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The Book of M: A Novel

The Book of M: A Novel

Written by Peng Shepherd

Narrated by James Fouhey and Emily Woo Zeller


The Book of M: A Novel

Written by Peng Shepherd

Narrated by James Fouhey and Emily Woo Zeller

ratings:
4/5 (164 ratings)
Length:
17 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jun 5, 2018
ISBN:
9780062803153
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.

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.

Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max's shadow disappears too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.

As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

Like The Passage and Station Eleven, this haunting, thought-provoking, and beautiful novel explores fundamental questions of memory, connection, and what it means to be human in a world turned upside down.

Publisher:
Released:
Jun 5, 2018
ISBN:
9780062803153
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Peng Shepherd was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she rode horses and trained in classical ballet. She earned her MFA in creative writing from New York University, and has lived in Beijing; London; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; and New York City. The Book of M is her first novel.


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What people think about The Book of M

4.1
164 ratings / 29 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    this was an odd one, and difficult to describe. post-apocalyptic horror, on the one hand, with a strong side of magic, all centered on memory issues, and somehow channeling literature (Peter Pan and his shadow, the Rig Veda) coming to life. needed another edit, i think, and the last sixty pages or so were loose to the point of falling apart altogether. but the characters and plot as a whole were quite engrossing, and i'd be interested to see what she writes next.
  • (4/5)
    I've had this book for quite some time and simply forgot that I had it (kicking myself now because I could have read it months ago). This is simply one of those stories that's a bit difficult to describe, but if you enjoy reading stories that are different and deal with relationships then The Book of M is just the book for you. This read offers a little bit of everything.
  • (4/5)
    This book begins with a couple hiding out. They've run out of food and Ory is determined to go and find something in Arlington, the nearest city. He's equally determined that Max remain behind and wait for him. As Peng Shepherd's novel continues, she describes a world in chaos. People are losing their memories and, as they forget things, they alter the way their surroundings are structured. The only way to know who is infected and who is not is that those who are losing their memories first lose their shadows. This is a highly imaginative work of fiction by an author who is unafraid to stray far from scientific reasons and effects and into the metaphysical. There were a lot of interesting ideas woven into this world. In the end, this is a novel filled with odd and wonderful ideas, and the world-building often took precedence over character development. Certainly one of the better dystopian novels I have read this year.
  • (4/5)
    This s good read. It processes questions of memory and reality, weaving the motif of the shadow and a drop of Peter Pan together with a story about our significance in the world and the mark we mark. It pulls on some eastern perceptions that are a bit fantastical, and so that leaves the book short of commenting on reality itself; reality, in this book, is more like something we create or misshape. But is does echo our own sense of meaning in terms of others, how much we matter to them, and they to us, and what that something that matters in each of us really is. This is a book dancing with human corporeality and transcendence, but is more like a dance on that dance floor than it is some conclusion expressing metaphorically or allegorically an answer to who we really are.
  • (4/5)
    Finished this one on my lunch break. It reminds me of Station Eleven, though I loved that book more. This one was still fascinating & explores a world where memories are stored in shadows and shadows begin to disappear. It’s long and drags at times, but I was definitely a fan. The story is split between the POV of a few characters including a married couple, Max and Ory, all on different journeys that are taking them to New Orleans. “The memory means more, the more it’s worth to you—and to who you are.”
  • (3/5)
    It begins slowly. A man in an outdoor market in India loses his shadow. He’s the first to experience this strange phenomenon but it isn’t long before it spreads like a plague. Those who lose their shadows gain the power of magic, but the price is steep . . . they lose all their memories. Near Arlington, Virginia, Max and Ory have escaped the Forgetting, becoming hermits of a sort as they hide in an abandoned hotel. However, the new normal of their lives is shattered on the day that Max’s shadow disappears.Max is determined to protect Ory; she knows that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to him. So, while he is out scavenging supplies, she leaves. But Ory is unwilling to give up even one moment of the little time they have left before all her memories vanish, and he sets out to find her. Will Ory succeed or will his beloved Max be lost to him forever?Set in the near-future, this dystopian tale features rich, well-developed characters in a story of a society in shambles as shadows vanish and magic becomes the stronghold of the shadowless. Four central characters tell the story from their points of view, each intertwined with the shadows, the shadowless, and the dreaded Forgetting. The focus on love and the impact of memory on who and what we are may keep readers involved, especially since, for the most part, the beautifully-written narrative shines. Unfortunately, the gratuitous overuse of an offensive expletive mars the otherwise exquisite writing. The premise is intriguing; however, the many unanswered questions are likely to frustrate readers. How and why do the shadows disappear? Does the magic replace the shadow or does the Forgetting have something to do with the rise of the powerful magic? Does everyone receive the same power of magic? With no explanations, no background, and no understanding of how magic allows characters to transform reality, readers are likely to come away feeling quite disenchanted.
