Sealed

Sealed

Timely and suspenseful, Sealed is a gripping modern fable on motherhood, a terrifying portrait of ordinary people under threat from their own bodies and from the world around them. With elements of speculative fiction and the macabre, this is also an unforgettable story about a mother’s fight to survive.Heavily pregnant Alice and her partner Pete are done with...

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Title:Sealed
Author:Naomi Booth
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Sealed Reviews

  • enricocioni

    Now THAT was an ending. The last twenty or so pages of Sealed are the closest thing a book has ever made me feel to that scene towards the end of a horror film when something horrific is about to happen or is happening and every fibre of your being wants to look away but your eyes remain glued to the screen—(a) because you’re paralysed by terror, (b) because if you look away you known your imagination may well conjure things that are even worse than what the filmmakers came up with, (c) because

    Now THAT was an ending. The last twenty or so pages of Sealed are the closest thing a book has ever made me feel to that scene towards the end of a horror film when something horrific is about to happen or is happening and every fibre of your being wants to look away but your eyes remain glued to the screen—(a) because you’re paralysed by terror, (b) because if you look away you known your imagination may well conjure things that are even worse than what the filmmakers came up with, (c) because you’re a little bit curious to see how far the filmmakers will go and how many boundaries they will transgress, or (d) all of the above. That was what the last twenty pages or so of Sealed were like. I'd even go so far as to say it's a Rosemary's Baby for our times. Check out my full review over at my blog, Strange Bookfellows:

  • Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)

    This was a completely unexpected triumph of a book. I bought it entirely on a whim in my local independent and read it immediately, prompted by Aliya Whiteley’s recommendation on the back. And it’s blooming wonderful. A searing and unflinching work of eco-horror told in a lyrical and muscular prose. I was utterly drawn in by Alice’s narrative voice, and thought the final 30 pages were a masterpiece of suspense. It was the book I wanted Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From to be. Probably the bes

    This was a completely unexpected triumph of a book. I bought it entirely on a whim in my local independent and read it immediately, prompted by Aliya Whiteley’s recommendation on the back. And it’s blooming wonderful. A searing and unflinching work of eco-horror told in a lyrical and muscular prose. I was utterly drawn in by Alice’s narrative voice, and thought the final 30 pages were a masterpiece of suspense. It was the book I wanted Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From to be. Probably the best thing I’ve read so far this year.

  • Stephen Curran

    Paging Mr Cronenberg! If nobody has bought the rights to SEALED yet then they ought to get a wriggle on. An exercise in building tension, it would make a brilliant film adaptation (if one that might result in a flood of audience walk-outs).

    That’s not to say it doesn’t work fantastically as a book. The story is tight as a fist, the ragingly hot landscape is vividly evoked, and the sustained descriptive passages are absolutely gripping. Would I class it as literary fiction, or a genre

    Paging Mr Cronenberg! If nobody has bought the rights to SEALED yet then they ought to get a wriggle on. An exercise in building tension, it would make a brilliant film adaptation (if one that might result in a flood of audience walk-outs).

    That’s not to say it doesn’t work fantastically as a book. The story is tight as a fist, the ragingly hot landscape is vividly evoked, and the sustained descriptive passages are absolutely gripping. Would I class it as literary fiction, or a genre piece? Is it sci fi? Is it horror? Is it an eco-thriller, or an allegory, or a bang-on character study? I don’t know. What I can say for sure is that when I was hoovering up the last thirty pages on the train I became aware that I had involuntarily put my hand over my mouth, so caught up was I in Alice’s living nightmare. Seldom have I had a more intense reading experience. It’s an inspiration.

  • Jason

    In my opinion there are two types of dystopian novels; 1: Ones that are way in the future, completely unbelievable and a nice entertaining read (The Hunger Games fir example). 2: Ones that are in the near future, you can see humans heading in this direction, it is possible that these could happen whilst you're still alive, these books can be really scary. Sealed falls into the second category.

    In this future, the temperature has risen, food has been poisoned by chemicals and plastics

    In my opinion there are two types of dystopian novels; 1: Ones that are way in the future, completely unbelievable and a nice entertaining read (The Hunger Games fir example). 2: Ones that are in the near future, you can see humans heading in this direction, it is possible that these could happen whilst you're still alive, these books can be really scary. Sealed falls into the second category.

    In this future, the temperature has risen, food has been poisoned by chemicals and plastics in the water. Clean food is grown indoors where it can be kept pure from pollution. The cities spend most of their time shrouded in smog. The way the government tries to deal with it all is to move people into camps... "for their own safety". This all feels like it could be us in the next few years. On top of all this there is a disease spreading which causes skin to grow over any openings on your body.

    The books main characters are Ali and Pete who are expecting their first child and have moved out of the city to escape the disease and smog. They have a nice house with nice views, but there just isn't any way to escape the damage caused to the planet.

    The story has you on the edge of your seat, the last 40 pages are truly incredible, jaw dropping at times. I hope this book gets noticed by loads of readers because it deserves to become one of the top books of 2018.

