READ THIS! {Updates & Reviews}

Is it really the 15th of May already? Where is time going? This month is absolutely flying by! For this month, the May READ THIS! book is The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus.



This novel is certainly a page-turner, as Marcus crafts this story through twists and turns. I am so excited to see where Marcus takes on in this story and I cannot wait to finish it! As you make your way through the novel with me, here are some reviews, both well and critically received, of Marcus' latest work:

Chris Barton, for the LA Times, writes: "Spend too much time with 24-hour news networks and it's easy to feel that exposure to that much talk can make you sick. Taking the idea a few steps further, author Ben Marcus imagines a world in which language becomes fatal in "The Flame Alphabet," a powerfully strange and frequently disturbing work that examines the power of words in a new, apocalyptic way. [...] Not unlike the mad genius chefs who become adored by their fellow cooks for impossibly imaginative flights into molecular gastronomy and previously unconsidered flavor hybrids, Marcus has a well-deserved following as a writer's writer. [...] As arresting and even poetically sad as "The Flame Alphabet" can be, its lack of a readily approachable core in its characters sometimes leaves the book feeling cold, and it struggles to build momentum. Still, it's a rich testament to Marcus' gifts that in a story about the death of language, his words frequently come together in ways to be savored."

J. Robert Lennon, for the NYTimes Book Review, writes: "'The Flame Alphabet,' like Marcus’s earlier works, is laden with metaphor; everything might mean something, but nothing is certain. It reads like a dream, complete with all the associative richness that comparison might suggest. Unfortunately, Marcus’s borrowings from conventional narrative create an expectation of structural coherence that the book then declines to deliver. [...] Marcus is a writer of prodigious talent, but “The Flame Alphabet” doesn’t fulfill its own promise as a hybrid of the traditional and experimental."

Christian Williams, for the A.V. Club, giving the novel an "A-," writes: "Flame Alphabet is a brutal, wonderful book[.] [...] And in spite of its pessimistic attitude toward people’s desire to understand and be understood by one another, it offers a disturbing taste of what it would be like to live before medicine and before anatomy, when the only options in the face of disease were desperate theorizing, superstition, or surrender. "

Lionel Shriver, for the Washington Post, writes: "Marcus is a fine technician sentence by sentence, and there are some great lines here[.] [...] But even an experimental novel that employs a sci-fi conceit needs to do something with the premise. Instead, this author successfully creates a self-contained alternative universe that’s disgusting, and then nothing happens aside from that universe becoming a little bit more disgusting. The result is a frantic desperation to escape."

And, Indrapramit Das, for Slant Magazine, writes: "One might imagine the result [of the storyline] to be a descent into feral post-apocalypse, with humans becoming more overtly animalistic, but Marcus surprises with a truly strange, original vision of a post-linguistic world. [...] The Flame Alphabet portrays the emergence of a new kind of human born of a global union of metaphysical and physical suffering. With language we constantly impose doom upon ourselves, be it through religious prophecy or post-apocalyptic fiction, and Marcus gives us a fascinating glimpse of how we might react if that dismal tide of words turned real. If our own intellectual brilliance were to poison us, as it already does every day."

While the reviews of The Flame Alphabet are not all perfect, it seems as though that the one thing everyone is able to agree on is that Marcus' talent for writing is unmatched. His ability to craft a plot may not be perfected, but it is clear that he is an incredibly gifted writer. 

Have you started reading The Flame Alphabet? Are you excited about this writer's ability to write? Please make sure to join us at the end of the month for the final review of this novel!




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