Reviews

They, by Kay Dick, Scholes

emmaccate's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional mysterious sad tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

juliwi's review against another edition

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5.0

What do you do when they are always waiting just around the corner? If they could show up unexpectedly and take away your books, your friends, your identity? That's at the heart of They, Kay Dick's 1977 dystopian masterpiece on censorship and fear. Preceded by a brilliant translation by Carmen Maria Machado, this new edition is priceless! Thanks to Faber & Faber and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Dystopian fiction was a cornerstone of me growing up. It is how I first, truly, encountered the ways in which populist politics, religion, and more can get exploited. While I saw it in the world to a certain extent, fiction brought it home in a way the news could not. Dystopian fiction also shows me my own growth. Comparing my opinions on The Handmaid's Tale when I first read it as a teenager and now shows me how far my own understanding and awareness has come. Having read 1984 I can now see how it is being used and abused by both parties on the political spectrum, while also appreciating the many thoughts it has introduced to popular culture. So when Machado discusses the importance of Dystopian fiction in her introduction I was completely on board. I read her introduction at the end of the book, wanting to go into They as fresh as possible, and it greatly enriched the experience I had.

They is a fractured tale, told in nine chapters that initially only seem vaguely related. We can't be sure whether the protagonist remains the same or whether she changes, whether she is telling a chronological tale or hops across her own timeline. While this may be challenging to some, I believe this is an example of form supporting plot. A continuous thread throughout They is that communication and connection is being destroyed by them, and the disjointed form of the novel is part of that. Our protagonist is desperately trying to communicate her fear, her yearning for human connection, her desire to create, but there is no safe space within which to do so for long. She always has to move on, be on guard, watch what she says, even to the reader. It is brilliantly done. There are moments of real horror in between this contemplation, specifically in a later chapter when the protagonist is in search of a safe haven. The way in which the tension builds up, in which every tree and person becomes intimidating, it is quite something!

I considered to what extend I wanted to go into the mystery of them. They are a faceless group, a set of people who suddenly appear and suddenly disappear, leaving havoc and mystery in their wake. They're looking for the artists, those who create "beyond what is reasonable". Initially I wondered at their goal, which is never entirely explained, but then I hit on the consistent thread of communication and community. We are more easily controlled if we are alone, if we have no one to reflect with, if we have no art which lets us express our deepest feelings. So that is why they hunt artists, why they side-eye everyone who lives on their own, why the deafening sound of TVs permeates every home. In that sense it shares a similarity with Orwell's 1984 but Dick maintains a certain kind of hope in the beauty of human connection which is remarkable considering her own life. As a bisexual woman, Dick must have faced a certain distance from the people outside her artsy friendship group. She must have dealt with efforts to scrutinize her work, her living arrangement, etc. While biography doesn't always inform literature, I think it is fair to say that here, some of the mystery of They can be elucidated by this knowledge. This is a novel about searching for connection, beauty, emotion, in the face of a society that just wants you to conform.

I had not read anything by Kay Dick before They and am very grateful that as part of their mission to re-issue classics Faber opted for They. (The previously published Mrs. Caliban was the first in this series.) Dick achieves a beautiful balance in They between horror and beauty. There are stunning sequences full of nature and beauty and companionship, scenes that almost reminded me of Studio Ghibli films in their simple calm. Yet over these hangs a shadow which frequently comes to blot out the sun. An idyllic stroll through the countryside followed by a splash in the sea is only the preamble for a dash through the countryside looking for a safe haven. A beautiful afternoon in a sunny meadow is threatened by ever tightening legal restrictions. The physical punishment of the artists is described in such a blunt way that is never doesn't shock, yet also freezes you in place. Like Dick's narrator, you find yourself frozen in place, unable to decide whether to move forward or run away, knowing that a choice does have to be made. I can't wait to reread They at different stages in my life to see the new lessons I can draw from it, the new inspiration it will provide.

They might not be for everyone due to its fractured nature, but there is a lot of beauty to be found in this quiet yet ferocious tale of resistance.


URL: https://universeinwords.blogspot.com/2022/02/review-they-sequence-of-unease-by-kay.html

eevee314's review against another edition

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challenging dark mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

Very interesting read. Truly did did create a sense of unease throughout  Written in a way that I'm sure will turn some reads off but makes more sense as you learn about the world over the course of the book. Honestly something I'd love to study and write papers about just to organize my thoughts. 

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esther1987's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging dark mysterious tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.0

kathryn11's review against another edition

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challenging dark mysterious sad tense

4.0

bookishjade's review against another edition

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challenging dark mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.0

hwillustrator's review against another edition

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2.0

2.5 stars. I really wanted to like this but just didn’t connect with it at all. There were some beautifully written passages but the chapters felt too disjointed and the characters too one-dimensional for me to feel any real threat or unease.

It is a very short book though, so I might revisit at some point and see how my feelings change with different expectations.

sarahsg's review against another edition

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hopeful mysterious reflective tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

ashbandicoot90's review against another edition

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2.0

Meh. Disturbing, but let down by a poor style of writing that doesn't work with such a minimalist plot.

charlottesometimesreads's review against another edition

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dark mysterious reflective tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.0

Interesting concept. So many  characters in such a short book so I found it hard to care for any of them, as I didn't know much about them or their relationships to eachother, felt like an odd fever dream but It was still gripping, I read it all in one go (only 100 ish pages) very descriptive was able to perfectly imagine this world. Overall good but a tad confusing.