  • (4/5)
    This is probably the best book I've read this year. It starts out asking you to suspend your belief in what is actually possible or probable. I love post-apocalyptic stories, so this was no problem for me. After all, Peter Pan lost his shadow too. I found myself following Ory and Max's story with hope that everything would "turn out fine", which of course doesn't happen in these stories. But what a wonderful journey!
  • (4/5)
    One day in India, a strange occurrence happens- Hemu Joshi looses his shadow. Not just for a moment, but seemingly for good. At first, he is revered as someone special, closer to the Gods. Then, he begins to forget things- important things, like his family and where he lives. Hemu is placed in a facility, but the plague of shadowlessness is spreading along with the loss of memory. People are forgetting how to read, walk, eat and sometimes breathe; however, they also have power in their forgetting. When the forgetting reaches the United States, a wedding party holes up in Elk Lodge, Max and Ory decide to stay and survive there, until Max looses her shadow; Naz, an archer is outfitted with her bow and arrows to fight whatever craziness comes. All of the survivors, shadowed and shadowless alike hear rumors of a city that still stands, New Orleans and a person there who may be able to help. The separate groups fight their way to New Orleans, but what will they remember when they get there?A unique and engaging dystopian read that introduces a new danger into the world. The narrative switches between several points of view: Ory, Max, Naz and The One Who Gathers. Through these very different sets of eyes, we see the world slowly devolve as people loose their shadows and their memories. I was very interested in the shadow/memory connection and how it could possibly be solved. I was also amazed at how the loss of memory turned dangerous and perception mirrored reality for a shadowless- if you forget a place, it disappears, if a shadowless believes that a deer now has wings, it does. This opened up a world of endless opportunities as well as engaging questions: who are you without your memories? What is it like to live without remembering your past or what you have learned? In this world, it seems that despair and destruction reign free, but through Max and Ory's stories, we see hope and love. Ory is determined to find Max despite putting himself in danger and Max is determined to keep Ory in her memory by recording herself, but keep him safe by running away. With an unexpected and exciting ending, The Book of M is a memorable and imaginative read.This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
  • (4/5)
    Set in a post-apocalyptic world like no other I have read, this story describes a world where a global pandemic causes people lose to their shadows. Within days and weeks, the person gradually loses all of their memories until, like Alzheimer's, they forget who they are and how to function. As this fast moving pandemic sweeps over the continents, those left with their shadows are unsure how to escape or survive against the multitudes of confused and sometimes, violent shadowless left roaming the earth. Max and Ory had survived for several years together, avoiding the shadowless in hopes of keeping their shadows, despite the odds. This hope ends, one day, when Max's shadow suddenly disappears and they both know it is a matter of time before Max forgets Ory, or worse, harms him. When Max disappears altogether, Ory sets off to find her, in a world where there is no communication and few survivors. While I enjoyed the overall premise of this post-apocalyptic world (and believe me, I do love those worlds), this one involved way too much magical realism for me. However, if you enjoy fantastic (and violent) stories in the style of Neil Gaiman crossed with a similar world to Station Eleven, you might enjoy this one.
  • (4/5)
    The Book of M made me hope in the face of hopelessness, believe the unbelievable and in a most rare occurrence, make me grieve for all the main characters and pretty much all the secondaries. It was, all around, time well spent.In a world where people are losing their shadows, then their memories, and eventually their physical selves, everything else is a bit off kilter as well. Roads inexplicably turn into spirals, cash becomes blank paper and the Statue of Liberty is shown in a scene so awesome (in the breathtaking apprehension way) that I'll forever thank this book for making me think I need to give magical realism in fiction another look, because damn that was vivid and memorable. There's a religious cult rising and battles of various factions but something like salvation is rumored to be ensconced in New Orleans. Through this panoply of chaos in what's pretty close to an epic extinction event, hope continues to abide in things as wondrous as a conversation with a fox and as mundane as a salvaged book or number scrawled on the back of a road sign signifying the most important thing between two people.I don't want to give away major plot points but I will say that I fell completely for our two main characters, Max and Ory. I haven't rooted so hard for a couple to win in forever and it was made all the more painful watching one of them slowly slip away. Naz was a great character that I loved from the start. I admired her strength in battle and my heart broke when hers did at each loss she stacked up. I even felt so much for The Amnesiac that I was pretty appalled with how things with his shadow developed. I missed him too. The big instances of character reveal at big moments, while very well done, were for me, a bit on the predictable side but they still landed with powerful effect. They were all heartbreaking and especially in the final instance, I wished denial could be a thing when you're reading a