Monday, 15 July, 2024

לוגו האתר - מחסום כתיבה

The Sudden Appearance of Hope – Claire North is Here to Stay

The Sudden Appearance of Hope – Claire North is Here to Stay

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In "The Sudden Appearance of Hope," her fourth book under this name, Claire North does not settle merely for excellent ideas for her stories; she dives deep into the waters, reinventing the world anew.

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One of the big mistakes that many writers make, especially those who dwell in writing to the drawer, is to develop an idea upon which the plot should rely rather than developing the story itself. I know what I’m trying to convey here might not be entirely clear, but try to imagine for a moment the following two sentences – ‘I have a great idea for a story’ and ‘I have a great story.’ Maybe you’ll understand where I’m aiming because these are two completely different things. While the first focuses on the uniqueness of the idea, the second refers to the entirety that makes the story what it is. To draw a parallel in the tech industry, the difference between the two is akin to the difference between a startup aiming for a quick exit versus a company developing a serious product to make a name for itself in its field. In other words, the difference between apps like Yo and Waze.

I don’t outright dismiss books based on an ‘interesting’ or ‘surprising’ or simply an ‘idea,’ but most of the time, books of this kind fall into their own trap and become anecdotal stories of the sort that O. Henry was so fond of. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. I, too, appreciate a good anecdotal story here and there, but not when it pretends to be something else, only to drop the ‘surprising ending’ that must come in stories of this very specific genre.

Claire North (Catherine Webb) has excellent ideas for stories, but behind these ideas are hidden excellent stories. That’s how she easily bypasses the anecdote barrier and turns her creations into something fuller by developing the basic ideas upon which her stories lean, constructing a captivating and detailed world from them. She is not afraid to step beyond the boundaries of her basic idea and explore the possibilities and challenges it presents, delving deep into the minds of her characters to understand how the world would look from their non-conventional perspective. If you will, she explores the macro at a micro level and vice versa.

This is the second book by this young and prolific author that I’m reading, and the second one that is based on the possibility that someone lives in a way different from what we are accustomed to. If in ‘The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August’ (which is excellent, by the way, as you can read here in my review), she delved into the life cycle of a person living his over and over again, in ‘The Sudden Appearance of Hope,’ she tries to understand how might the life of a girl who cannot stay in people’s consciousnesses look like.

I suppose it’s time for you to meet Hope Arden, the protagonist of ‘The Sudden Appearance of Hope.’ But only briefly because you’ll forget you ever met her as soon as you part ways. No, it’s not because she has features that the mind refuses to remember, but because she suffers from a unique condition that makes you forget you ever had any interaction with her. You’ll find yourself sitting at a table in a café with two empty coffee cups. You won’t remember the person sitting across from you, engaging in a heated discussion (which will also fade from your memory) about the fundamentals of privacy in our technological world. You won’t even recall having that conversation. If anything from the ideas she expressed during the discussion happens to linger with you, you’ll be convinced it’s an original idea of your own.

As you can probably guess, that’s not the best quality for someone who wants to hold a steady job or maintain long-term relationships. Thus, Hope is forced to find her way in the world alone, where her primary (at least continuous) human communication occurs through digital means since those don’t forget her. As a perfect outsider observing the world from the side, this doesn’t stop her from criticizing how we live in this world, especially the technology that surrounds us.

Here, we come to one of the gears driving the plot of this book, as Hope becomes aware of a giant corporation operating an app promising to make its users perfect but, at the same time, holding too much power in its hands and – most importantly – manages to anger her.

Claire North’s two books have many similarities, but perhaps the most important is how she provides new perspectives on two concepts. If in ‘The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August’ North gave a different meaning to the concept of eternal life and time travel, in ‘The Sudden Appearance of Hope,’ she reinvents the concept of invisibility. In her version, there’s no cloak of invisibility or a purple potion, but the concealment occurs in the minds of those encountering the unseen person. Essentially, this is a fantastic illustration of what many may feel these days in a technological exposure where the opening of boundaries between people might sometimes lead to a feeling that no one truly sees them. That same exposure can also lead to dysmorphia (or at least exacerbate an existing one) as it fuels the desire of those affected to become perfect, even at the cost of their unique personal identity.

But even if we momentarily ignore the allegories within the book and its hidden subtleties, it is, in the end, a great book, albeit slightly less good than its predecessor.

Four initial meetings that are forgotten from consciousness and seared into the skin simultaneously.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope / Claire North / Redhook Books

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