Book review – sinister and surreal

Quite by chance, I happened to read two quite similar books.  Both about bodies being invaded.  The first, In the Darkness, That’s where I’ll know you (2015) by Luke Smitherd starts off with our protagonist Charlie Wilkes waking up inside somebody else’s head.  What would you do if you that happened?  And how would you feel if you, like Minnie (Charlie’s host), woke up to find somebody inside your head?  The book kicks off therefore with a really intriguing premise.  I can’t say a lot more without giving things away but we find our charming leads working together to solve the mystery.

At just under three hundred pages in length I thought this would be a breeze.  However, I found the experience to be a little like swimming through treacle.  As I said, the book has a great premise and charming leads but regrettably it takes at least halfway into the book to get going.  Moreover, I struggled with the fact that a lot of the writing centered on Charlie and his thoughts, which is perhaps understandable if you’re stuck inside somebody else’s head!  ITD wasn’t my cup of tea but it might be yours.

My other body invasion book was The Humans (2013) by Matt Haig.  Unlike ITD, The Humans features a case of body snatching.  Andrew Martin, an eminent professor of mathematics has his body invaded (by an alien) having just discovered or solved the Riemann hypothesis (about the distribution of prime numbers).  The solving of the hypothesis would lead to a step change in technology enabling humankind to travel the universe.  The aliens see this as a threat to the rest of the universe – as humans’ technological ability far outstrips their ability to wage peace – hence their preemptive intervention.  Our new Professor Martin is charged with finding out who knows about the solving of the hypothesis and to kill them.

Another book and another interesting premise.  The book’s cover features a quote from Joanne Harris: ‘Tremendous…Curious Incident meet The Man Who Fell to Earth’.  I can see where she’s coming from.  As you might expect, the book finds our alien living amongst us and gradually coming to understand a little better what it means to be human – observing all the things that we humans take for granted.  It’s a well trodden path (though I’m struggling to think of another example!) and well enough written.  It’s just not that exciting or gripping, when there was plenty of potential for both.  While a fairly average read, I can imagine this working well as a movie which I’d definitely want to see.