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BOOK REVIEW: Fellside by M.R. Carey

| 10 April 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Fellside by M.R. Carey

Orbit
April 2016
Paperback, $29.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Speculative Fiction

6/10

isbn9780356503592

Where have you been all my life, oxycodone?
Jess was in ecstasy. Some of that was not feeling the physical pain from her injury. The rest was not feeling anything else. There was an old ache inside her that forgot to ache when she was high.

After Jess Moulson’s addiction leads to her serious injury and the destruction of the life she knew, she finds herself on trial for a murder, the memories of which are proving fuzzy, incriminating, and hard to grab hold of.

She wanted to deny the things that were being said about her, but the memories trapped her, hemmed her into a space even tighter than the tiny dock in which she sat. It was as though there was a second trial running in parallel with the real one, in which she was the witness and the defendant and the judge. She was trying herself, and her defence didn’t hold up at all.

She winds up sentenced to Fellside; a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. It’s not the kind of place you’d want to end up. But it’s where Jess could be spending the rest of her life.

It’s a place where even the walls whisper. It’s not the first time Jess has come in contact with these whispers, and one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for her. But will she listen?

“But then there were your angels.”
“My angels?”
“They stood around your bed at night, you said.”
“Angels stood around my bed?”
“Well, no, it wasn’t exactly that, was it? You had to go and visit them. That was how it worked. They lived in what you called the Other Place. Which was like the seaside except that it was all on fire.”

 

After the brilliant read Carey provided in The Girl With All The Gifts, it’s quite possible that this reader’s expectations were just a little too high… but this one was sadly lacking in certain areas.

Fellside is told in a similar style to Carey’s previous title, a style this reader found enjoyable in The Girl With All The Gifts, and which had the potential to be just as great but, without the brilliant characters and plot of its predecessor, this one fell down.

 

The Plot:

With a similar setting to Orange is the New Black, but with ghostie happenings, this had the potential to be an incredibly endearing, entertaining, and heart-wrenching title.

While elements of this book were similar to OITNB, and it seemed to borrow a lot from that rather than develop in its own right, it also lacked a lot of the personality of the show.

The ghostly element of the book felt a little tacked on, leading to a book that was more maximum security Orange is the New Black and court cases with a slight ghostly seasoning, rather than the unique and creepy read that was suggested by the blurb.

Unfortunately both of these elements, elements which were the two main draw-cards in the promotion of this title, were underdeveloped and ended up just being so much background. The whole thing seemed to be a little unsure of what it was trying to be, and felt like it got caught up in its own confusion.

 

The Characters:

In Carey’s previous novel, each character was enjoyable for one reason or another. Some were enjoyable purely because of how fun it was to detest them, some grew as people, others did not, but their complexity was a large part of what made that novel.

A lot of the characters in this story were so very underdeveloped, and/or stereotypical copies or amalgamations of those from that women’s prison show that so many things these days are being compared to, that it was hard to see them in their own light. The reader wasn’t shown what the characters were thinking, or why they did what they did, but rather told why they had changed their mind, without any feeling of conviction.

This reader also found it hard to shake the image of a Pornstache copy getting it on with a character who was part Red, part Vee, and the similarities between these and other characters appeared so often that one has to wonder if Carey was marathoning the show in the background while writing this novel.

 

All in all Fellside wasn’t a bad read, but it was rather slow and lacked a lot of the personality of OITNB, while seemingly  trying to imitate it in a couple of the main areas… rather unsuccessfully in this reader’s opinion.

Having felt no connection to any of the characters I found myself unable to get lost in the story and, all things said and done, had worked out many elements of the mystery pretty early on.

This might be more enjoyable to those who haven’t watched OITNB and will be better able to picture these characters in their own right. And, while this was a bit of a miss for me, I will still eagerly read anything that Carey puts out. The Girl With all the Gifts has won my loyalty. It’s just a shame this title couldn’t live up to the greatness of the one that came before.

 

Stephanie O’Connell

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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