There’s always constant criticism levelled at Booker for not giving genre fiction a nod, but this year literary fans have been given a slice of Sci-Fi from Jane Rogers on indie label, Sandstone. The Testament of Jessie Lamb reads like a graphic novel, or TV serial and steps on serious political issues and rebellion, leaving the reader with a lot on their plate to digest. Despite its brevity, the book packs quite a lot in and this can be both a positive and a negative.
The plot reads like a blockbuster film. Jessie’s world is dying. A bioterrorist has launched an attack on the world that kills women who fall pregnant. Set a month or two into our future, the book tells of how women are dying and teenage girls are unsure of their future. As it stands, if nothing is done then mankind will die out slowly and inevitably. Jessie Lamb is one such teenager who is confused and conflicted about her own life.
Jessie has many standpoints throughout the novel. Her Father is a scientist who is currently working on the disaster and attempting to find possible solutions. Her friends are joining protest groups that are against the steps that science is taking and her best friend, after a horrific moment in the book, joins a feminist movement who depose men and their hand in the disaster. But, Jessie is just an ordinary girl, one who is watching as her world collapses and wants a hand in saving it.
Through the decisions Jessie makes, the reader is tested and asked the same questions. How would you feel if such a calamity were to truly occur? What would your next step be if there was no doubt that the World would end in the near future? We’re also asked whose side to choose as nearly every character offers up their argument and nearly all are justified.
The Testament of Jessie Lamb is a perfect book for the times we live in. The tensions in the book appropriately mirror tensions we see on a daily basis in the news. Of course, our world isn’t quite as doomed as Jessie’s but it raises genuine points.
I’m rather late with this review as I finished the book some time ago. But I needed time to sum up my true opinion. There is very little wrong with novel itself and after the recent unrest in London; the book raises even more valid points. So, I’m glad I waited to write this review. You see, the novel is a tremendous tool to force the audience to think, not just while reading but after you’ve closed the book and returned it to its shelf. Every so often I see something that causes me to think of Jessie and her world and this leads me to moral and ethical decisions that I see around me.
Good books make you think, not just about the plot and writing styles, but about where it fits in society. There is very little in the way of negativity to aim at this novel, but if I was to highlight an issue for me, it would be Jessie herself.
Jessie is meant to be the hero of the book, the person that the reader can rely on. However for much of the book, as much as I liked her, I never truly connected to her. It’s not because of her age, or her goals, or her personality, she just doesn’t ‘fit’. This is actually a double edged sword as that’s the whole reason that she is the hero, but for me I wanted more.
Regardless, The Testament of Jessie Lamb is an important book to read and worth of its longlist nomination from Booker. It’s not Sci-Fi as we know it, but it’s a break from reality that forces you to think about your own life and what makes you you.