Published: March 16th, 2023
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook
Apologies for the delay, but today I’m finally sharing my review for the mesmerising and unforgettable Beautiful Shining People. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Karen at Orenda books for the gifted copy of the book.
A damaged teenager meets an enigmatic waitress in a tiny Tokyo café, sparking an epic journey across Japan that will change everything, forever…
‘A fascinating exploration of what it means to be human in a world where everything can be faked, and an alarming projection into a not-too-distant and all-too-plausible future … wonderful, insightful and thoughtful’ James Oswald
‘Totally engrossing from the start – the story, characters and settings will linger in your imagination long after you’re finished … truly wonderful’ Jonathan Whitelaw
‘Exquisite world-building, this book had me invested from the very first page. Vivid plot and irresistible characters and a real tug at the soul … you’ll drown in it’ Lisa Bradley
This world is anything but ordinary, and it’s about to change forever…
It’s our world, but decades into the future…
An ordinary world, where cars drive themselves, drones glide across the sky, and robots work in burger shops. There are two superpowers and a digital Cold War, but all conflicts are safely oceans away. People get up, work, and have dinner. Everything is as it should be…
Except for seventeen-year-old John, a tech prodigy from a damaged family, who hides a deeply personal secret. But everything starts to change for him when he enters a tiny café on a cold Tokyo night. A café run by a disgraced sumo wrestler, where a peculiar dog with a spherical head lives, alongside its owner, enigmatic waitress Neotnia…
But Neotnia hides a secret of her own – a secret that will turn John’s unhappy life upside down. A secret that will take them from the neon streets of Tokyo to Hiroshima’s tragic past to the snowy mountains of Nagano.
A secret that reveals that this world is anything ordinary – and it’s about to change forever…
“Before, I thought I understood the world. At least where it was heading. But now? Now, what do I know?”
Tokyo, many years into the future. 17-year-old John, a tech prodigy, enters a small cafe late at night and meets Neotina, a beautiful and enigmatic waitress. The spark is instant and they slowly begin to get to know each other. But they are each hiding a shameful secret, one they try to hide from the world and are terrified of being discovered. But it is what Neotina is hiding that will turn their worlds upside down and change things forever…
This book is a masterpiece. Mesmerising, dreamlike, and unforgettable, it took my breath away. A story about those who never fit in—the alienated outsiders who want to belong. It’s about the search for purpose, pain, suffering, and the shadows that live within all of us, and what it is that makes us human.
“Let people misjudge you – condemn you, even. Smile at them, then carry on with your life. Their faults weaken only them.”
Speculative and dystopian fiction is my least favourite genre, yet I was utterly blown away by this book. I lost myself in these pages, unable to stop reading yet also tried to savour every exquisite word. I loved how eclectic the vibe of this story was. It starts out calm and chilled but with a twist of anguish from the secret shame John is hiding, then the air fills with the flush of first love as he and Neotina get closer, before moving into an atmosphere that crackles with danger as shocking revelations change their entire world. Each shift in tension and pace was smooth and seamless, holding me hostage in the author’s web of words.
The characters in the book are a motley crew of outsiders who were likeable and very entertaining to read. Our narrator, John, is an American teenage coding genius hiding a secret shame he wants to fix. Like all teenagers, he just wants to be like everyone else, and he thinks if he fixes what’s wrong with him he’ll finally be ‘normal’. John’s voice perfectly captures the insecurity of those teenage years. That time where, more than ever, the opinion and acceptance of our peers matters so much and we want to fit in rather than stand out. These feelings are also explored in Neotina, the charismatic Japanese waitress he meets. Their relationship perfectly captures the innocence, joy, confusion and fear of falling in love for the first time. But we soon learn that these aren’t any other young people in love. There’s something extraordinary that sets them apart. Stealing the show on many occasions were Goeido, a former Sumo who owns the cafe where Notina works, and his dog, Inu, who has the craziest haircut and a strange story of his own. And then there is Joe, a character who appears briefly but makes a huge impact.
“My shadow is deep, and its ingredients are many. It’s rich in loneliness. Isolation. Alienation. Loathing.”
This may have been my first book by Michael Grothaus, but it will not be my last. Not only is his writing and characterisation exquisite, but transported me to the world he had created. A world that is fictional, yet believable, future. I can imagine everything he wrote coming true and it felt like a glimpse into the world that my grandchildren or great-grandchildren will know. But at the same time it was totally familiar, and it was only when I read a line about self-driving cars or bots serving you in a restaurant that I’d remember this is set in the future. I also loved how detailed the research was and I learned a lot about Japanese culture while reading the book. But what I think I enjoyed most is how he keeps the reader guessing. He had me on the edge of my seat with no idea where things were headed, even halfway through the book. But what I did know is that wherever this led, it was going to be spectacular. And then there is that twist. Wow. I sat there in awe, trying to make myself believe what I’d just read and wondering how I didn’t see it. The clues were all there in hindsight and I totally missed them, feeling as floored and as the character did when all was revealed.
Moving, powerful and enthralling, Beautiful Shining People is a phenomenal story that will stay with you. I have no doubt that this is going to be one of my books of the year and highly recommend it to everyone, even if the genre doesn’t seem like your thing. Just try it. I know I’m so glad that I did.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Michael Grothaus is a novelist and author. Born in Saint Louis, Missouri. He spent his twenties in Chicago where he earned his degree in filmmaking from Columbia and got his start in journalism writing for Screen. After working for institutions including The Art Institute of Chicago, Twentieth Century Fox, and Apple he earned his postgraduate degree with distinction in creative writing from the University of London. His writing has appeared in Fast Company, VICE, The Guardian, Litro Magazine, The Irish Times, Screen, Quartz, and others. His debut novel, EPIPHANY JONES, a story about sex trafficking among the Hollywood elite, was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award and named one of the 25 “Most Irresistible Hollywood Novels” by Entertainment Weekly.
His first non-fiction book is TRUST NO ONE: INSIDE THE WORLD OF DEEPFAKES. The book examines the human impact that artificially generated video will have on individuals and society in the years to come. His next novel is BEAUTIFUL SHINING PEOPLE, a speculative story set in Tokyo that explores how the things that cast us as outsiders can be the very things that draw us together, and examines whether there is an inherent meaning in the world to come, or if we must create our own.
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Thanks for reading bibliophiles xxxx
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One reply on “BLOG TOUR: Beautiful Shining People by Michael Grothaus”
Thanks for the blog tour support x