J by Howard Jacobson originally sounded like one of the most intriguing novels on the shortlist. As a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction in general (think The Road, 28 Days Later, The Stand, Oryx and Crake, and Riddley Walker) I was excited to read a new member of the genre that had been deemed good enough for Booker recognition.
Jacobson’s post-apocalyptic landscape is disappointingly different to all of those listed above. Instead of ravaged lands and mutant animals, lost souls and livid zombies, we have a few people who live in a rather nice sounding village. Instead of people forced to eat babies or kill their friends to survive, we have characters who are no longer allowed to listen to Ray Charles and have to have fake versions of their favourite furniture. Or, in a really dramatic twist, they might try and disguise the real furniture as fake.
Shocking, isn’t it?
No. Not really.
In all honesty, this isn’t a vision of the future that will have you scrambling with fear. But the book does highlight some interesting issues. The current ‘crisis’ has been caused by the eradication of a race or religion of people, and much of their downfall was down to talk on social media. That seems believable. Jacobson obviously had some important issues in his mind when he started J, it’s just a shame he didn’t give them the respect they deserve.
You can read my full review on Bookmunch.
Should it win? No. No no no. Although it promises a lot, it delivers little. If you read my previous Booker post, you’ll know I wasn’t a big fan of last year’s winner The Luminaries. For that reason, I have a lingering fear that J will take down the prize this year. Both novels delivered good ideas with poor execution. Both wittered on and left me bored. So both will probably win. I strongly hope not, though. Two novels in to the shortlist and Ali Smith’s How to be Both is ahead by quite a distance.