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The Book of Koli

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The Book of Koli is the first in a trilogy of fantasy novels set in a new-world post nuclear war. The basic synopsis is that technological advancements lead to interactive AI-based living, the ability to genetically manipulate living material, and post-nuclear destruction that brings about killer trees. This leaves groups of surviving colonies scattered over the country, afraid of sunlight and vegetation. Mythen Rood, where main character Koli is born and raised, is one of these archaic settlements. Most of the old-world technology no longer works, and the hierarchy of power in Mythen Rood is dictated by those who can "wake" the few items of technology of the old times. The balance is unsettled when Koli learns the secrets behind the Rampart family's power, and his world is turned upside down when he is cast out of the village. The story follows Koli on his discovery of the new world beyond the fences of Mythen Rood.

The world in which this story resides was built with care and due consideration, with a setback in English language proficiency that is often neglected in other post-apocalyptic fantasy tales. This does make it difficult to read in the beginning, especially for someone with Dyslexia. However, the use of this linguistic representation communicates a powerful sense of the societal and organisational set-back incurred by the nuclear war. A great read, once I got into it, with a good cliffhanger for book 2 - I think I liked the book more for what it set up rather than what it was in itself, but I will definitely be reading the rest of the trilogy!
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Koli lives in a post-apocalyptic world, where there is little technology and many dangers beyond our comprehension. This is the first book in a series, which allows us to know about the world Koli grows up in, but also tells us the story of how Koli becomes estranged from that world, to one far stranger.

The Book of Koli took me a while to get into, as the people of Koli’s community speak in a vernacular that is and isn’t English. Once you get used to the rhythm of their speech patterns it flows much easier, but their speech also feels juvenile as though they have lost the words for things we take for granted. Koli begins his story by telling us about his childhood which although quite idyllic is also full of dangers, as the creatures that inhabit this world are far more dangerous than the ones we live with, in this time even the trees hunt humans.

As the book goes on we find out small bits of information about what happened to the old world, but this is still a misremembered past. In this world, genetic modifications were pushed to the extreme and yet Koli and his friends barely understand what they have lost. The first real conflict of the book is also the one where childhood ends, as children reach the age of majority in their community they are tested to see if any of them will be able to wield the technology of the past.

The book shows the thoughtlessness and rage of a fifteen-year-old boy. All Koli wants is to be able to pass the testing to become part of the group that handles the tech and leads the community, but the way Koli decides to get this knowledge is with both a destructive and impulsiveness that does not think of the consequences either to himself or how his actions could affect his family.

The second half of this book begins to show us the consequences of his actions, and due to this, the pace intensifies and so do Koli’s misfortunes. Koli’s world expands, but so too do the dangers around him as he is thrown into one bad situation after another. Although Koli starts to realise that there may be better ways to live than the rules he has grown up with. Koli starts to believe that there may be hope and a possibility of a way to help everyone out of their current situation.

This is a rich world and if you are ready to follow an unlikeable (which is no bad thing) protagonist on his journey of growth and reflection then you are in for a grand adventure. There are a lot of intense moments where you wonder whether Koli will survive and how much you want to see if and how he does, the next parts of this story will probably lead us to even stranger things.
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A great original novel that will take you into a new world! Or rather into a scary version of our own world, a future that could happen if we're not careful.

M.R. Carey wraps his book up in sci-fi varnish, but it is the climate crisis he's talking about. What happens when mankind manipulates nature for his own profit? Nature strikes back! And we soon discover that trees are stronger than we are.

That's why young Koli has to live in a small village protected from the forest, which he can only enters at his own risks. Only "old tech" (the rest of our 20th-century technology) keeps the people alive. But one day, Koli doesn't have a choice: he has broken the law and is banned from his community. It's time to face the forest.

Koli's adventures are packed with suspense, but most of all with remarkable characters. We see Koli changing through the chapters, and the more he describes his world to us, the more we understand what his life is like. Why he's desperate for freedom. And why we should do all we can today so that he never has to fight this fight.

Similar title: "Niourk" by Stefan Wul
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All you really need to know is that as soon as I finished The Book of Koli, I immediately loaded up the next in the series! M.R. Carey succeeds in creating a story that’s full of tension and believable characters. surrounded by a world that's completely alien and scarily familiar at the same time.

