*Honest review given in exchange for book.*
The strange and unknown has always fascinated me. What exactly defines something being strange? Is it a matter of opinion? Of following society’s rules because we believe that is the correct way? Have we all been brainwashed into a certain way of thinking because it is the ‘good’ and ‘right’ thing to do? I found myself asking all of these questions when I dived into the thrilling novella Strungballs by Mike Russell. I would like to thank the wonderful people at Strange Books especially Jay the Strange Books secretary for this opportunity. Also thank you to Mike Russell for creating such an intriguing story and bringing my imagination to life.
Strungballs follows Sydney, a ten-year old boy who has just had a cube of his flesh removed in order for him to receive his first Strungball. Not long after he begins to question what Strungballs are and who are the others? There is just one rule that must never be broken. Never remove your Strungball.
Everything in Strungballs is very precise, the measurements, the layouts of rooms and even the stillness of the characters emotions. It is all very sterile and robotic. Actions have to be carried out in a certain fashion and to the correct protocol. To go against it would not be good which is what adds to the suspense. The reader wants to desperately know what happens if you fall out of line or dare I say remove their Strungball. You are compelled to read on to discover the secrets that are hidden outside the human flesh walls of the city.
The city appears very much like a cult, to serve the sphere of flesh and to always do what is ‘good.’ To always obey a higher power. I loved the idea of humans living in a city made out of human flesh. It’s disturbing and cleverly used as at least they are recycling with re-useable resources. They sacrifice themselves in order to be protected which is ironic as the more cubes of flesh they lose, the less of a person they become. When Sydney meets Albert a ninety year old man who no longer feels like a person anymore because he is mostly holes, he begins to question everything. Albert wishes he knew what it is he needs but struggles to find it. This reminded me of how as we grow older we sometimes lose sight of what is important to us. Friends become strangers and family become distant. We get so caught up in life following a routine that we become robots following orders. Living to work and forgetting that we should be living our lives to the full as life is forever fleeting. It won’t last forever. Before we know it, we will all become dust and bones in the sand. We should live and enjoy life, every second. The good and the bad.
What I like about Strungballs is that you have a ten-year old boy questioning why. Why are Strungballs so important? Why must they have them? Why are others monsters? The adults have accepted that this is their way of life yet a young boy doesn’t understand why this is so. He starts to rebel against society’s way of thinking and takes it upon himself to break free, becoming one with himself and cutting his ties to that world. He wants more and doesn’t want to settle for what is expected of him. It’s pleasant to see as taking control of your life is something we should all do. We should never let anything or anyone control us. It’s a powerful important message that Strungballs echoes; something extremely relatable in today’s world.
The strong theme of finite and what is infinite really brings the story full circle. Finite has an end where as infinite is forever. The sphere of flesh would have been infinite, standing strong. As soon as a cube starts to whither it is replaced with a fresh one. Humans are finite and have an end which is the scary part. We will all die one day and we all know it. It’s the unknown that we are truly scared of which I think this novella deals with perfectly. It asks the reader to question what are we scared of? Ourselves? Do we all want to just be loved and be accepted for who we are? Do we have to follow society’s rules or should we make our own rules? Strungballs if anything definitely raises a lot of questions and gets you thinking. Which to me personally is a good thing.
I found the ending truly beautiful, the imagery of the two giants bringing life into the world, how the living and the dead were all together and the sheer bliss of being free.
I can visualise this story being made into a film. The amount of detail given such as the sphere of flesh, the inside-out giants and the empty void would be perfect on the big screen. *hint hint*
I give this novella a four out of five paw rating.
It’s so refreshing to read something so different and creatively unique that really dances with your imagination. Strange is always good in my book.
I look forward to reading more of Mike Russell and highly recommend you check this novella and more of his work out! Links below.
Buy a copy of Strungballs here for only £3.99
Until next time,
Hop hop wiggle wiggle