book. No amount of my knowing that it had to be made me amenable to embracing it as so and I fully admit that I was kind of resentful and put the book down for a couple of minutes. When I picked it back up, there were few pages remaining in the story but ended on such a high note of hope that I couldn't help but love the entire narrative. Love, courage, hope and sacrifice were played out wonderfully throughout.This is the third novel I've read this year that deals with memories and what is their value to us (the other two: Places In the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre and Obscura by Joe Hart) and am now wondering what's making it a theme lately. They are certainly making for my more memorable reads this year.I recommend this. Highly. If like me, you're a fan of The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett or Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, give this one a read. It's out in June, just in time for vacation reading. Shepherd wove a great story and I look very forward to her next.A huge thanks to publisher William Morrow for an advance reader's copy for my honest review.
  • (4/5)
    The Book of M is an intoxicating blend of post apocalypse fiction and magical realism. Shepherd's debut is successfully ambitious, introducing a unique take on the questions of what gives us our humanity, and when everything we hold dear is taken away, what's left? As a philosophical meditation and commentary on the human condition, it's intriguing and thought-provoking. It's also a deftly narrated and interwoven story that is moving and touching throughout.
  • (4/5)
    First, the shadow disappears. Then, the memories follow. But it's not just the forgetting, it's that strange things happen when someone forgets, things that just aren't, well, possible. Unless you forgot they aren't possible.This was a lot of fun to read and took some twists and turns that were far from predictable. Well-written, original, and engaging, I look forward to more from Shepherd and would recommend this to a wide range of readers.
  • (5/5)
    A beautiful, original debut novel from Peng Shepherd! This haunting, thought-provoking tale follows the lives of 4 people who live in a world where losing your shadow, and eventually your memories, is possible.This is a book that you won't forget about.
  • (5/5)
    Exceptional! Riveting. Every character so deep and interesting and diverse.
  • (5/5)
    thoroughly enjoyed the book! very different concept than any other book I have read.
  • (5/5)
    Incredible. I love dystopian reads and this one was unlike anything I have read before. Very well done, with such a twist at the end!
  • (4/5)
    Everything I want from a novel except for one thing, and it's pretty big. Suspension of disbelief comes with the territory, and I'm as willing as the next, but the author's tendency to paint the story into too many tight corners strikes me as unchecked whimsy and forces the 'reader' to concede just a little too much. More than anything else, this made for an unsatisfying ending. I might have looked back with more fondness had the climax arisen more organically. Even still, I do not regret the experience.
  • (3/5)
    It's an interesting premise, but I felt it lost momentum in the middle, and never quite recovered. Too long.
  • (2/5)
    Pretty boring apocalyptic story with an attempt to add mystery. I lost patience half way into the book. Nothing drove me to find out the cause of the apocalypse or what would happen to the characters. Maybe the story was just not my kind.
  • (5/5)
    The Book of M started out with the necessary suspension of disbelief for a story in which a man losing his shadow leads to him losing his memories. Then things got strange; really, really strange. I wondered if it was all going downhill. Then, out of nowhere, it became the most exquisitely beautiful train wreck I’ve ever read. I highly recommend The Book of M for anyone who is willing to allow a story to take them places they never imagined they’d go.
  • (4/5)
    Started this in the midst of COVID-19 ...wow. I do not believe I've been more worried by any book before! It start out being "believable" but then kind of transforms into more fantasy/sci-fi. You do need to keep an very open mind here!
  • (4/5)
    I was drawn along by this book because of its characters. It's a deeply sad story though. I took away a star because of the ham handedness of the ending chapters. The build up was so drawn out that the twist was obvious by the time it was revealed.
  • (4/5)
    I will never look at shadows the same way again. A wholly original novel, full of surprises and creative turns, The Book of M is captivating. Told through several perspectives, the first half of the novel gradually fills in the background of the events leading up to the present, while the second half has those characters racing towards a resolution. Names are fluid, colors are important, and memories are fleeting. I’ll remember this one though.
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    All the stars! Plus more stars! The Book of M is simply phenomenal and utterly unputdownable. (I finished all 500 pages in just two days. Who needs sleep?) This is not just another end-of-the-world book. Oh no, not at all. The author concocted a very clever twist on an almost-overdone genre and she did it with a massive overload of genius. There's Hindu myth and Peter Pan, more than a little sprinkling of the fantastical, and boatloads of subtle but profound philosophical musings. The writing is superb, the characterizations are excellent, and the story is mesmerizing. I can't believe this is a debut novel and I guarantee I will pre-order the author's next book the very second I am able to do so.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (2/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    To be honest, I am not a huge fan of post-apocalyptic fiction unless the writing is extremely good, and this novel seemed a little light. The plot felt loosely put together, making the jumps in time and place a little hard vcd to follow.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Interesting story but sort of weird and preachy?

