The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThe Book of Koli by M.R. Carey science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThe Book of Koli by M.R. Carey

Koli lives in a far-future post-apocalyptic England. He has never been beyond the walls of Mythen Rood, his tiny village, because outside are wild animals, vicious plants, and who knows what other dangers. The leaders of Mythen Rood are the Ramparts, a small group of people who have magic that allows them to work the salvaged technology of the ancient humans who used to be masters of the Earth (that’s us).

When kids in Mythen Rood turn 15 years old, the Ramparts test them to see if they have the magic to work the technology. If they do, the kids join the Ramparts. If not, they’re relegated to lower jobs. After Koli fails to pass the test, he discovers a secret the Ramparts have been hiding from the villagers. Then, after stealing some technology from the Ramparts, Koli is banished from Mythen Rood.

Koli is completely unprepared to be in the wilderness on his own — he has no idea what’s out there — but, fortunately he finds a couple of companions. Thus begins an adventure in which Koli travels an England that was somehow destroyed long ago, meets the strange, and often dangerous, denizens of his post-apocalyptic world, and learns a little about the past. He also begins to wonder what else and who else might be out there and if there’s a way to revive the glories of the past.The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviews

There are just a few slightly slow spots but, generally, The Book of Koli has pretty much everything I want in a novel. It feels like a fantasy novel, but it’s really science fiction. From the first paragraph, M.R. Carey’s narrative voice is mesmerizing — it’s simply wonderful storytelling. We get to know Koli so intimately that it’s easy to feel empathetic toward him. Carey’s superb characterization reminded me of Robin Hobb’s stories about FitzChivalry Farseer. The futuristic setting with lost ancient technologies reminded me of Gene Wolfe’s THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN (though Carey’s story is much simpler) and Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. Each of the stories I’ve just mentioned are some of my all-time favorites in speculative fiction so, naturally, The Book of Koli checked a lot of my boxes. In addition to these features, the story is occasionally hilarious, such as a completely unexpected rickroll!

Koli’s story is fascinating and I can’t wait to find out what happens next in The Trials of Koli, due out in September, and The Fall of Koli, which will be published in spring 2021. I’m reading Hachette Audio’s edition. Theo Solomon does a great job with the narration. I loved his performance and especially recommend this version to anyone who thinks they might struggle to read Koli’s bad grammar, run-on sentences, and stream of consciousness. The Book of Koli is 14.25 hours long in audio format.

Published in April 2020. Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable world. A world where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don’t get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will. Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He knows the first rule of survival is that you don’t venture beyond the walls. What he doesn’t know is – what happens when you aren’t given a choice? The first in a gripping new trilogy, The Book of Koli charts the journey of one unforgettable young boy struggling to find his place in a chilling post-apocalyptic world. Perfect for readers of Station Eleven and Annihilation.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

    View all posts