Tag Archives: Matt Haig

Review of ‘How to Stop Time’ by Matt Haig

imageThanks to NetGalley and Canongate for the ARC of this book.

I think Matt Haig is a very talented writer. His books are immediately absorbing and they manage to combine fast-paced story-telling with thoughtful reflections on life and human nature.

‘How to Stop Time’ is a novel about how fear of the future stops us from living in the moment and how despite the fact that fear is sometimes justified we shouldn’t let it prevent us from living life to the fullest. It’s beautifully told and does not hammer home this message in a heavy-handed way, rather it is the pay-off to an engrossing story.

The novel follows Tom Hazard, a man who ages 15 times slower than normal humans and so is over 400 years old. His story is told in the present with flashbacks to his life over the past 400 years covering the loves he has lost and the pain living with the condition has caused.

I’ve come to realise that I love novels that play with the concept of time. It’s utterly fascinating and offers such interesting plot options. This book is another enjoyable addition to this tradition.

My one quibble with this book is that Tom encounters several famous people over his life including Shakespeare, Captain Cook and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is my one hang up with books about time; the protagonists always seem to be present at important moments of history and meet historical figures. This might be feasible for someone with the power to travel through time, but Tom does not have this power, he just loves longer, there’s no reason why that should give him the insight to be present at these events. It’s perfectly possible to live one’s whole life without meeting anyone famous. I rolled my eyes when Shakespeare turned up, it’s such a hackneyed trope to feature him in Elizabethan themed books. However, this is a very small point and did not spoil my enjoyment of the book.

I’d thoroughly recommend this and Haig’s other writing for people who enjoy good story-telling, thoughtful characters and reflections on life.

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Review of ‘Echo Boy’ by Matt Haig

Echo Boy coverThanks to NetGalley and Random House for the ARC of this book.

At first glance there is not much original about Matt Haig’s ‘Echo Boy’. It covers well trodden ground with it’s central question of at what point AI becomes human. In addition, it borrows conspicuously from other YA fiction, with recognisable tropes such as the orphan searching for the truth about her parents’ death; the evil uncle offering sanctuary; the unpleasant cousin; the post environmental disaster setting; and the scary mechanical dogs. However, I did not mind the lack of originality at all for this is a perfectly executed YA sci fi romance book, it uses these tropes remarkably well and is a fantastically enjoyable read.

Matt Haig’s writing style is great. It is not over-simplified or condescending to the younger audience. He drops plot hints early on and then reinforces them more clearly later in the book in case you did not pick up on them the first time around. The plot is fast-paced and exciting and the characters are well-drawn, in particular Audrey the lead female character is well-rounded and her motivation is always clear.

The book is set about 100 years in the future and follows Audrey whose parents are killed by an android and who escapes to live with her uncle who is the owner of the company which makes the androids. There she meets Daniel, an android who makes her re-evaluate her feelings towards androids.

This is an example of YA fiction writing at it’s best. It covers big ideas, relates them to our current times and is also a thrilling and thought-provoking read. I really enjoyed it. I would have preferred a slightly more ‘everything tied up in a neat bow’ ending, but I wonder if it is left slightly open-ended to allow for the possibility of a series. I would happily read more books set in this universe with these characters.