The Exploding Book - Mike Russell

The Exploding Book is the story of a book with the power to destroy any book different to itself. It's a bizarre story of a village living with access to only one book, and no knowledge of anything that is contained in any other book. It's a unique novel - a plot unlike any other I can recall, and it's peppered with humour and tragedy.


So to expand on the plot a little bit - the library of Gladeville is destroyed, and the only thing left is a copy of "The Dark Book", which quickly becomes the only book in town. Schoolchildren study it, adults obsess over it, and the whole village lives their lives by the teachings of the dark book. There is no mention of things like sex or love or babies in the dark book, so no one in town knows what they are. Slowly, things start to appear which aren't mentioned in the book, so what are they? How did they come to be? Does this mean that the Dark Book isn't the whole, complete truth? The unusual happenings take the villagers on a journey of discovery - a spiritual journey as much as a journey for knowledge, and the whole thing concludes in a hugely satisfying, moral ending with a humanist lesson that we should all be able to appreciate.

So I liked the plot. I've left out some of the more surprising elements, to mainly avoid spoilers and also to keep the sheer insanity of this book a surprise. This is truly out there, definitely one of the most memorable books I have read in the last 5 years.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is it is completely written in the second person. You, dear reader, are as much a part of this book as any of the residents of Gladeville. You fly from house to house, from school to bakery to observe the story unfolding. You will be there at the inception of this tale and you will star in the closing scenes. It is such a simple device, but it is so effective and immersive - it is a huge achievement. I've been wracking my brains trying to think of other examples of where the second person has been used to suck the reader in to the story to this effect...and I can't. Mike has performed that rare feat of finding a great idea that is original yet so simple. A real "why didn't I think of that?!" For example, the book starts with "You see a gold temple. The temple is glowing; it is emanating a gold aura of extraordinary brilliance. The gold light touches you and you feel bliss"." Then off we go, your spirit leaves your body in search for this fabled temple. The book keeps up the direct way of talking, as we delve off in a brief bit of the meta-physical, the we are shipped off to Gladeville.

This book is published by Strange Books, and to be honest I was a little bit put off by that. I am rarely a fan of things that are strange for the sake of being strange. I like strange things - strange music, strange films and certainly strange books, but only if there is something going on behind the scenes to justify the weirdness. Being weird for the sake of being weird - to me- doesn't hold any water and can be a veil for a lack of depth. Happily, this isn't the case here. The Exploding Book is undeniably weird. It is totally strange and off the wall. But, it does have depth. Mike Russell has planned everything out, and there is a lesson to be learned. The strangeness here is necessary for the story and the message that Mike wants to tell.

I really liked this book, and I am going to keep an eye on Mike Russell.


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