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E novel is how the same ideas are also examined from different anglesThe Cutis disease exacerbates two existing divides in society between the privileged and the disadvantaged the rich increasingly sealing themselves off from the poor the first world seeking to seal itself off from the third world For those with expensive tastes protected food guaranteed an indoor reared product with minimal exposure with atmospheric pollution and chemical treatment Those who could afford to bought the special food bought their face masks for high polution days bought their private insurance for high speed surgery only poor people ever seemed to die from cutis poor people far away or poor at home who didn T TAKE CARE OF ONLY THE FECKLESS AND take care of themselves Only the feckless and had anything to fear And even chillingly the authorities use the state of environmental crisis to facilitate aggressive policies which further exacerbate this divide shutting down on rural services carrying out a form of socio ethnic cleansing aimed at the poor the rural and the original native population who are encouraged to displaced people s camps and ramping up the use of offshore displaced people s camps to stop would be immigrants reaching the mainland A reader cannot help me reminded of the way in which the financial crisis was used to justify austerity policiesAnd then the same theme of sealing off is examined personally in terms of Alice and her relationships Alice is an introvert and also someone who has sealed herself of emotionally unwilling to expose herself to the dangers of relationships and make herself vulnerable to hurt When she first realises Pete a childhood friend loves her she thinks What bit of the tiny sliver of myself that I allowed to escape can possibly have given you enough grounds for love When she does open up to Pete and is hurt her mental skin seals back over and she holds herself back from any future commitment even after the unplanned pregnancy forces them back together After her first enthusiasm and betrayal she reflects on relationships that after the first flames everything is just dying sparks an interesting counterpoint to the title of Raising Sparks which is taken from its Job sourced epigraph Her emotional distance applied also to her mother in fact she realises that Pete as a child was closer to her mother who Alice pushed away and now that distance and sealing off threatens to apply to her unborn child The author with past success as a short story and novella writer makes a very successful transition to the novel form managing to pack in a range of themes in in a relatively short novel And just as these themes have been explored the book then ends in a horrific visceral but still intriguingly open climax Recommended A woman gets pregnant unexpectedly just as the world careens toward a the most horrific eco disaster you can imagine The writing was great the emotional landscape was truthful and I m going to read everything Naomi Booth writes from now onMy fondest delight when it came to my reading experience with this book was the birth scene I don t think it s much of a spoiler to say there is a birth scene since the whole book before then is the story of a ponderously pregnant woman searching for a safe place to give birth while simultaneously coping with some seriously creepy eco disaster action This birth scene when it comes is magnificently done Ok it ignores the way that every contraction in actual birth is a peak experience of sortsbut even without that explicit ind of veracity the scene captures the deep heart horrific truth about birth It captures what it s like to have your body taken over by a primal force over which you have no control No matter how great a woman s individual birth experience might be or how great she happens to remember it being later when it s over every laboring woman comes to understand at some point unless she is utterly etherized that her body is no longer hersand that realization can be momentarily disorienting or completely terrifying depending on how you feel in general about experiencing a total loss of control of your body Naomi Booth nails itSo at the heart of this eco horror fiction Naomi Booth has slyly written the best metaphor for birth terror that I ve ever read Yeah Go Naomi Booth I m a fan After the first flames everything is just dying sparksThis was an interesting if jumbled read I liked the uncertainty and the real horror of it But I didn t like the feeling of really wondering what was going on and if the MC Alice was just imagining it all or if it was really happening I felt like the world was just barely opened up to us with so much possibility Was Alice really breathing anything in I wanted so much world and information less about Alice s own musing and memories It s an original story for sure and an interesting horror idea This was uick and original and intensely creepy Don t think Pete worked as a character and didn t fancy the ending but entertaining nonetheless. Ce to forget the nightmares and start their little family But the mountains and their people hold a different ind of dangerWith their relationship under intolerable pressure violence erupts and Alice is faced with the unthinkable as she fights to protect her unborn chil. What the actual everloving fuck this final scene This is why I m terrified of childbirth I don t uite