    Blogpost here>

  • Jackie Law

    “I’d felt it too, the too-muchness of being in love. But I hated Pete for it at the same time. I hated his freedom and how guiltlessly he lived, how easily he took love and gave love, and how much danger he’d put me in. And most of all, I hated that he might be right, that he was living the right way and that I was wrong: too frightened, too careful, too guarded to really enjoy life.”

    Sealed, by Naomi Booth, is set in a near future Australia. Rising temperatures have brought with them

    “I’d felt it too, the too-muchness of being in love. But I hated Pete for it at the same time. I hated his freedom and how guiltlessly he lived, how easily he took love and gave love, and how much danger he’d put me in. And most of all, I hated that he might be right, that he was living the right way and that I was wrong: too frightened, too careful, too guarded to really enjoy life.”

    Sealed, by Naomi Booth, is set in a near future Australia. Rising temperatures have brought with them storms and deadly heat events. Wild fires, pollution and other environmental catastrophes make day to day living uncomfortable for all.

    Alice and her partner, Pete, are expecting their first child. With less than a month to go before the baby is due they leave the city, its toxic air and growing climate of fear. They move from their cramped apartment to a remote house overlooking the Blue Mountains. It is planned as a fresh start in cleaner air, somewhere to establish their little family.

    Alice has recently lost her mother. She lives in fear of a new condition known as cutis which causes skin to grow where it should not. People have died and Alice suspects a cover-up as few cases are being reported. Pete believes she is looking for problems that do not exist.

    The government is trying to manage the growing threats from all quarters by moving its poorer citizens into camps where they may be cared for, monitored and controlled. As part of her job in the city housing department, Alice had visited one such camp during its regular inspection. Privately run, it ensured records of residents’ health and behaviour reflected only good practice. Detailed causes of death were not disclosed, the manager citing reasons of patient confidentiality.

    Pete is excited at the prospect of fatherhood. He becomes frustrated when Alice fixates on what he regards as imaginary threats and conspiracies. Eager to fit in he befriend locals. They question why he has taken Alice from the city to a place such as this but will not explain to her what they mean. They regard Alice as a killjoy as they try to make the best of a situation they cannot change. Pete dismisses Alice’s concerns as the irrational behaviour she agreed to leave behind. She mingles with their new acquaintances but cannot put aside her fears.

    “She gasps with laughter and I can’t help it, it’s totally contagious, I’m not even stoned and I start to laugh a bit too. She squeezes my hand again. This is how I used to make friends, when I didn’t see every person and every place as a contagion to be guarded against.”

    With Alice’s due date approaching she tries to register for medical care but what little exists is already overwhelmed. Alice tells Pete she believes she spotted a case of cutis. He does not wish to face such a possibility.

    The tension in the story builds as Alice and Pete’s backgrounds are revealed. The reader cannot be sure if her paranoia is justified, if there is any point in fighting back given the wider situation. The climax is reached when Alice goes into labour. The denouement is horrifying yet somehow inevitable.

    As with the best dystopian fiction this is a parable for today. The reader fears what is being gradually revealed yet cannot look away. Government reactions are all too believable.

    A tale that I flew through and shuddered at the possibilities presented. By the end both Alice and Pete’s behaviours are better understood, the outcome as complex as the circumstances all had to deal with. As grotesque as the premise may be, this is a compelling read.

    My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Dead Ink.

  • Gumble's Yard

    Part of the 2018 Guardian Not The Booker shortlist for which I am delighted to have been picked as a judge.

    This book is published by Dead Ink, a UK small press focused on bringing” the most challenging and experimental new writing out from the underground and present it to our audience in the most beautiful way possible.”

    Impressively Dead Ink have two books on the Guardian 2018 Not The Booker shortlist – this (picked by public vote) and

    picked by last year’

    Part of the 2018 Guardian Not The Booker shortlist for which I am delighted to have been picked as a judge.

    This book is published by Dead Ink, a UK small press focused on bringing” the most challenging and experimental new writing out from the underground and present it to our audience in the most beautiful way possible.”

    Impressively Dead Ink have two books on the Guardian 2018 Not The Booker shortlist – this (picked by public vote) and

    picked by last year’s judges.

    This book could be best described as a near-future dystopian, eco-horror based around pregnancy.

    Perhaps the nearest recent literary equivalents are: the haunting motherhood-based

    (shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker prize); and the fragmentary novella

    – where a new mother flees apocalyptic floods.

    In this book, the first party 30+ weeks pregnant narrator, Alice, has recently left the City (clearly Sydney) to move out to the countryside (The Blue Mountains) together with her partner Pete (who initially comes across as a fairly one-dimensional Aussie bloke).

    For Alice, a worker in the local housing department, it is a chance to move away urban environmental pollution, before it is too late. In particular she is obsessed by a relatively new condition which has emerged – Cutis, first observed in the local waste dump by a down-and-out whose mouth has sealed over, asphyxiating him. Whereas official reports downplay the danger of this condition, Alice, through her work, internet research and blogging is convinced it is far more widespread and common that admitted and has contributed to many deaths ascribed to other conditions (including that of her mother).

