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Review: Life on the Preservation / Author: Jack Skillingstead / Publisher: Solaris Books / Release Date: Out Now

Life on the Preservation is a science fiction novel based around one clever little idea; what if you found yourself in a Groundhog Day-style scenario, doomed to repeat the same day over and over again, but at the same time you had the nagging feeling that if you were to break the repetitive cycle you had become trapped in, then you would discover that there was no future to escape to.

The book follows two characters; Ian is trapped within the loop, as is the entire city of Seattle. Faced with a genuine existential crisis, somehow all the usual pressures of modern living seem less important as he slowly comes to the realisation that all is not what it seems. On the outside is a young girl called Kylie. She’s the only person in her small town that is still healthy, as everyone else has succumbed to an apocalyptic nightmare and pretty much the entire world is a wasteland filled with zombie-like beings and slowly dying people. These two different perspectives allow the reader to explore the author’s nightmarish world, and it’s very interesting one at that. Skillingstead has poured his love for the city of Seattle into every page here; he’s made the preservation and its strange inhabitants something that the reader can really buy in to, and the main protagonists are also the sort of people you come to care about, flaws and all.

Alas, the book is not without its problems. The supporting cast pretty much exists to provide exposition and don’t really feel like people; even the more horrifying characters seem two-dimensional. One of the difficulties of the novel’s scenario is repetition and this makes the text tedious in places. It falls into an overly introspective trap on occasion as well, but in the weirder, more metaphysical moments, the story really shines. It really feels like it could have had the same impact as a novella, and I can’t shake the feeling that this story should really be told as a short film rather than a book; the writing isn’t cinematic, but the ideas are very visual and interesting. It comes close to being utterly brilliant throughout, and Skillingstead is an extremely promising writer, and we cannot wait to see what he does next.

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