If I didn’t know better, I would have assumed Just Under The Sky was a translation of a Japanese novella. There are a few reasons for this, some are purely cosmetic like the fact last names’ are used more than first names and there are a few grammar mistakes throughout the book. The theme too, with its heavy emphasis on saving the environment and personafying the forest, is a less common one here in the west and I wasn’t expecting it.
Strange observations aside, did I enjoy the book? I’d have to answer that with a resounding ‘kind of’, it was a very hot and cold experience. I very much enjoyed the opening, it was nice and straight forward, a dash of drama with the mob mentality, some mystery with the forest, and a little empathy for Jasper and McMicheals frustration.
I feel the book falls down in the rest of the first half though, I had to think quite hard to figure out why I wasn’t having fun though, stuff was happening and in terms of the writing style it’s very obvious that Gold is a poet (some of his imagery is really quite lovely), even though the drama could have been smoother it wasn’t a deal breaker. No, I think it was the lack of a goal, there is a goal in that we know what Jasper wants to achieve, but there was no way to measure exactly what it will take to achieve or how long, so I felt no drive towards it and I didn’t feel anything was developing.
If the entire book was like that I’d be giving it quite a bad rating, but the second half turns it around again – playing with my heart – suddenly the goal alters, becomes more reachable, and other developments start to happen as we work our way towards it. I felt much more driven to finish and see how the whole thing would end. That said I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the ending; the last incident added absolutely nothing to the experience, but that’s not a deal breaker for me, I just thought it worth mentioning.
So that’s plenty about the story, anyone who reads my blog will know characters are my bread and butter. This is another area the book is hot and cold; some of the conversations between Jasper and McMicheals are great, and some are not. I appreciated that Jasper wasn’t an unstoppable badass who doesn’t carry on going because he’s brave and amazing, but because running would make sense for a squishy human. On the other hand, I would have liked to know him better, I felt like it was assumed that I’d be on his ‘side’, but I couldn’t find much of a reason to like him that much. I felt sorry for what happened to him, but I wasn’t screaming and shouting for his safety.
As you can probably tell I’m having issues reviewing this book, because it’s neither really good or particularly bad. There are some great ideas, and some bad execution, so if you have a soft spot for surreal dream-like adventures or environmental tree loving themes then you might enjoy this, if not I’m not sure I’d recommend the experience.