Although it’s not specifically sold as YA, it has a teenage protagonist and contains plot devices that YA readers will recognise, particularly from post-apocalyptic novels. In interviews, the author references Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban and John Wyndham’s work. There are also glimmers of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (trials), Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve (old tech) and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. 

The main character, Koli ,starts out with one name and ends up gaining others over the course of the book. He tells the story directly to the reader in his own distinctive voice. The language is jarring to begin with, and swings between present and past, so you have to push through this until you become accustomed to the new rhythms and constructs. Some may find this technique too experimental, but I liked the blend of intimacy and otherness. 

The use of technology is central to the novel. I have a soft spot for this trope and the author wields it well. In The Book of Koli, tech equals power and those who can activate ‘ancient’ machinery, have major life advantages. This idea is played out in the first half of the story as we see how the Ramparts, the ruling family in Koli’s settlement, use tech to hold their place in society – raising lots of questions about the nature of power and how it should be used.

It was fascinating to journey through the post-apocalyptic setting The Book of Koli. For anyone living in the north of England, the names of the settlements will be recognisable (Half-Ax is Halifax for instance), but the places themselves have changed beyond recognition – reverting to medieval-like villages that rarely connect with one another. The surrounding landscape is full of deadly wildlife – carnivorous trees, toxic seeds and creatures that skulk in the shadows – not to mention the cannibals, shunned men, who live in the woods. Survival is everything. Satisfyingly the author explains some of the reasons why civillisation has crumbled by introducing a Gandalf-like character, Ursala-of-Elsewhere, who shares her tale, together with handy backstory, as the book unfolds.

I don’t have strong feelings about trilogies, but if truth be told, it takes a really strong first book to carry me to the second installment and beyond these days.  The Book of Koli has a mythical quality with touches of humour and horror. I also like the way the story is confined to a tight setting. This isn’t an epic novel in the classic sense – more a deep dive into the present and imagined future of mankind.
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The Book of Koli is one of the best novels I have read so far this year. Set centuries after war and climate change have all but destroyed the human race, we follow the story of Koli Woodsmith, a fifteen year old boy growing up in the small, isolated community of Mythen Rood. Outside of the village walls lies an unrecognisable world, where either the trees or the Shunned Men will kill you. Then one day Koli finds he must head out into the forest alone...

I found this book quite difficult to get into at first, partly because the plot is initially a little slow to allow the necessary world and context building, but predominantly due to the colloquial narrative style used by the protagonist. Once Koli’s voice clicked with me after a chapter or two though, I raced through the rest of the book in just a couple of sittings. It becomes clear that Koli’s manner of speaking is reflective of the illiteracy of the dystopian society in which he lives. This is a coming of age story that you can lose yourself in for hours at a time.

Koli himself is a well drawn character with plenty of the flaws you would expect to see in a teenage protagonist. The supporting characters, particularly those of Ursula and Monono, are a joy to read and I greatly looked forward to their appearances. There are a number of thought provoking ideas here around our relationship with technology and the evolution of language. 

Thoroughly recommended for science fiction and fantasy fans looking for something a little different. I, for one, will be diving into book two immediately – I’m curious to know where the journey will take Koli next.

My thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown Book Group UK for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I've liked M.R. (Mike) Carey for quite some time, his run on Lucifer was one of those long running under-the-radar series which was one of those great chewy runs of 75 books that nailed a character in a single voice (without which the current TV series wouldn't exist, not that they resemble each other much). I like Carey's pulp instincts whilst knowing he is very good at a slightly more thoughtful mode of storytelling. The Girl With All the Gifts was a breakthrough which has allowed him to plough various genre furrows in the UK, and whilst I've not always loved it, its always been exceptionally readable. The Book Of Koli is the start of a trilogy of post post apocalyptic British fantasy, whilst not a genre I like much, I was willing to give a go. And whilst it had more than a few moments of me thinking it was too cute by half, he has again crafted a lead you care about enough to follow its narrative no matter what genre cliches are ticked off.

