Here, for your delectation, is a sort-of-review of the seventh book I've read this year. Good going, eh?
The book centres around a group of friends who live in, or around, Oxenworth, near Bradley in Yorkshire. The main setting is The Fleece, a pub in the village, and usually, it's winter. Snow seems to be a favourite theme to the author - It's almost always winter and almost always snowing. Hard. When it's not snowing, snow has just fallen and the countryside is covered with a thick white blanket. I know 'oop north' gets more snow than the more temperate climes of the UK, such as sunny Norfolk, but really, I don't think it gets that much! I'm not quite sure what Mr Brown is trying to say with the snow - I kept thinking 'white' and 'virginal'. A blank canvas for the stories, maybe?
There is a main protagonist who tells his story and who introduces his friends stories. The book has chapters, but it's more like a collection of novellas or short stories, which I found very easy to read - Probably because this format makes the book really easy to pick up and put down in a short space of time.
Each story is about how the friends lives have been affected by the Kethani - an alien race who come to Earth in a benign invasion and offer humanity an amazing gift: Immortality.
Now, before some of you think "Oh, here we go. Another sci-fi tale" it's not about the Kethani at all. In fact, we don't learn an awful lot about them, nevermind actually see one. Instead, this book challenges the friends - and the reader's - views on religion, faith, philosophy, science, humanity and mortality. And all due to the gift the Kethani bring.
Several times, the characters mention that the Kethani have brought humanity to the human race, and I found myself thinking, No. They've brought Kethanity. Humanity includes those greedy, violent, selfish and savage impulses that make humans what they are, as well as compassion, selflessness, understanding and love.
I must admit to feeling unsettled as I read this book. I found myself constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don't know if my reaction is commonplace amongst people who've read it, or if it's just my paranoia and cynicism brought about by watching/reading about alien invasions.
I really liked this book and found it very thought provoking. It also scared me how the Kethani somewhat insidiously changed the human race, despite changing it for the better (if you think that the change is better).
P.S. I totally bought this book by judging its cover!