Cover Image: The Book of M

The Book of M

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Member Reviews

This book was so good. Its just so intriguing and interesting. This book is all about memories and in this book your memories are a part of your shadow and in this book you get to see what happens when people start to lose their shadows and then their memories. This book is so interesting because when someone loses their shadow, they don't lose their memories straight away, It happens slowly and then all at once. A lot like dementia. This book hit a little close to home for me however it was an emotional and brilliant read.
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This story is set in a post apocalyptic world where people lose their memories. It was well written and follows different characters as they each search for answers to something personal to them. It shows the characters as they handle survival, loss and identity.
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I read an ARC from NetGalley of this, unsure I'd like it, but intrigued by the concept: in the tradition of post-apocalyptic novels, a plague wipes out most of the world, leaving civilisation in ruins, and survivors scattered across the world. Unlike in most post-apocalyptic novels, the plague is a kind of memory-loss that grants those affected with the power to change the world around them as their memories fade and shift and transform. It's rooted in history and case studies and science in a way that makes it feel so plausible, despite the fantasy elements. The characters: a husband and wife, split apart when the wife, Max, begins to forget and takes herself away from him in order to protect him, are tragic and wonderful and lordy did my heart ache for them both for all they go through in this story. But despite the expected misery of these types of stories, this one was also filled with so much hope and fun and adventure, too -- I adored it.
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I did enjoy this book even though it is not my usual preferred type of dystopian, post-apocalyptic fiction. A little bit of a slow burner with a mix of interesting characters. I have to say the ending made up for the earlier pace of the novel.
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I was really unsure on this book to begin with. But, the further I got into it, the more I began to enjoy it. A real mixture of genres, and it all worked fantastically.

The plotline is unique, well thought out, and written beautifully. For a debut book, this is an amazing book. The inclusion of Indian mythology is intriguing and has left me fascinated with the idea of it all. I normally don’t go for books set in a post-apocalyptic world but this may have slightly changed my mind about them.

We meet Ory and Max a week after Max has lost her shadow, and you feel for them both. They’re both trying their hardest to survive in such tragic circumstances, and then this happens to her. Both are great characters, both have their good points. I liked Ory because he came across as the strong provider. He’s determined, and willing to fight for what he wants.

Max. We see Max disintegrate before our eyes, and I feel this uselessness that she must feel with every memory that she loses. I was really routing for her to get where they were going to before she lost it all.

The addition of Naz, and her story, is a slight distraction for me. I liked her, I felt for her, I routed for her as well, but… I don’t know. She obviously played a vital role at some point in the story. I think that her resulting connection to Ory wasn’t really unexpected, not with how she acts towards him , or him towards her.

The twist? It was cruel. I didn’t really want it to go that way, but… It works. And it sort of makes the books title make sense. It’s not that I wanted the character to be the one to survive, she was a badass character but it seems a little unfair that it’s not the one I was hoping for…

The writing was beautiful, it kept me gripped and left me intrigued all the way through. The fantasy element to the story has left me wanting more, the magic side of it all when the people forget and things change was just fantastic. The way the author has left me wanting me more has made me hope that she has something else in the pipeline!! For a debut, it’s spectacular!!
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What a hauntingly beautiful and poignant tale this is. It tells the story of Ory and Max and the Forgetting. When people begin to lose their shadows and subsequently their memories, the world descends into chaos. Max and Ory survive in an isolated location but when Max loses her shadow, she wanders away and Ory sets out to find her. The world Shepherd has created here is so well realised and so utterly compelling. The characters have believable motivations and emotional responses and the narrative is very cleverly constructed to allow us to focus closely on our key players while also showing us enough of the world to keep us invested. This is speculative fiction at its most creative and innovative and I cannot wait to see what she does next.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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I am fascinated by memory and identity. How does the brain create moving images in our heads better than Blu-ray; how do witnesses at the same event see different things and how we perceive each other.  I think how books create false memories in the form of stories is yet another reason I love the power of books. In this intriguing debut Peng Shepherd provides a very unusual apocalypse where humanity isn’t being destroyed by climate change, disease or war but a loss of self.

With the arrival of a deer with feathers in its antlers you are immediately made aware that this is not your usual end of the world tale. This a world where people first lose their shadow and then their memories fade; your loved ones; your place names; understanding of objects etc. but the more people forget then has unseen consequences. The street and all the people you remembered living on it may vanish; a gun may fire thunderstorms and you could imagine away the doors to the room you are in and eventually you will forget to even eat and breathe. Into this we focus on Ory and Max a young couple who have lived through the initial event and ever since tried to survive hiding in the country with only Ory scavenging within the dwindling remnants of the older world and constantly evading the shadowless and the shadowed – neither of whom can be trusted to be benevolent towards strangers. Its an eerie uncertain world where even reality is questionable – how do you know your loved one is still the person you want them to be?