And the cliches are here in abundance. Towns and villages have shifted their names, memory of the times before the crisis are shakey and there is a technology as magic metaphor (though not one where anyone thinks of technology AS magic, just something they can't understand). The nature of the apocalypse is rather fun, namely genetically engineering trees to get energy from more than sunlight, and breeding mobility into them to help clean up the planet, they then got murderous. But the setting notwithstanding, The Book Of Koli stands and falls on its protagonist, Koli, who happily explains his world, and his place in it as a slightly horny, idiot teenager who steals a bit of tech which gets him ostracised. This inhabits a YA zone, though I think it happily skews outside that readership (there is a trial but our hero fails). Carey has picked a very avuncular voice for Koli, and also for his tech (basically a futuristic personality themed iPod). In both instances the voices he chooses are on the edge of of breaking the narrative flow (and the concept of a Harijuku Girl personality for the iPod AI is also on thin ice) but gets by because it is so much fun.

The Book Of Koli ends knowing the next book will be along, it end in a lull rather than a cliffhanger. I am not all that interested in where the book is going (though I can't imagine in not going to London in the end), but I do want to spend more time with the central double act. A boy and his semi-sentient personal media player in a battle against inbreeding and killer trees is not quite where I expected it to go, but I do trust Carey, and so far, this was a pretty fun start.
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I didn't enjoy this one as much as I expected to - mainly because I found Koli himself difficult to like sometimes. Love the concept and the killer trees though!
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I was sent a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.

When I first started to read this book straight after another one, the style of writing was so different that I wasn't sure about it initially. I'm glad I persevered! Loved the story of a very different world than the one we are in currently. I totally recommend this book for an interesting read. I was disappointed there wasn't more!

#TheBookOfKoli #Netgalley
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Unfortunately this was a DNF for me. The blurb really drew me in but, the writing was just too slow for me.
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I been to Half-Ax, I been to Hudd’s Field

With The Book of Koli M R Carey has written another entertaining and inventive post-apocalyptic thriller. This is the first volume of three and I found myself very keen to move straight to the second, The Trials of Koli. 

Set in the distant future, society has collapsed and a despoiled nature has taken over. A few scattered villages retain primitive vestiges of civilisation defending themselves with some surviving pieces of ancient Tech against ‘shunned men’, left over smart weapons from The Unfinished War and feral trees. It’s a scary place, this Ingland, this Yewkay. Koli, as an inquisitive young man, discovers that the government of his village is not telling him the whole truth about the Tech they possess and consequently finds himself exiled into a cruel and brutal outside world.

The Lord of the Rings parallels are there to be spotted and appear to be quite deliberate - at one point Koli and his village are compared to Hobbits and the Shire of Middle Earth; the wandering healer, Ursala with her armoury of Tech and her superior knowledge of past times appears a Gandalf type figure. If this is so, then precisely who or what is Monomo Aware, the AI in an entertainment box who befriends Koli and finds her own self-awareness after an enormous and unintended upgrade? As Ursala asks, ‘You are not an AI. What are you?’

With rogue drones, messianic cannibals and man-eating forests, this is an exciting story in a carefully constructed future world, and the opening volume holds out much promise for the next two books.
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I'm sad to say that I didn't enjoy this book as much as I had expected to.
The book felt really slow to start and I had a hard time connecting with the main character, and felt a general lack of depth and personality. 
The other thing I couldn't get past was the writing style. While I do understand the reason behind the language style used, I found it really hard to focus on the plot and was constantly rereading parts in order to translate it into standard English in my head, which was a slow and frustrating process.
I'm sure this writing style would appeal to some, but for me it just didn't work.
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It took me a while to get into this book and for a while I thought the writing style was going to be the end for me, as the constant slang and disjointed syntax and speech patterns were doing my tree in. I'm glad I persevered though, as it didn't take too long before the language seemed to flow more naturally through my brain and it wasn't as distracting. The novel is a slow build up, with the first half being dedicated almost solely to setting the scene and building up the world and the characters. And it's a beautifully built up world; there's this strange juxtaposition of a harsh and dangerous lifestyle, where the trees and all the wildlife are quite literally out to get you and the only thing saving the village from ruin is a handful of old tech from the days before the world went to hell.

