(Sort Of, £9.99)
Gathering together 10 of the Japanese author’s translated short stories, this accessible collection meditates on memory and its loss. A widower joins a cookery class and rediscovers his late wife through the notes she made in the margins of her cookbooks. A visitor appears from the past to look after a neglected young girl, and an old man tells a story from his youth about a passionate affair with a woman who turned out to be a ghost. In Nakajima’s world, even a sewing machine can have a life worth recording. The other side of the coin, of course, is the tragedy of forgetting, expressed most movingly here by a family who forget how to perform the remembrance ceremony for the dead. Nakajima’s stories resonate with each other in unexpected and pleasing ways, closer readings of her deceptively simple prose uncovering ever greater detail in an exquisite tapestry of meaning.
THE RUNNING BOOK
After five years in the Australian TV industry, John Connell fell into a depression and moved home to Northern Ireland. Working on the family farm, and trying to prove himself to his father, were the raw experiences for his first memoir, the award-winning bestseller The Cow Book. He also started running six days a week, a passion which not only helped him put himself back together but has become the subject of his second book. For Connell, running is a spiritual and philosophical pursuit, a connection with the cosmos that helps him find meaning. As he runs, he reflects on the village of Ballinalee and the role it has played in his life, but also delves deeper into the past, contemplating the history of Ireland and the victims of the Famine. A thoughtful book that begins with putting one foot in front of the other and opens up to encompass a great deal more.
(Dead Ink, £9.99)
The Cornwall-born author’s debut novel is a futuristic piece set in a time when children are created in laboratories and men’s desires are mostly served by sex robots. Sylv.ie is such a robot. She must service her Husband and obey the Hierarchies, Anderson’s equivalent of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. She’s programmed for continuous learning, so that she can be a better companion for her Husband, but her developing sentience sparks conflict with his human wife, prompting Sylv.ie to run away, out into the world. The Hierarchies doesn’t make any great advances in the genre of robot fiction, but it excels as a commentary on women’s bodies and their commodification, the power imbalance between the sexes and the future of sex. Sylv.ie’s growth as a sentient being is handled well through her first-person narration and the theme of defining femininity strikes home particularly hard when robots are attacked by groups of “bio-women”.