon spreads and countries begin shutting down their borders, leaving inhabitants quarantined. No one is allowed to enter or leave the country. The people who have lost their shadows have strange things happen to them that cannot be explained. They seems to gain powers, but it comes at an unthinkable cost. Their memories start to fade. Some people touched by this plague and lose their shadow lose their memories quite quickly, while others seem to lose their memories more slowly, and are desperate to hold onto their memories. If you realized one day that your shadow had suddenly disappeared, what would you do? What would you be willing to give up to remember and hold onto your precious memories? The world as they know it is no more. Chaos erupts and people are scared and more and more lose their shadows and their memories. No one knows how to help. No one knows how to stop others from losing their memories or their shadows and people are frightened. Buildings are destroyed, homes are wiped out, electricity is wiped out and food is becoming scarce. People are robbing and killing others for food and shelter. The whole world is chaotic. Ory and Max both have their shadows. Then one day Max loses her shadow. They both know that once her memories start to fade away she will become more and more dangerous; But so far she has all of her memories. How long will she have until her memories begin to fade? One day while Ory is out gathering supplies, Max runs away to try to save Ory from herself and sparing him from having to watch her deteriorate like this. When Ory returns home he is devastated to learn that Max has run away. How could she do this to him. They promised one another to not abandon the other. You will experience many emotions reading this book. I know I certainly did. I had hopes that Ory would be able to find Max one day and they would both be ok. The story continues from both Ory and Max’s points of view. Max as she has run away and her journey to where she is running, and Ory on his path to try to find Max, the love of his life. Will Max manage to get where she is going with her memories intact? Will Ory be able to find Max before she forget him and it is too late? This book was incredible! Thank you so much to NetGalley and Harper Collins for providing me with an eARC copy of this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    Really enjoyed this book at the very beginning, the characters were easy to connect with and the storyline instantly had me gripped. Unfortunately, I found the plot got a little convoluted and unnecessarily complicated throughout the middle. Overall, a great read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    What Shepherd has done with this book is unlike ANYTHING I have ever read– dystopia, science fiction, magical realism, a mystery, a love story, a beautiful weaving together of so many characters you just can’t help but root for, all while you’re just as confused as they are about why they’re losing their shadows– and subsequently, their memories and everything that make them human. I took a while with this book, longer than most audiobooks– but looking back, I think it’s because there was truly What Shepherd has done with this book is unlike ANYTHING I have ever read– dystopia, science fiction, magical realism, a mystery, a love story, a beautiful weaving together of so many characters you just can’t help but root for, all while you’re just as confused as they are about why they’re losing their shadows– and subsequently, their memories and everything that make them human. I took a while with this book, longer than most audiobooks– but looking back, I think it’s because there was truly so much going on here that I wanted to make sure I was absorbing each and every little detail. A spectacular read (debut?) that felt a bit perpendicular to Station Eleven for me, but a bit less literary and a touch more magical/science fiction. If you liked Station Eleven, but its characters felt a bit too unreachable to you, definitely give this one a shot.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tori (InToriLex)

    Content Warning: Graphic Violence The Book of M was weird, memorable and engaging. The story will break your heart and shock you in ways your not expecting. In this world people begin to lose their shadows and then gradually lose all of their memories after. Ory and Max set out to find answers and ways to survive a constantly changing landscape. The authors does a great job of balancing multiple point of views while keeping the voices distinct and the plot moving. Ory and Max are characters yo Content Warning: Graphic Violence The Book of M was weird, memorable and engaging. The story will break your heart and shock you in ways your not expecting. In this world people begin to lose their shadows and then gradually lose all of their memories after. Ory and Max set out to find answers and ways to survive a constantly changing landscape. The authors does a great job of balancing multiple point of views while keeping the voices distinct and the plot moving. Ory and Max are characters you will happily cheer for along with the other characters they encounter while the world slips into chaos. Shadows randomly disappearing is bad enough but the shadow less are able to change their environments and threaten those who still have shadows.  “No one escaped—either because they were someone who lost their shadow, or because they were someone who loved someone who lost their shadow.” The book has a very strong start but towards the later half of the book the world building became too robust. I wanted to learn more about the characters we knew but some of that took a backseat to describing the threats and ways that people have adapted in this new world. The world building itself was great but their could have been less of it. The concept was weird but never in a way that required you to hold back disbelief. The audio book narrators were male and female, they did a great job conveying the feelings and emotion of characters through the dialogue. Ory and Max embark on a journey for answers, the hardships and bad times kept me in suspense about what their fate will be. [image error] There is a lot of technical and anecdotal information about how memory works. But this served the story well as everyone was trying to figure out why people lost their shadows and how to stop it. Despite clunky pacing at times I still wanted to follow these characters and keep listening. There are a number of diverse characters in terms of race and sexual orientation because the story spans continents and states. I was impressed with the representation. The ending surprised me but was in line with how the book balanced realism with the fantasy of this imagined world. Readers will findemotional depth and a story to remember. Recommended for Readers who - enjoy adult science fiction where every characters in jeopardy - aren't thrown by multiple points of view - can stomach graphic violence and traumatic physical and emotional pain

