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Pan Macmillan

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“He explores humanity without sacrificing the enticing nature of mystery that many apocalyptic-genre novels do well” – Aerodrome reviews Marcus Low’s Asylum

Asylum
Barry James is detained in a quarantine facility in the blistering heat of the Great Karoo. Here he exists in two worlds: the discordant and unforgiving reality of his incarceration and the lyrical, snowy landscapes of his dreams.

He has cut all ties with his previous life, his health is failing, and he has given up all hope. All he has to cling to are the meanderings of his restless mind, the daily round of pills and the journals he reluctantly keeps as testimony to a life once lived.

And then there’s an opportunity to escape. But to escape what? And where to? Can there be a life to go back to? Is there still a world out there in the barren wasteland beyond the fence?

Gareth Langdon recently reviewed Low’s remarkable, unsettling debut novel for local online journal, Aerodrome:

Post apocalyptic motifs are overdone. Between The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games, contemporary media seems to scream the need for us all to be prepared for the worst – for the coming of the end. Whether or not this is a universal set of fears, or something unique to Hollywood is not much of a question.

What matters is that it is a tired trope, and that anyone hoping to tackle the genre is going to have an uphill battle.

Marcus Low makes light work of this challenge in his debut novel, Asylum.

The novel follows, through a series of eloquent and detailed journal entries, the plight of James Barry. Barry has been diagnosed with a fatal lung disease – likely tuberculosis – and finds himself incarcerated in a treatment facility or modern day sanitorium, in the middle of the Karoo.

His days drag on at a snail’s pace as he gazes out of the window at the dry bones of the earth, watching nothing happen, and writing regularly in his notebooks. He has made some friends though, and as inmates are want to do, they begin planning their escape. The novel traces Barry’s internal struggles as well as the planning and execution of their proposed escape.

Composed of notebook fragments and interjected with editor’s notes, written from what is ostensibly the point of view of whoever discovered the notebooks, the novel has an intensely personal feel.

Asylum is at once apocalyptic rendering, and psychological exploration.

Continue reading Langdon’s review here.

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