Sent to me by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 06/02/18
Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Paperback, 416pp
Genre: Science-Fiction (With a whole plethora of genres mixed in!)
Summed up in a word: Creation
When I picked up Spare and Found Parts I had a feeling it might be a contender for book of the year. I know it is early out of the gate being January but this book is seriously good. Drawing from so many genres and concepts I think this book is going to have a huge fan base when the word gets out. Spare and Found Parts explores some fantastic ideas, concepts and sentiments. Sarah Griffin’s imagination knows no bounds and I honestly hope that this is not the end of Nell’s story. This novel is a testament to the beauty and destructiveness of creation and how our ideas can be the beginning and the end of us all. Outstanding read, highly recommended!
Nell Crane has never held a boy’s hand.
In a city devastated by an epidemic, where survivors are all missing parts—an arm, a leg, an eye—Nell has always been an outsider. Her father is the famed scientist who created the biomechanical limbs that everyone now uses. But she’s the only one with her machinery on the inside: her heart. Since the childhood operation, she has ticked. Like a clock, like a bomb. And as her community rebuilds, everyone is expected to contribute to the society’s good . . . but how can Nell live up to her father’s revolutionary ideas when she has none of her own?
Then she finds a lost mannequin’s hand while salvaging on the beach, and inspiration strikes. Can Nell build her own companion in a world that fears advanced technology? The deeper she sinks into this plan, the more she learns about her city—and her father, who is hiding secret experiments of his own.
‘It was common place to sport and arm, a leg, a set of ears, two fingers, or even the bottom half of a jaw crafted from exquisite, intuitive prosthetic. Absent limbs were part of the price the people of Black Water City paid for surviving the cruel touch of the epidemic. Nell, however, was the only person with all her metal inside. She was the only person who ticked.’
Penelope Crane lives in a post-computer age. During the events that took place during The Turn an epidemic scorched the land, poisoned the world and left us scarred forever. Humanity now occupies a world afraid of computers and what they are capable of. Humans have learned to adapt, to change and to survive without the once powerful technology that governed everything. Nell Crane is an example of that. Sick as a child, Nell’s father saved her by replacing her heart with intricate clockwork mechanism that allows her to live. Nell represents progress and her family have built a reputation off of her survival. Though the people are still experiencing the after-effects of the epidemic, there is hope. The Crane family are innovators that provide for those in need.
Coming to the end of her apprenticeship Nell has to prove herself or risk being cast out of her family. With the pressure to succeed and only a mannequin’s hand that she scavenged on a beach to inspire her, Nell must create something special. But with creation comes discovery and as Nell’s journey progresses she finds that things are not as they first appeared to be. Nell begins to question everyone and everything around her; including her beloved father. Spare and Found Parts is a must read novel that explores the consequences of creation and how far someone will go to belong.
‘The electromagnetic pulse that had triggered the Turn had pulled airplanes from the sky, a violent metal rain the hammering the land. It looked as though a terrible god had punched the earth, the crater a shallow, ugly mess; huge tall streetlamps, once majestic, were buckled down, some leaning, some twisted, some drooping in sorrow.’
I was instantly blown away by the breadth and depth of the post apocalyptic world that Sarah Griffin has crafted to tell this tale. The reader is immediately plunged into a full formed alternative reality with its own painful but astounding history, politics and ideologies. Nothing compares to the main event, Nell Crane, and her journey of discovery and creation. Nell is completely unique, a young woman with an intricate heart. Even though her family name is gold, Nell has always felt like an outcast amongst her peers. If only she had someone who understood her and supported her outlook on this existence. When she finds that boys mannequin hand on the beach she dares to dream of a new reality.
Expected to contribute an innovative creation to society by the end of her apprenticeship; Nell is overwhelmed by expectation. She is given an ultimatum by her family that leaves her to pursue her deepest dreams. Armed with only a hand (pun intended) Nell sets out to build a contribution to society that will change the game forever. Especially because the one thing she dreams of building has been outlawed by all of civilisation. A sentient android. A friend she can belong with. A computer who understands the past. I was captivated by Nell’s story and how far she is willing to go to create the supposedly impossible. Nell’s efforts to create a unique being just like herself are inspiring and made me realise how much we take technology for granted.
