Human Pages by John Elliott. Book review

Human-Pages-Front-Cover-196x300HUMAN PAGES BY John Elliott, Chomu Press, p/b, £12.50

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

Can someone create a novel that is unique without it being too complex? This is the question I asked myself when I attempted to read this one as it is complex, and at times almost impossible to follow, but this is only my perception of what my initial feelings were on the novel. In its basic form the story is about a woman, Agnes Darshel who takes on the identity of Emily Brown in order to search for her long lost father. The premise sounds easy enough, but reading the story is not so easy. The Chance Company organise a pre-worked out identity complete with a name and a set of traits that only that identity possesses and the person has to adapt to this new identity and has to act out as though they are them.

In Human Pages, the nub of the story is can people get bored with who they are? Maybe they want to have a holiday from their lives, their own personal identities, if they do, in this novel they go to the Chance Company. Most of the people in this novel aren’t happy with who they are, and want to change identities, but in doing so, other peoples lives change too. Their people will help them find a new identity, one they will enjoy as it is so far removed from who they really are that they won’t want to go back to their old self. The book questions whether people are truly happy with who they are born as, and whether they are happier when they revert to their new selves. There are novels out there that have a lot of characters, and a complex plot, though the authors don’t spring to mind. This has the potential to cause readers a headache as well as the need to scan the Appendix that lists all the characters, print it out and stick it on the wall in front so that the book’s easier to follow each character and its assumed character without being totally stumped.

I felt that the author created too much information and then tried to pack it in all at once, creating several characters, and separate identities that eventually made it seem that there were far too many characters in it to follow. This in itself was one failing of the novel, as if care had been taken, it could have been an interesting and enjoyable read all the way through, however, this was not the case. Recently there has been a new movie out called Cloud Atlas where the characters start out as their normal selves, yet through time they crop up again and again as different characters, yet they somehow retain their memories of who they used to be, and this story is very much like that, though Cloud Atlas actually looks like it makes more sense than this does.

There are some good things to say about this novel though. I did like the setting and characters felt believable within the general setting and felt there was a strange mystery surrounding everyone in the entire town, not just the main characters.