now how scene This is why I m terrified of childbirth I don t uite now how feel about this overall Very well done but one of the most unpleasant things I ve read in a long time and I m not sure it that s a good thing in this case I Need a little time to let this sink in If you ve read this would love to hear your thoughts I could use some input on other people s interpretations Now THAT was an ending The last twenty or so pages of Sealed are the closest thing a book has ever made me feel to that scene towards the end of a horror film when something horrific is about to happen or is happening and every fibre of your being wants to look away but your eyes remain glued to the screen a because you re paralysed by terror b because if you *look away you nown your imagination may well conjure things that are even worse than what the filmmakers came up with *away you nown your imagination may well conjure things that are even worse than what the filmmakers came up with because you re a little bit curious to see how far the filmmakers will go and how many boundaries they will transgress or d all of the above That was what the last twenty pages or so of Sealed were like I d even go so far as to say it s a Rosemary s Baby for our times Check out my full review over at my blog Strange Bookfellows I d felt it too the too muchness of being in love But I hated Pete for it at the same time I hated his freedom and how guiltlessly he lived how easily he took love and gave love and how much danger he d put me in And most of all I hated that he might be right that he was living the right way and that I was wrong too frightened too careful too guarded to really enjoy life Sealed by Naomi Booth is set in a near future Australia Rising temperatures have brought with them storms and deadly heat events Wild fires pollution and other environmental catastrophes make day to day living uncomfortable for allAlice and her partner Pete are expecting their first child With less than a month to go before the baby is due they leave the city its toxic air and growing climate of fear They move from their cramped apartment to a remote house overlooking the Blue Mountains It is planned as a fresh start in cleaner air somewhere to establish their little familyAlice has recently lost her mother She lives in fear of a new condition nown as cutis which causes skin to grow where it should not People have died and Alice suspects a cover up as few cases are being reported Pete believes she is looking for problems that do not existThe government is trying to manage the growing threats from all uarters by moving its poorer citizens into camps where they may be cared for monitored and controlled As part of her job in the city housing department Alice had visited one such camp during its regular inspection Privately run it ensured records of residents health and behaviour reflected only good practice Detailed causes of death were not disclosed the manager citing reasons of patient confidentialityPete is excited at the prospect of fatherhood He becomes frustrated when Alice fixates on what he regards as imaginary threats and conspiracies Eager to fit in he befriend locals They uestion why he has taken Alice from the city to a place such as this but will not explain to her what they mean They regard Alice as a illjoy as they try to make the best of a situation they cannot change Pete dismisses Alice s concerns as the irrational behaviour she agreed to leave behind She mingles with their new acuaintances but cannot put aside her fears She gasps with laughter and I can t help it it s totally contagious I m not even stoned and I start to laugh a bit too She sueezes my hand again This is how I used to make friends when I didn t see every person and every place as a contagion to be guarded against With Alice s due date approaching she tries to register for medical care but what little exists is already overwhelmed Alice tells Pete she believes she spotted a case of cutis He does not wish to face such a possibilityThe tension in the story builds as Alice and Pete s backgrounds are revealed The reader cannot be sure if her paranoia is justified if there is any point in fighting back given the wider situation The climax is reached when Alice goes into labour The denouement is horrifying yet somehow inevitableAs with the best dystopian fiction this is a parable for today The reader fears what is being gradually revealed yet cannot look away Government reactions are all too believableA tale that I flew through and shuddered at the possibilities presented By the end both Alice and Pete s behaviours are better understood the outcome as complex as the circumstances all had to deal with As grotesue as the premise may be this is a compelling readMy copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher Dead Ink This was a completely unexpected triumph of a book I bought it entirely on a whim in my local independent and read it immediately prompted by Aliya Whiteley s recommendation on the back And it s blooming wonderful A searing and unflin. Timely and suspenseful Sealed is a gripping modern fable on motherhood a terrifying portrait of ordinary people under threat from their own bodies and from the world around them With elements of speculative fiction and the macabre this is also an unforgettable story abou. ,
Sealed author Naomi Booth

