Mad cow disease, an immortal lawn gnome and a punk angel with a hatred of snow globes. All the makings of a Viking epic…

This book is a deranged ride across America that combines a desperate search for a cure with a philosophical crisis.

Cameron is a Texas teen outcast drifting without a cause until he is diagnosed with Bovine spongiform encephalopathy – mad cow disease – and he is forced to flee the hospital and those who care about him in order to find a cure with his companions: Gonzo, a hypochondriac Little Person, and Dulcie, an angel who has involved herself personally with Cameron’s plight.

Their goals? To find the elusive Dr. X before a hole in space time destroys the universe and to find a cure for Cameron on the way. Not the easiest of quests when you are being pursued by police, giants made of fire and an armoured man with plans to end everything.

The writing in Going Bovine is obscure in its design; the style changes as the book gains confidence. It starts off a little confused and unsure, but within a few chapters, the author has latched onto the storyline and lets it evolve naturally. And it does evolve, as do the characters.

The characters put on a brave face throughout the novel but underneath is a pretty serious message: live your life the best you can, you don’t know how long you have.

There’s plenty in Going Bovine to keep you entertained and confused: a snow globe empire conspiracy; flashes of alternate realities; a cult of bowling-obsessed happiness junkies; and a lawn gnome who believes he is a Norse god.

This is really a love it or leave it kind of book; I loved it, and, at nearly five hundred pages, there was plenty to love. But there really is a lot in here that is a matter of taste; there is some sex and alternate sexualities, some theological questioning, and plenty of reflection on the nature of television and the human condition.

As one of the few stand-alone novels I’ve read this year Going Bovine stands strong in its message and characters. And one that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

Going Bovine – Libba Bray

Published: September 28, 2010 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Paperback – 496 Pages

ISBN: 978-0-385-73398-4

Ta daaaa… Burn Bright moves into video reviews today with our first sound bite from Jamie Marriage. I think you’ll agree that Jamie does a brilliant job. Also stand by for Bec’s Big 4 interview with Kristen who is touring Australia soon, and a second review from Cecilia Jansink.


Cultural difference can be a rather heavy subject, one that Killing Honour by Bali Rai tackles with surprising diplomacy.

The urban England location sets an emotive scene for racial and family tensions and a rather adult plot that takes some understanding. The novel is based around Sat, a young man from a lapsed Sikh household, and his search for his sister who went missing in questionable circumstances.

The foundations for this kind of tale have long been set (some may say overused) so it surprised me that I could find the story told in such a way as to leave me turning the page in anticipation. There is much within the covers that is controversial; there is quite a bit of drug use, sexual references and acts and several references  to long-held cultural beliefs that would be seen as questionable in today’s world. That being said the content is controlled beautifully; this isn’t a book of  ‘shock horror’. The graphic imagery manages to emphasise the story where another author may have let it overwhelm it.

There is no way that a story like this can completely escape bias from its author; the novel jumps from character to character in intervals within the story, including from the viewpoint of several women in the midst of abuse, but the writing is such that it doesn’t feel like any particular view is being pushed. As such, it takes the reader on a visceral ride into places that they would not have expected to go.

“Nice” is not a word I would use to describe this book, and I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. This book is about as far as you can push an M15+ rating in literary form. Approach it with caution but don’t shy away from it; the tale within is more than worth the occasional queasy feeling you might experience while reading it.

Bali Rai — Killing Honour

288 Pages

Published January 8, 2011, by Random House

ISBN: 9781409026747

Don’t judge a book by its cover; that’s a point I learnt long ago. Some covers are an exact representation of what is in the book, some are so clearly divorced it boggles the mind, and some are just following the trend of what gets books sold.

The first thing I thought when I picked up this book was “Oh, Two men in hoods on the cover, how original.” To be fair, this is due to a discussion I had with a few high-end editors about what kinds of images sell books.

Trash is in no way a pretty book; the cover is an illustration of a landfill of Himalayan proportions. The setting is in essence a community built around a pile of, as the inhabitants call it “Stuppa”, what we would politely call human waste. And the main characters are garbage sorters of the kind that is all too common in third world countries.

Beneath the filth that is part and parcel of the story reside some very human characters: Raphael and Gardo, two somewhat emotionally scarred teenage trash sorters, and Rat, a young man that starts off alone and grimy but proves to be a creature of natural instincts within.

This story is not an overly complex one. Raphael recovers a discarded bag during his usual day salvaging what he can from an endless field of refuse; the money within promises short lived luxury, the map and key a mystery. A confusing but fortunate find for the boy, until the corrupt police arrive to look for the bag in order to solve a crime.

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