Max runs away once she finally succumbs to the forgetting and Ory pursues her and in doing so finally seeing what is left of the US.  Alongside this we also track Mahnaz a Iranian immigrant training for the Olympics as an archer who far away from home is in the middle of the fall of cities and the more mysterious The One Who Gathers -  a man who survived a car accident but lost all his memories – he is of scientific interest to doctors trying to understand the forgetting but he may have a bigger role in the future of this world. This then leads to weaving plotline involving flash forwards and flashbacks for all these characters who in a variety of ways all start to orbit each other and a in doing so chance to explore this very strange eerie world’s creation as well as the fates of the remaining people living in it. One of the welcome aspects is this is not a story of just straight white men saving the world with a much more diverse cast of characters and nationalities we are usually exposed to in these stories – it even looks beyond the US towards India and Iran to remind us this is an actual global event and not simply New York or Washington.

The major plus is Peng’s use of language to paint this picture.  She has a gorgeous use of prose and each scene is crafted and adds to the sense of rather than an adventure but a more surreal and often disturbing new world. This can be the sinister shadowless hording books to trade for items they no longer remember; mysterious white-suited figures that haunt the waterways and roads and finally in one of the most heart-breaking scenes the descent of a character into losing all their memories. Shepherd is also highlighting how circumstances may change how characters are perceived both by themselves or others. Ory for example is initially a standard loving partner but at several points we see a harder more reckless side to him and how characters are named or viewed through other’s eyes is a returning theme. If you’re seeking a more standard dystopia focused on how people technically survive you will not get much realism the focus is more on how [people react to huge changes and as the book progresses and the shadowless get more powerful the surrealness of events gets stronger and stronger building to a fantastic conclusion explaining the title of the story.

My one issue is the first half of the book as Ory and Max go on their respective quests is very fast paced but around halfway for a quarter of the book the cast must make several key changes in order for them all to meet in the conclusion. Unfortunately, this felt less natural and more obvious plot engineering – one character disappears with a family member and the events of their next few months are just explained in a few sentences. This was one of the rarer times when I would prefer a little more time with the cast to make the journey feel more epic and not rush to the finish.

If you enjoy the more literary side of an apocalypse with tales such as Station Eleven, then I think this would be a very suitable read.  While Station Eleven was however the book of hope and optimism this book is more shadowy and less certain as to the survival of humanity which suits a tale on the loss of identity.  It’s a strong debut and I will be looking forward to seeing how Shepherd further develops her voice and ideas.  Weirdly despite the subject matter a book you’ll really remember long after you finish it.

‪ https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/blog/2019/1/8/the-book-of-m-by-peng-shepherd‬
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There are a lot of post-apocalyptic books out there.  You know the drill: a mysterious happening brings civilisation to its knees.  People living in the aftermath scrabble around living on tinned food.  Our protagonist is the one who gets to the heart of what happens and (in the more optimistic ones) is able to fix it. See The Feed, Station Eleven and The Space Between The Stars - all of which are really excellent examples of the genre.

Where Peng Shepherd's The Book of M (review copy from Harper Voyager) differs is that the cause of the apocalypse is not a mysterious virus or act of terrorism.  This is a fantasy take on the apocalypse, rather than a science fictional one.  Starting in India, people start losing their shadows.  And the shadowless start to gain the ability to change reality, but at the price of losing their memories.  As the problem begins to spread, society starts to break down. 

Our protagonists are Max and Ory.  They were at the wedding of two friends in a remote location when the Forgetting starts to hit the USA.  Slowly the community at the wedding hotel starts to disperse, until only Max and Ory are left.  Max loses her shadow, and her husband Ory looks after her, in the knowledge that eventually she will forget even him.  Unable to bear it, Max eventually leaves, following mysterious graffiti and rumours that someone in the deep South may hold a cure for the Forgetting. 

Unfortunately, The Book of M fails to add anything fresh to the post-apocalyptic genre beyond its new, fantastical premise.  The novel dwells on the importance of memories in how they shape and form the essence of a person.  But the Forgetting is never adequately explained and - although the story is competently told and Shepherd writes with a beautiful prose style - the novel lacks some of the deep insight into the human condition and how we cope with chaos and crisis that other sister books offer.  

Goodreads rating: 2*
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Very clever take on the whole "end of the world" genre. That the whole disaster is never clearly explained only adds to a interesting magical realism take. And a great twist ending.
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Unusual and captivating! The hype was not wrong about this one! The Book of M kept me enthralled from cover to cover. Already purchased as a stocking filler for several bookworms!
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Breathtaking, stunning writing, that keeps you turning page after page as the story unfolds and flows and reveals the truths that lie beneath. What I thought was going to be a typical dystopian novel turned into a stunning masterpiece with hidden depths I wasn’t expecting. The writing was flawless and captivating, and the story so much more than the description given in the book blurb. I was drawn in from the very first sentence and believe I have found a new author that I will read without question. Stunning writing, gripping story, and one that will stay with you long after you finish the book.
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3.5 stars

The world changes when a man loses his shadow in a market in India and then his memories.
The phenomenon soon spreads throughout the world.
Two years later, Ory and Max are living in an abandoned hotel. They appear to have escaped losing their own shadows until the worst happens - Max's shadow disappears.
Knowing that the shadowless can be dangerous, Max runs away so that she can't harm Ory. But when Ory finds that Max has gone he sets off in search of her.
Why are people losing their shadows?
How are memories linked to shadows?
Can Ory find Max?

