The Book of Koli is a book I have been very excited for since I first heard about it earlier this year. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, given this is my first time reading Carey, but I am thrilled to report he did not disappoint.
The world presented here is one of the more unique worlds I think I’ve encountered. It’s set in a future earth in which trees and plants have become deadly to humans. On sunny days the trees are active (physically active!), so the village must wait for the rainy, grey days to venture out and do their hunting. Most of the world’s human population has died out, so people live in villages few and far between.
These villages are run by people with the “magical” ability to wake up tech. No one knows how the tech chooses who it will work for or why. These leaders are known as Ramparts. Koli, our MC, dreams of becoming Koli Rampart, wielding his own tech and joining the ranks of leaders and lawmakers. The overall result is a strange mix of antiquated societal structure combined with some far future dystopian technology.
The voice of Koli is very strong. It almost reminded me of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. The grammar is often incorrect, the sentences run on in stream of consciousness style. While it might bother some readers, I found it somewhat endearing, and easy to connect with Koli as a character. I also enjoyed the other characters, Ursala-From-Elsewhere and Monono Aware (A-wa-ray). Ursala especially, with her intelligence and compassion, but also the prickly and unapproachable exterior.
The plot moves along at a breakneck pace. I found the book almost impossible to put down and read it in just a couple of days. That’s the fastest I’ve read a book all year. The plot twists and turns and propels Koli from one peril to the next. From about the midway point on- Koli’s situation never feels safe. He cannot take a break to rest, his future is uncertain, and he is surrounded by danger, either from nearby people, animals, or plants.
I also loved the very natural way in which this story is told. It feels like you might be sitting down with an old friend to hear where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to the past ten years. Details are woven in about the past through Monono, explaining pieces of what happened to the world and what it was like before it ended.
I do wish we had been able to learn a little more about the natural environment. I’m curious about the killer trees and the way some animals have evolved over time. The plot appears to be leading away from village life to an adventure on the road, so I’m hopeful we’ll see more of this in book two. (And thank goodness we only have to wait until September for it!).
I highly recommend The Book of Koli. It is brilliantly written, with fully realized characters and detailed world-building. It releases on April 14, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads, or preordered on Amazon. Thank you to Orbit Books, who supplied an electronic review copy in exchange for an honest review.