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)
    Peng is a friend of a friend, and I read an early version of this book back before it sold. I read lots of manuscripts from unpublished writers, and most of them have major problems, both in the writing and the structure. But with this book, I remember thinking, there is really something here. It's just like when you hear the opening chords of a song on the radio, and you don't even know what it is yet, but you already know it's something new and special. In the same way, from the first pages of the book that'd become this book, I knew I was in good hands. This book has the bones of a post-apocalyptic thriller--in this, it does even STATION ELEVEN one better, because, for all of STATION ELEVEN's greatness, the plot was never particularly propulsive--and those bones give us something to root for: a person that's in jeopardy, a trip that's full of excitement, wonder, and danger, and plenty of suspense.

    But what makes the book special is what the author has hung upon those bones. The books pays so much attention to its various relationships and to the things that make its characters human--particularly the things they continue to live for, despite this desperate world. In this it often resembles the best television--THE WALKING DEAD or THE HANDMAID'S TALE (and yes I know both of those are based on books)--more than it does most post-apocalyptic fiction.

    Basically, if, just as much as the thrill and wonder of speculative fiction, you also crave a feeling of connection to _real_ people, you're going to love this book.
  • (2/5)
    The female narrator's incessant nervous panting is intolerable. I'll have to read this instead
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Here we have a speculative apocalypse with a crazy scenario and with a plot that moves at a breakneck speed the entire way through, like horses pulling burning carriages from a museum. I think it's quite a feat to pull of a full speed plot for close to 500 pages, so it could be compared to Stephen King's 'The Stand' for that reason alone.The story is an interesting new take on something that could have been zombies, but Shepherd took it further, to something more unique. I can certainly appreciate that, even if I love those zombie stories. People mysteriously begin losing their shadows and then their memories, so they almost do become something like zombies. Also, losing memories does something pretty crazy to reality, which I don't want to get into here (which I think could have been used more in the plot, but the NYC bit was perfect... just a mention to fill the imagination). The novel follows perspectives of four characters, each chapter starting with their name to not be confusing. We have Max and Ory, a couple visiting their best friends wedding when the mysterious condition hits the U.S. Max decides to leave for multiple reasons before she completely loses her memory and Ory tries to find her before she does. Another perspective is Naz who moved from Tehran to Boston with hopes of competing in the Olympics for archery. But things fall apart... and archery is a good apocalypse skill, right? The last character is The One Who Gathers, a man who has amnesia from a car accident and who meets with the first shadowless to see if they can help their memory and because of this visit, can possibly figure out more about this crazy event. I'm beginning to think four or so perspectives might be the perfect way to write a speculative novel, to really approach the scenario and plot from different angles (another speculative novel that did this recently was Naomi Alderman's 'The Power'). Usually the one problem I have with speculative fiction is when the HOW and the WHY of the speculative scenario isn't explained, but I don't mind that missing here.I like the surprising ending... not what I expected at all, which is great! And the solution is interesting, but I would have liked to see a little more on how the solution would have worked. This is also an extremely diverse bunch of characters, while also not really making it a significant part of the book. I also love fun little specific-to-me reader moments with books: sitting outside reading, I noticed I don't like blue skies as much as the cloudy skies -- clouds make the sky much more interesting to look at. Looking back to the book, a page later, a character was also noticing the beauty of the clouds. This book is unique but reminded me of many anyway: King's 'The Stand', Atwood's 'Oryx & Crake', Emily St. John Mandel's 'Station Eleven', Vandermeer's 'Annihilation' and Mieville's 'The Last Days of New Paris' (and countless others). And I was pleased as punch to see Shepherd mention these authors in interviews. This book can also be added to the 'Great Speculative Apocalypses' bookshelf. If Shepherd's first book is this good and we both like the same books, that is reason enough for me to keep reading Shepherd's writing!

    1 person found this helpful