The Book of M was a very intriguing and thought-provoking read.
The chapters focus on four main characters - Max, Ory, Naz and the amnesiac. Each storyline was interesting and I liked how they linked together.
The concept of the Book of M was very intriguing. The idea that memories are stored in shadows was interesting, as was the 'magic' that the shadowless could do by forgetting things.
The plot was interesting and held my attention despite being nearly 500 pages long.
The writing style was easy to follow and I would definitely read another book written by the author.

Overall this was an enjoyable, unique read that I would recommend.
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The Book of M expertly blends together magic and suspense set in a post-apocalyptic world. It was interesting and heart-breaking to follow the characters follow as they dealt with extreme situations of personal loss and slowly fading memories. My favourite was Max's perspective as she was a fiercely independent and passionate woman. While I liked Ory's and Naz's perspectives separately, I didn't like the interaction between these two characters. It was fascinating to read from the amnesia patient's point of view, but I didn't feel any connection to his character.

I genuinely enjoyed the plot as it kept surprising me by the direction it took. There were a number of shocking twists that evoked strong emotional reactions in me. While the scientific understanding of how the world worked and the shadowless people got their abilities was not fully clear to me, I did like how the author spun myth, legend and a festival into an original storyline. Some scenes were a bit too graphic for my taste and made me uncomfortable, but otherwise I had quite a smooth experience reading it.

I would highly recommend this book for someone looking for a clever, intriguing and weird story and for fans of dystopian novels. It would make an excellent read during the colder months when you can just curl up and power through this as it's the sort of book you can't put down once it sucks you in.
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The Book of M is a book that lovers of Station Eleven, and book clubs seeking 'quirky' and 'thoughtful' reads, will go mad for. It's a quiet post-apocalyptic look at memory and the nature of humanity, which will definitely make a certain type of reader keen on it, but unfortunately that reader isn't me. 

I found the writing curiously lacking in emotion - as people lose their shadows, they lose their memories and their sense of self, and this should have been devastating. The author kept telling us how devastating it was, but I couldn't connect with Ory's grief at all - he didn't seem that bothered to lose his wife. I liked Max's sections better, since they actually focussed on the experience of being shadowless, and would have preferred to read the entire novel from her point of view. The sections with the amnesiac I found utterly clinical and detached, and I was left uninterested in his storyline. 

I don't think that the story or the characters could quite sustain the length of the novel. As a novella/short novel (perhaps just Max's sections) this could have been quietly powerful, the sort of book that sticks in your mind and makes you think, but the story felt stretched out uncomfortably thin over the second half, and I lost interest in most of the characters. The writing is poetic in a slightly self-conscious way, and I found that this kept the pace extremely slow. As I said above, I think this will be a success, and I can definitely see it winning awards and being picked for a lot of book clubs, but it wasn't my cup of tea.
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A strange and surreal dystopian book with a clever idea that to me seemed to lose its way about two thirds of the way through. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, particularly the story of  Max and Ory, and their struggles to survive in a drastically changed and dangerous world, and it was the slow building of this empathy in the reader that made the conclusion of the book as emotionally impactful as I found it. Unfortunately I did struggle with the middle section of the book, almost giving up at several points, though I am glad that I did not. 
An intriguing and impressive debut, I look forward to more from the unique voice of this author, 
I read and reviewed an ARC  courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
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Love love loved this book.
Set in a dystopian Earth where people are losing their shadows and memory, the world has broken down and Ory needs to find his wife.

I adored this book.
I love the whole 'dystopian travels' sub-genre (if that even is a subgenre, think Year One by Nora Roberts and Fever by Deon Meyer.

This book totally deserves all the hype, it is strange and mind-bending yet bizarrely believable. 
The dual perspectives was a genius move from Shepard, it meant that the storyline moved fast and we were able to see and experience much more as a reader.

Brilliant read!!
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I really wanted to read this book and when i saw on netgalley i was so exited. It was amazing. Story is well written. I couldn't stop reading it. I really loved author's imagination.
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An interesting concept, a future where people´s shadows disappear, with them their memories in exchange for something else. Unfortunately, while the idea was good, the execution left a bit to be desired... the ending saves the book in many ways, but for the better part you struggle to keep engaged, with a second act that just doesn’t work. Was okay, but could’ve been much much better.
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I was SO excited about this and really enjoyed it. I'm afraid I'll also have to buy the absolutely gorgeous hardback just because it's so very beautiful.
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I loved this book!

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.

Firstly: read no more reviews. Do not google this book. Just read it, knowing only this.

A highly original speculative story, with a unique premise (how often can you say that?). I know we shouldn't judge books by their covers, but *ahem* the UK cover is also gorgeous. One for the shelf!

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for letting me read this fascinating novel.
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