Told from the first person perspective of Koli, it is clear he is telling his story from some point in the future - a device that was beautifully realised in The Name of the Wind, but is utilised far more simply here. Koli himself is perhaps one of the least interesting aspects of this novel, as he is a very typical YA protagonist; headstrong, thoughtless and determined to be something special in order to attract the attention of a girl he's crushing on and become a Rampart, one of the 'ruling classes' that can command the tech. That to my mind was far less interesting than a world in which the trees are quite literally out to get you, able to move and hunt humans and animals at will. Murder trees, if you like. I did like the way the narrative being set from the future allowed the adult Koli to highlight his younger self's immaturity and self-centred behaviour though.

The book does pick up pace in the second half, and whilst I quite enjoyed the first half it really does benefit from losing the overdone love triangle and focussing more on some of the really interesting secondary characters. When Koli manages to make a piece of tech work, I wasn't sure what to expect, but it certainly wasn't the excellent character of Monono Aware. Between the sassy AI and the far more complex character of Ursula, the second half of the book comes alive in a way that the first half didn't. And whilst the initial narrative simply leads to the point of conflict with the village elders, those he was so determined to join by proving himself worthy of the tech, it quickly spirals out from that once Koli leaves the safe confines of the village walls.

I have to say, I'm really looking forward to reading the next book in this series as with much of the set-up already done, I imagine it will be more like the second half of this novel than the first and all the better for that. I had some qualms with this novel; the love-triangle aspect is overdone and always annoying and I'd have loved to read more about the unique setting of the world with the virulent and violent plants and what appear to be remnants of bio-engineered fauna. But this is a solid starting point, and one I really enjoyed. Even the strange dialect and broken speech patterns didn't annoy me overly once I got into the swing of them.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for my free review copy of this title.
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I very much enjoyed this book.  It has a good story and excellent main characters.  I would definately recommend this book.
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Interesting story but didn't get going until half way through. A Dystopian world of the future following the destruction of the 'Old World'. Koli is the main character, whose speech is sometimes difficult to follow.
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Crazy, because I have loved everything Carey has written prior to this, and The Girl with All the Gifts is one of my favourite reads, but I couldn't even finish this. It was just so slow - and it's set in a version of the area I live in, too, so I was so excited and then so disappointed. A DNF from me I'm afraid.
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A good start to a new trilogy from Mike Carey (Hellblazer, Lucifer, The Girl With All The Gifts). It takes a bit of concentration as the language is a recreation of English. I found this made it difficult to really get into a flow with the book, it was either disruptive or at times smart/funny in the ways that the words had evolved.
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This first book in the Rampart trilogy is a joy to read. We meet Koli Woodsmith who grows up in his community of Mythen Rood. This is a small locked in community that has to ward itself against anything that is outside its walls from animals to humans to plants and trees. Specially nature itself seems to have turned dangerous for humans and meeting a tree when the sun is out is something that is not ever recommended. It is more likely than not that the human will not survive the encounter.

We see Koli growing up, following the beliefs and rituals of his community. In his teens, he starts to go looking for his own answers, having quite a few questions and what he discovers sets him onto his own journey of self discovery that will take him out of Mythen Rood. 

The world we are introduced to is a dystopian England some centuries in the future. Our current civilisation is only a shadow on the horizon, its last remnant it seems is old tech, that can provide protection against plants, animals and other humans provided someone can bring the old tech back to life. These people who can do so are called Ramparts within Koli's community. They are the ones who stand between the community and a dangerous outer world. And so it is no wonder that they have power and a special status.

I requested an eARC from publisher via Netgalley mostly, because I was so intrigued with the cover and the plants that seem to take over the world. In this first book, nature is present as a continuous danger that you always have to be aware of but it is not an agent by itself nor do you get a full illustration of what plants and trees are capable of in this world.

However, we do meet an interesting couple of characters in this book, some are human, others more of the artificial intelligence respectively tech kind.

Now and again we find traces of our own current time period within the book as reflecting back on something that is considered to have passed, but, generally, very little memory about our time period has been conserved.

The book takes us onto a journey of discovering who Koli is and how he became who he now is. It is a story about growing up and getting things so wrong and yet so right, and then having got to go and find your own way if you want to or not.

I enjoyed this book, even though Koli speaks a peculiar English that needs some getting used to. If you are afraid to loose your proper English by reading a book with grammatically incorrect sentences, then this book is definitely not for you, as it comes with its own grammar rules and sentence building.

