Signs Preceding The End Of The World

signs-preceding-the-end-of-the-world

Yuri Herrera

First Sentence:     I’m dead, Makina said to herself when everything lurched: a man with a cane crossing the street, a dull groan suddenly surged through the asphalt, the man stood still as if waiting for someone to repeat the question and then the earth opened up beneath his feet: it swallowed the man, and with him a car and a dog, all the oxygen around and even the screams of the passers-by.

Back of the book:

Signs Preceding the End of the World is one of the most arresting novels to be published in Spanish in the last ten years. Yuri Herrera does not simply write about the border between Mexico and the United States and those who cross it. He explores the crossings and translations people make in their minds and language as they move from one country to another, especially when there’s no going back. Traversing this lonely territory is Makina, a young woman who knows only too well how to survive in a violent, macho world. Leaving behind her life in Mexico to search for her brother, she is smuggled into the USA carrying a pair of secret messages – one from her mother and one from the Mexican underworld.

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The Windup Girl

1.-Windup-Girl

Paolo Bacigalupi

First Sentence:     ‘No! I don’t want the mangosteen.’ 

Back of the book:

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s calorie representative in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, he combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs long thought to be extinct. There he meets the windup girl – the beautiful and enigmatic Emiko – now abandoned to the slums. She is one of the New People, bred to suit the whims of the rich. Engineered as slaves, soldiers and toys, they are the new underclass in a chilling near future where oil has run out, calorie companies dominate nations and bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

And as Lake becomes increasingly obsessed with Emiko, conspiracies breed in the heat and political tensions threaten to spiral out of control. Businessmen and ministry officials, wealthy foreigners and landless refugees all have their own agendas. But no one anticipates the devastating influence of the Windup Girl.

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American Rust

American Rust

Philipp Meyer

First Sentence:     Isaac’s mother was dead five years but he hadn’t stopped thinking about her.

Back of the book:

Set in a beautiful but dying Pennsylvania steel town, American Rust is a novel of the lost American dream and the desperation that arises from its loss. It is the story of two young men bound to the town by family, responsibility, inertia and the beauty around them who dream of a future beyond the factories, abandoned homes, and the polluted river. Isaac is the smartest kid in town, left behind to care for his sick father after his mother commits suicide and his sister Lee moves away. Now Isaac wants out too. Not even his best friend, Billy Poe, can stand in his way: broad-shouldered Billy, always ready for a fight, still living in his mother’s trailer. Then, on the very day of Isaac’s leaving, something happens that changes the friends’ fates and tests the loyalties of their friendship and those of their lovers, families, and the town itself.

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The Thief

Fuminori Nakamura

First Sentence:     When I was a kid, I often messed this up.

Back of the book:

Nishimura is a seasoned pickpocket. Anonymous in his tailored suit, he weaves through the crowded Tokyo streets, stealing wallets from strangers so smoothly sometimes even he doesn’t remember the snatch. To him, people are just nameless faces from whom he chooses his victims; he has no family, no friends, no connections . . . But he does have a past, which finally catches up with him when his old partner-in-crime reappears and offers him a job he can’t refuse. It should have been easy: break into an apartment, tie up an old rich man, steal the contents of his safe, no-one gets hurt. But the day after the job, Nishimura learns that the old man was a prominent politician – and that he has been brutally murdered. Suddenly, Nishimura finds himself caught in a tangle so tight that even he might not be able to escape.

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The Dinner

Herman Koch

First Sentence:    We were going out to dinner.

Back of the book: 

A summer’s evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a  fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness – the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened…

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. Together, the boys have committed a horrifying act, caught on camera, and their grainy images have been beamed into living rooms across the nation; despite a police manhunt, the boys remain unidentified – by everyone except their parents. As the dinner reached its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

Quotes from the book:

‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,’ is the opening sentence of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

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