The Book of M is the first novel from author Peng Shepherd released June of last year. It takes the post-apocalypse genre and breathes life into it by creating a diverse set of realistic characters and by focusing on deeper themes of human identity and philosophy all while telling a new, exciting, and chaotic story of life in the wasteland.
The main story hook is that people’s shadows have disappeared. Once your shadow is gone you begin to lose your memories - as you continue to lose your memories your grip on reality and identity loosens and strange things start to happen. Without giving away too much, the book brings up some thoughtful (and cool) ideas about individual perception, memory, and reality.
The Book of M also truly feels global. Too often these stories feel stuck in the American countryside or urban areas, the roots and reach of supposedly global catastrophes rarely explained outside of the characters’ immediate surroundings. The Book of M spans a diverse group of characters from a few different countries and brings them together in a way that feels totally natural. There is still the standard traveling across America to reach X city people have heard has a cure, but how that unfolds and what happens to the characters as they go makes even that very exciting to read.
Shepherd’s writing is also more literary than many of the more YA focused dystopian/post apocalypse novels in recent years. While it is certainly science-fiction I could confidently recommend it to anyone who reads primarily standard literary fiction. It frequently has a more grounded (if that makes sense) magical realism feel. Her writing style is very strong and the book flows beautifully from start to finish.
If you love post-apocalypse stories, their commentary on what it means to be human, on the delicate balance of human society that we take for granted, and a slew of other philosophical ideas, but are tiring of the same stories being told, The Book of M is definitely for you. As a first book, it’s pretty incredible, and I’m really looking forward to reading her next novel, whenever it comes.