Though Spare and Found Parts is clearly inspired by Frankenstein, updated for a modern audience, it still felt unique to me as a reader. Sarah Griffin even included the lightening rod which I thought was a nice touch. There is so much going on in this novel that it is bound to appeal to a vast and varied audience. I would categorise SAFP as science fiction but it is so much more than that. It explores many ideas and concepts like artificial intelligence, unusual romances, technology, fame, fear and innovation.
‘Computers had brought about the end of the world. Black Water City was so grateful to have survived – even if it was still sick and wheezing – that the very mention of computers was blasphemy. They were brought to life by reams of numbers that conjured thought, and impulse, and memory out of nothing. Whole tomes of language in numbers and oblique symbols that, when lined up just right, could bring consciousness to steel. She longed for access to it, for how huge it could be.’
Nell exists in a world where computers are forbidden as they brought the downfall of a once great civilisation. Humanity made technology too powerful to speed up progression and their greed was their demise. But greed and necessity are two different concepts and Nell wants to use technology to rebuild the old world but with the knowledge gained from humanity’s fall from grace. I was sucked into this novel so quickly I surprised myself. I wasn’t entirely sure this would suit my tastes but with Sarah Griffin’s imaginative and tenacious writing it was easy to settle into this novel.
Sarah Griffin is a talent to be appreciated and nurtured. The imagination, intelligence and poetic prose that make up SAFP is its best feature. The imagery that the narrative conjures up is amazing. From Nell’s unique heart and her unbelievable creation to the land that the characters occupy. Divided into Pale for the sick and Pasture for those who represent a new future. Each and every detail is included to encourage the reader to relate, to think and to imagine. The novel is set in the not so distant future but being ravaged by technology has left the understanding of the ‘time before The Turn’ warped and misleading. I enjoyed Nell’s rediscovery and unfiltered appreciation of our past. Music especially. It amazed and charmed me to see the modern world from a sort of primative and unknowing perspective.
The characters in this novel are few but they are interesting, controversial and compelling enough to invest in. Nell is centre stage; the journey of her creation and the subsequent consequences make up most of the narrative. There are those who support her choices and those who hope she never succeeds. With her advancements, allegiances change, wilt and grow. Told in the 2nd and 3rd person perspectives made for an interesting reading experience. I can’t talk about all the characters as that would take all the fun out of the novel so you will just have to get involved yourself to find out how far Nell is capable of going to break boundaries. Nell faces many obstacles between her and her goals but revolutions are never easy.
I have probably made this novel sound intense and maybe quite a bit dark and gritty. It does have its darker moments but it is actually quite an upbeat quest for Nell and her creation. I wouldn’t say it has it laugh out loud moments but the novel has some awe inspiring and humorous moments. Themes like social pressure, success, fame, progress and belonging mix with fear, pain, risk and loss. The atmosphere is both somber, due to Nell’s frustration and family problems, and full of the fizzy delight of exploration and opportunity. With the end result making me plead that this is not the end of Nell’s story. Hopefully this is a trilogy?? Please? I don’t have a lot bad to say about this novel. I was a tad overwhelmed to begin with as there is no short overview or prologue to outline the details. The reader is dropped right into the novel but it doesn’t take long to get to grips with the world. Once I was settled in I found myself furiously reading to find out whether Nell succeeds or not. Couldn’t get enough of the story!
Overall I highly recommend this novel. It will appeal to a lot of different readers for many different reasons. Spare and Found Parts has a lot of potential for being a top read for 2018. I can’t get enough of these alternative reality/post-apocalyptic novels. New ideas and scenarios are taking me to places I never considered and Sarah Griffin has done a great job with Spare and Found Parts. This story will stick with me for a long time; I keep turning the details around in my head and finding new connections between this world and ours. A great novel that considers humanity’s progression into online technology, artificial intelligence and testing boundaries of our world.
About Sarah Maria Griffin
Sarah Maria Griffin is a writer from Dublin, Ireland. Her nonfiction has appeared on The Irish Times, Buzzfeed, The Rumpus, Midnight Breakfast, Guts and Winter Pages. Her collection of essays about emigration, Not Lost, was published by New Island Press in 2013. She was the recipient of the European Science Fiction Awards Chrysalis Award in 2017. She tweets @griffski.