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Blindness is quite an astonishing book, unusually written, and not always easy to read, but well worth the time. It feels almost as difficult to review, so bear with me!

An epidemic sweeps an unnamed city, and there is just one symptom – blindness. It starts with just one man sitting in his car, but before long everyone he has been in contact with  – and everyone that they have been in contact with – are blind. In an effort to contain the illness, the authorities put all of the blind people into a disused hospital, but it is all in vain, as soon everybody is blind. Or almost everybody; one woman never loses her sight, for reasons unknown. However, she pretends to be blind so that she can accompany her husband in quarantine at the hospital.

As the amount of internees grows, the sense of community disintegrates. Before long, there are blind thugs controlling the food that the others receive, and demanding payment in the forms of valuables and sex with the women. The blindness truly brings out the worst in some people and the best in others.

The writing style is highly unusual and is part of the reason that I put off reading this book for so long. It’s written almost as a stream of consciousness, with long, long sentences. There are no speech marks, and dialogue between the characters (almost every conversation is between just two people, a fact I only realised after I had finished reading) is written in the same way – often as one long sentence, and the only clue that it’s now a different speaker is the capitalisation at the beginning of their speech. It helps to read the speech parts out loud.

Saramago pulls no punches with his descriptions – the women in the hospital are gang raped, and society disintegrates into crime and squalor, the sheer mess of faeces all over the floors, dogs eating carcasses of dead people – and it’s not a pleasant read. It really does make you think “what if” though. None of the characters’ names are given, and it’s not important. They are everyone, they are telling everyone’s tale.

So as I say, an extraordinary book, and often a difficult one. But if you are into dystopian or speculative fiction, I highly highly recommend it.

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The world is burning, civilisation is collapsing and the human race is in danger of being wiped out…a mysterious disease known as Dragonscale is sweeping the planet – nobody knows how it started, but everyone thinks it will end with the destruction of mankind. The disease starts out as swirling patterns on the sufferer’s skin, and eventually those with it burst into fire and are literally burnt to death. It doesn’t take long before vigilantes roam the streets killing those affected in an attempt to rid the world of the disease.

Harper Grayson finds out that she has Dragonscale at roughly the same time as she discovers that she is pregnant. Her husband Jakob abandons her, and in fear of her life, Harper flees to try and find a place of safety. She is taken under the collective wing of a group of fellow sufferers who have set up their own community known as Camp Wyndham, where they believe they have found a way to, if not cure Dragonscale, at least control it and even use it to their advantage. One of the group is John Rookwood, known as The Fireman. Enigmatic and single-minded, John protects the group and has special skills of his own for using Dragonscale to defend his community. But danger and hysteria lurk within the camp…

I had previously only read one book by Joe Hill – Heart Shaped Box – which I thought was okay but not brilliant. I would probably not have bothered with any more of his novels except that dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels always intrigue me, so I gave this one a try. And wow! am I glad that I did!!

It’s a big brick of a book, at just shy of 750 pages. Sometimes I can get a bit impatient with such long books, but I seem to have got lucky with a couple this year (earlier in the year I read Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ which I also loved), including this one. The writing is engaging and there’s always something to tease you into reading just one more chapter, and oh go on there, just one more…

Some scenes were particularly poignant – crazy as it sounds, one of the scenes that sticks in my head is when Harper gets brief access to the internet after weeks of having none. She goes to Google only to find that it is no longer there.

There’s a lot of characters in the book – some I loved, and some I absolutely detested, as I am sure was the intention of the author. Harper was a feisty heroine – the best sort actually, as she only realised her own strength of character when the chips were down.  found her obsession with the film Mary Poppins a bit odd but I’ll let it go!! The Fireman was exasperating and antagonistic, but fiercely protective of those he cared about, and his bravery knew no bounds.

The story seemed to move quite quickly for me – that is there was always something happening and it didn’t lag at all. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I liked it although I know some reviewers were disappointed.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes dystopian novels. It’s well worth your time reading!

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