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Hilary T. Smith
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Bryan Peterson
Ultraviolet  - R.J. Anderson I have fallen a little in love with this book, and honestly, I could not be more surprised. I picked up and put down Ultraviolet countless times (mostly because I have a Bowerbird-esque tendency to be drawn to shiny, coloured things), convinced that I had no intention of looking beyond the metallic cover and actually reading it. But after coming across positive review after positive review, on a whim (*cough* book buying frenzy *cough*) I bought it. Much has been made of the need to approach Ultraviolet unspoiled, and I agree wholeheartedly with this. But what I’m going to offer here is a review from the perspective of someone who did not read this book entirely unspoiled. Because when it comes to spoilers, I have a click-happy finger. I also have a terrible habit, that I am desperately trying to break, of flicking to the back of a book when I’m browsing in bookstores. When I started reading Ultraviolet, I already knew one fairly major element of the plot (not the ending, by the way, but still a critical detail). Do I wish I hadn’t spoiled myself and been able to experience this book without the taint of foreknowledge? Absolutely. Obviously, I didn’t feel the same impact at the whip-lash turn the story took as some other readers. Did this negatively affect my enjoyment of the book? Not at all. As mentioned at the outset, I fell hard for this book, and had a difficult time putting it down. I missed my tram stop because of this book. Enough said. The synopsis of Ultraviolet certainly has a hook to it. A sixteen year old girl is sectioned in a psychiatric institute, convinced she has killed the most popular girl at school. Yet the manner of the death, and the unique way Alison experiences the world, has her questioning her sanity, unsure where the line between her perceptions and reality lies. "Everybody has a story, Alison," he said. "Everybody has things they need to hide--sometimes even from themselves." I was caught up in Alison’s story within pages, and I attribute this in large part to R J Anderson’s writing, which is just beautiful. At one point I found myself reading with the book held up close to my face, as if I could breathe it in. Stylistically, the prose is rich, yet clear; lush with imagery, yet uncluttered. Alison’s condition is used powerfully to texture the story. It felt like an integral thread carefully woven into the narrative, rather than hastily tacked on or inserted at random. The way Anderson writes Alison’s perspective feels crisp and contemporary, yet at times it is also like seeing the world through a kaleidoscope. ”Doors flapped open and slammed shut, like the valves of a pounding heart. Footsteps splattered blue onto the fluorescent orange shriek of the alarm, and the air thickened with shouting voices..” (Interestingly, going into this book knowing what I did, Anderson’s writing also lends itself to some subtle and smooth foreshadowing. Cue me smiling a little, thinking ‘oh, I see what you did there..’) Another aspect of the writing I loved was the characterisation, and the way that even the secondary characters were real and vital. Anderson’s treatment of mental illness felt respectful and well-handled, using Alison’s own perceptions as a lens through which to view common misconceptions. Additionally, one of the characters I came to love began as possibly the most unlikely candidate, (and I can’t write that in a less convoluted manner without spoiling – suffice to say that enjoyed the way in which Anderson chose to develop her characters and subvert certain stereotypes). Ultraviolet does not neatly fit within the usual parameters of a given genre, which is perhaps why I ended up enjoying it as much as I did. The book largely avoids most of the tropes I was expecting, rather it blends different genre elements and becomes something of a hybrid. It is this deft sidestepping of expectations, as much as the characters themselves, that kept the story gripping for me. Despite the fact that I was prepared for one of the elements of the plot that the twist hinges upon, I still found Ultraviolet a compelling read. It was emotionally engaging, expressive and entertaining, which is basically my own personal trifecta of reading enjoyment (er, and a chance to abuse my alliteration privileges, apparently). While a companion novel is purportedly in the pipeline for 2013, Ultraviolet works beautifully as a standalone, ending on a lingering, slightly haunting, final note.Lastly, Sebastian Faraday. All I will say here is that his name is a bit of a "Cellar Door" for me, in terms of phonaesthetics. I just wanted to keep saying it... :)"