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Ching work of eco horror in a lyrical and muscular prose I was utterly drawn in by Alice s voice and thought the final 30 pages were a masterpiece of I was utterly drawn in by Alice s narrative voice and thought the final 30 pages were a masterpiece of It was the book I wanted Megan Hunter s The End We Start From to be Probably the best thing I ve read so far this year In my opinion there are two types of dystopian novels 1 Ones that are way in the future completely unbelievable and a nice entertaining read The Hunger Games fir example 2 Ones that are in the near future you can see humans heading in this direction it is possible that these could happen whilst you re still alive these books can be really scary Sealed falls into the second categoryIn this future the temperature has risen food has been poisoned by chemicals and plastics in the water Clean food is grown indoors where it can be ept pure from pollution The cities spend most of their time shrouded in smog The way the government tries to deal with it all is to move people into camps for their own safety This all feels like it could be us in the next few years On top of all this there is a disease spreading which causes skin to grow over any openings on your bodyThe books main characters are Ali and Pete who are expecting their first child and have moved out of the city to escape the disease and smog They have a nice house with nice views but there just isn t any way to escape the damage caused to the planetThe story has you on the edge of your seat the last 40 pages are truly incredible jaw dropping at times I hope this book gets noticed by loads of readers because it deserves to become one of the top books of 2018Blogpost here Wow When a book is written in a context that could actually happen that s horror I highly highly recommend this book Part of the 2018 Guardian Not The Booker shortlist for which I am delighted to have been picked as a judge book is published by Dead Ink a UK small press focused on bringing the most challenging and experimental new writing out from the underground and present it to our audience in the most beautiful way possible Impressively Dead Ink have two books on the Guardian 2018 Not The Booker shortlist this picked by public vote and Three Dreams In The Key Of G picked by last year s judgesThis book could be best described as a near future dystopian eco horror based around pregnancy Perhaps the nearest recent literary euivalents are the haunting motherhood based Fever Dream shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker prize and the fragmentary novella The End We Start From where a new mother flees apocalyptic floodsIn this book the first party 30 weeks pregnant narrator Alice has recently left the City clearly Sydney to move out to the countryside The Blue Mountains together with her partner Pete who initially comes across as a fairly one dimensional Aussie bloke For Alice a worker in the local housing department it is a chance to move away urban environmental pollution before it is too late In particular she is obsessed by a relatively new condition which has emerged Cutis first observed in the local waste dump by a down and out whose mouth has sealed over asphyxiating him Whereas official reports downplay the danger of this condition Alice through her work internet research and blogging is convinced it is far widespread and common that admitted and has contributed to many deaths ascribed to other conditions including that of her mother For Pete he is also looking for a clean start and new environment but the pollution he thinks that they are escaping is Alice s obsession with the condition which he sees as verging on hysterical later another male character Paulie drags her away at a barbeue claiming you had a total epi out there you re having a panic attack that is all Interestingly as an aside the author a teacher of creative writing has an academic specialism in the literary history of swooningLike another book on the Not The Booker shortlist Raising Sparks the epigraph is taken from The Book of Job in this case Job 108 11 which in verse 11 says Thou didst clothe me with skin and fleshHowever the Saint Paul, Apostle of Nations key text to understanding this book Alice remembers from her childhood her single parent mother estranged from her strict non conformist British parents draws on her vet s assistant experience to comfort Ali through her childhood cuts and scrapes by reassuring her That s how clever the skin is she said it makes the bad things disappear Most obviously this comes across in the condition Cutis Even after the first outbreaks an expert diagnoses a potential link with pollution and with the skin s mechanisms The condition might he suggested be similar in mechanism to an auto immune disease a potentially deadly misdirected defence response The skin in these cases was acting in aberrant waysnitting together in disastrous patterns might it be he speculated that the skin was attempting to protect the body from dangerous environmental pollutants sealing the body off in the process However what is impressive about th. T a mother’s fight to surviveHeavily pregnant Alice and her partner Pete are done with the city Above all Alice is haunted by the rumours of the skin sealing epidemic starting to infect the urban population Surely their new remote mountain house will offer safety a pla.
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