  29. 5 out of 5

    Donna Hines

    Mysterious! Mystical! Jaw Dropping Thrills! Darkness and death are both valleys we must stroll through in living our lives. Which will you choose? Who we are as a living being is not merely a construct of a bowl of memories carefully slipped together. What shall happen if I lose such ability to recall, to remember a name with a face, to perform at full capacity in living a well balanced existence. Peng Shepherd allows the excitement to build in using four main characters: Ory (Orlando Zhang), his wi Mysterious! Mystical! Jaw Dropping Thrills! Darkness and death are both valleys we must stroll through in living our lives. Which will you choose? Who we are as a living being is not merely a construct of a bowl of memories carefully slipped together. What shall happen if I lose such ability to recall, to remember a name with a face, to perform at full capacity in living a well balanced existence. Peng Shepherd allows the excitement to build in using four main characters: Ory (Orlando Zhang), his wife Max, Amnesiac (car accident) and the latter 'One who gathers'. When a man loses his shadow in India the world turns upside down in a mass frenzy of hysteria as the epidemic spreads. What happens if everyone loses their minds, what happens if the shadowless forget who or what they are or how to repair themselves, what happens to the world as we once knew... The coming of the end may be closer than you think. Zero Shadow Day in India is an actual real life event in which shadows do disappear briefly. In attendance at a wedding , Max and Ory are enjoying themselves until Max loses her shadow. Ory is determined to retain the memories through a special code of when they first became involved. The biggest fear in instability as Max loses more mental capabilities and decides best to leave. When word leaks out of hope in New Orleans for the shadowless Max heads South. Retention is on the minds so a tape recorder is utilized in helping the process. Amnesiac enters the story while still processing the amnesia suffered from the car accident and the resulting transformation to The One Who Gathers. What could you afford to lose and still be complete? What could a book, a man named Hemu Joshi ( 1st to lose a shadow), blue v red, war, and soldiers in carriages have in common? With an ambush we uncover the Red King and more... Could Magic truly exist? Could this love survive if the memory fades between Ory and Max? What if you're found but would rather not be? What if your shadow is actually built not on image but on memories that can be altered for certain effect? The love story is great but the ideas as a whole bring it to a new high. Truly engaging, energetic, and authentically real. Thank you Peng Shepherd, her publisher, NetGalley, and Aldiko for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Meekachii

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Soooo I ended up enjoying this book for the most part. I had a few minor issues with it, but as a whole it was a really enjoyable reading experience. I put a spoiler warning on this review because I wanted to mention that (to me) there’s an awesome twist at the end. One thing I didn’t like was how they never mention what Actually happened to one of the characters, how they never ever mention children in this world and what happens to them, and I didn’t really like the whole elephant thing (which Soooo I ended up enjoying this book for the most part. I had a few minor issues with it, but as a whole it was a really enjoyable reading experience. I put a spoiler warning on this review because I wanted to mention that (to me) there’s an awesome twist at the end. One thing I didn’t like was how they never mention what Actually happened to one of the characters, how they never ever mention children in this world and what happens to them, and I didn’t really like the whole elephant thing (which you’ll know if you read the book). But other than those few minor complaints, I really liked it

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