I read this as an expression of the illiteracy of the time period we are in with Koli, where the spoken word is the only way you have to talk about what surrounds you and build an understanding of what is and what is not and what matters most. Books, writing and the written word have mostly been lost as has the idea of a virtual world.

This book also contains the saviour trope that is often used dystopian books. As I am not particularly a fan of this trope my eyes started to roll when it showed up on the page. However, I think, the author made good usage of this trope.

I am curious to see where the journey takes Koli next and am excited to discover more about this strange world that feels on some levels so familiar and yet takes us forward to a humanity that is mostly existing on the level of hunter-gatherers within an increased hostile natural environment.
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The Book of Koli
M. R. Carey
Publisher: Orbit
Page count: 416pp
Release date: 16th April 2020

Koli is a teenager who comes from Mythen Rood, a village with two hundred 'souls' in a dystopian world.
unlike the majority of his siblings, he is mixed race with brown skin, and he’s one of seven.
Ramparts are the ones who can ‘wake’ technology and out them to use as weapons, but there are only three ramparts who are all associated with the one family.
The only weapon they really had was to uproot or burn, as choker seeds forinstance, will root straight in and take over if they land on skin.

We're quickly made aware that historically, the Biological engineering of trees to grow faster and nurture in any soil or environment after the trees had all died, caused 'genetic triggers’
Nature now destroys and the trees will eat them if given half a chance, so those who remain live in protected archaic settlements.

Part one of a trilogy, we know that the narrator is Koli as an adult thinking bsck, recording his memories. The narrative is written in a wonderfully lyrical, first person, colloquial voice. When Koli says "It's so their names won't fall out of the world and be forgotten. I owe them better, and so do you." he hooks us into the story, straightaway like storytellers of old, who travelled the world sharing their tales for food and shelter. His literary voice grabs hold of you and doesn't let go until his story is done. And what a terrific story It is.
It is somewhat reminiscent in style to books such as Faulkner's 'As I Lay Dying' or Toni Morrison's 'Beloved'.
He's your everyman; a regular guy who doesn't mince his words, but even when he tells us that "The things they left behind save us and hobble us," you don't need fancy words to feel what he's saying.
The use of casual language and phonetic spellings for words which are half-recognised, such as 'alarum '/alarm, or the the far off town of 'Half-Ax' in 'Ingland', helps Carey build a world filled with simple people trying to survive, a local dialect and world we vaguely recognise as our own, but something terrible has gone wrong. Like Faulkner, it is very much a stream of consciousness style, with odd vignettes narrated by others to show their observations of linked evens.
The early clue we served to how dangerous this world is, is with the wood young Koli works on from the safety of Mythen Rood. Though he dreams of being Rampart, and having power, Rampart law says you can't use wood to build anything unless 'the planks had steeped in stop-mix for a month and was dead for sure.'
If you don't, there's a good chance that whatever you're building from the wood will come alive.
This is a type of eco horror I expect we will see more of as the effects of climate change are realised. Nature is the enemy and tech, or old tech, at least for Koli, is something that is positive and hopeful. Yet it is his naive desire for tech and a match with Spinner that has him make his first major mistake as he heads into young adulthood, showing that actions have consequences.
Other characters we meet such as Ursala, who manages old medical tech, is one of the first people to make him think, and question, and though it starts him off on a journey - metaphorical and physical - it is the quest for answers that helps him grow as a person and we begin to understand just how smart he is. Like most of us, he's human and makes mistakes along the way. One great thing about Koli though, is how he accepts the trans people he meets along thebway, who like now, are subjected to prejudice.
Amidst the brilliant worldbuilding, we have some truly horrific, jaw dropping but also witty and outright funny moments. As for characters he meets along the way, it is Monono who surprises the reader in wonderful ways.
Carey also through stories shares some truly terrible yet funny 'dad-jokes'. Take for example the groan worthy ' top 100' things to do before you die.
This is a truly remarkable book, with a hopeful ending which will lead into book two, something we need right now
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I love the way Carey writes. No matter the book I feel like I have been transported to an alternate world and get completly wrapped up in the story. This is no exception. 
Nature is taking on humans and humans are scared.  natural human behaviours take over and are perfectly realistic in this dystopian story - I m eagly awaitng the next two books!
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Unfortunately the book stopped workin after a little while, so I couldn't finish it. Seemed to be a DRM-issue.
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