I’m here with a review that you possibly could like if you loved reading The Giver! It’s called Strungballs by Mike Russell and it is my first book that I’m not reading for a challenge this year, wohoo. Let’s start.
Author: Mike Russell
Genre: Fiction, Dystopia
Type: Kindle eBook
Published on: November 3rd 2016
10-year old Sydney awakes in a 4x4x4m room on a 2x1x1m bed, awaiting for an event yet unknown to the reader. Suddenly a machine appears, cutting out a flesh cube out of his chest and puts in a Strungball into the now existing hole.
The reader learns that Sydney lives in a city, which is made of one corridor and 999 rooms, full of people who dedicated their lives to donating flesh cubes to their protecting city wall, a skin made of the population’s flesh. These people, Sydney’s father and mother included, act like smiling robots that do everything for the greater good.
But when two boys from Sydney’s school beat him up because he doesn’t have the newest Strungball anymore (since apparently a strungball gets renewed every five days or such), Sydney gets to know Albert, the doctor of the city.
Albert asks him weird and doubtful questions about the being of serving for the city and the greater good of Strungballs. With this doubt planted into Sydney’s mind, the young boy starts to look beyond his current life and notices that there is far more to archive than being a Strungball advertiser.
Personally I think the cover needs some more work because it leaves an impression of some cheap novella story, which is not the case with this one. A change of typography would help already. It is a rather funny, strange font in which the cover would fit the publisher, yet not so much the story. Yes, the story is strange on its own, but still. I would have preferred a more dystopian approach.
If you approach this novella with the thought that it is from a publisher called StrangeBooks you will be better prepared for what is going to happen within the next pages. The whole world around Sydney is a very weird one with parents you would love to punch because they love to repeatetly say “good” in as many occasions as possible, considering every single action of their beings towards the greater good, the Skin outsider of their city, protecting them from the Others. More or less the Others are people that live without a cube cut out of their body and a Strungball stuck in it.
My main question has been for a while: How do they cut a cube-hole into you and putting a ball in it? I mean, that had to bleed a lot, right? Maybe the cube in my imagination was far too big to be logical, but it bothered me. Anyways, thank everyone in the Strungball universe for making us meet Sydney at a point in his life where he was already doubting this whole Strungball business. That made him a good guy. Also the story had enough time to introduce us to the world the boy was living it.
Yet I felt like the story was a bit weirdly paced. It felt like a good while (and needed time) to introduce the reader to Sydney and the world. Then the point came where Sydney realized all kind of things (I don’t want to spoil) and suddenly action happens speed-as-lightning fast. I had to repeatedly read same paragraphs to recognize and process in my brain what was actually going on (oh dear, it’s not a kids novel, aboard ship!). It gets abstract and confusing and I think I have to re-read it to actually get it. If there is a way to actually get it and the author just doesn’t want to mess with our brains.
These things said, Strungballs could have been a nice full novel with a better world building and explainations. Maybe there’s an after story to that ending? Maybe another twisted sidestory than Sydney’s? On the other side, it had characteristics of The Giver, but that’s easy to say with an novella.
I give Strungball by Mike Russell 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a rather 3.5 star but since it turned out better than expected, yet it has been a little bit too strange for me, I’ll leave it with 4 stars. I embraced the strangeness.
I have given an honest review in exchange for this novella. Thank you StrangeBooks for that!
I hope you enjoyed reading this review! Have you read something by Mike Russell yet? If not – are there any similar stories to this one you have read? I’d like to know 🙂