    For Pete, he is also looking for a clean start and new environment but the pollution he thinks that they are escaping is Alice’s obsession with the condition which he sees as verging on hysterical – later another male character Paulie drags her away at a barbeque claiming

    . Interestingly as an aside the author, a teacher of creative writing, has an academic specialism in the literary history of swooning.

    Like another book on the Not The Booker shortlist (

    ) – the epigraph is taken from The Book of Job – in this case Job 10:8-11, which in verse 11 says

    .

    However the key text to understanding this book Alice, remembers from her childhood – her single parent mother, estranged from her strict non-conformist British parents, draws on her vet’s assistant experience to comfort Ali through her childhood cuts and scrapes by reassuring her

    Most obviously this comes across in the condition Cutis. Even after the first outbreaks an expert diagnoses a potential link with pollution and with the skin’s mechanisms:

    However what is impressive about the novel is how the same ideas are also examined from different angles.

    The Cutis disease exacerbates two existing divides in society between the privileged and the disadvantaged: the rich increasingly sealing themselves off from the poor; the first world seeking to seal itself off from the third world.

    And, even more chillingly, the authorities use the state of environmental crisis to facilitate aggressive policies which further exacerbate this divide: shutting down on rural services, carrying out a form of socio-ethnic cleansing aimed at the poor, the rural and the original native population – who are encouraged to displaced people’s camps; and ramping up the use of offshore displaced people’s camps to stop would-be immigrants reaching the mainland. A reader cannot help me reminded of the way in which the financial crisis was used to justify austerity policies.

    And then the same theme of “sealing off” is examined more personally in terms of Alice and her relationships. Alice is, an introvert, and also someone who has sealed herself of emotionally – unwilling to expose herself to the dangers of relationships and make herself vulnerable to hurt. When she first realises Pete, a childhood friend, loves her she thinks

    . When she does open up to Pete, and is hurt, her mental skin seals back over and she holds herself back from any future commitment – even after the unplanned pregnancy forces them back together.

    After her first enthusiasm and betrayal she reflects on relationships that

    – an interesting counterpoint to the title of “Raising Sparks” (which is taken from its Job-sourced epigraph).

    Her emotional distance applied also to her mother – in fact she realises that Pete as a child was closer to her mother, who Alice pushed away; and now that distance and sealing off threatens to apply to her unborn child.

    The author, with past success as a short story and novella writer, makes a very successful transition to the novel form – managing to pack in a range of themes in in a relatively short novel.

    And just as these themes have been explored, the book then ends in a horrific, visceral, but still intriguingly open, climax.

    Recommended.

  • Rachel  Drenning

    Wow. When a book is written in a context that could actually happen, that's horror. I highly, highly recommend this book.

  • Noa

    This was quick and original and intensely creepy! Don't think Pete worked as a character and didn't fancy the ending, but entertaining nonetheless.

  • Trisha

    This was an interesting if jumbled read. I liked the uncertainty and the real horror of it. But I didn't like the feeling of really wondering what was going on and if the MC Alice was just imagining it all or if it was really happening. I felt like the world was just barely opened up to us, with so much more possibility. Was Alice really breathing anything in? I wanted so much more world and information less about Alice's own musing and m

    This was an interesting if jumbled read. I liked the uncertainty and the real horror of it. But I didn't like the feeling of really wondering what was going on and if the MC Alice was just imagining it all or if it was really happening. I felt like the world was just barely opened up to us, with so much more possibility. Was Alice really breathing anything in? I wanted so much more world and information less about Alice's own musing and memories. It's an original story, for sure, and an interesting horror idea.

  • Ian Mond

    I’m going to take a punt here and say that Sealed by Naomi Booth will be the most frustrating book I read all year.

    There is so much about this novel I enjoyed ranging from Booth’s visceral, exquisitely grotesque prose to her social commentary on how society treats the poor and elderly. Beyond the body horror, the most disturbing aspect of the novel is how quickly those who can’t defend themselves have their basic rights stripped from them, leaving no choice but to submit to displacem

    I’m going to take a punt here and say that Sealed by Naomi Booth will be the most frustrating book I read all year.

    There is so much about this novel I enjoyed ranging from Booth’s visceral, exquisitely grotesque prose to her social commentary on how society treats the poor and elderly. Beyond the body horror, the most disturbing aspect of the novel is how quickly those who can’t defend themselves have their basic rights stripped from them, leaving no choice but to submit to displacement camps established by the Government. The suggestion that these people are abused and indentured to possible private interests reminded me of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. (Margaret Atwood borrowed a similar idea in her 2015 novel The Heart Goes Last). The idea persists, not surprising given the current political climate and the western world’s treatment of the disenfranchised.

    So, yes, when the novel plays to its strengths – the gore, the social commentary – it’s a delight to read, which makes it all the more frustrating that Booth’s depiction of Australia is so darn lazy. Now, I’m sure Booth either visited Australia on holiday or spent a few years here or gave a draft of the novel to a bunch of Australian mates, but whatever feedback back she got both from her own experiences and those of others it doesn’t translate into her representation of the country or its people. Booth’s setting is a tourist’s narrow take on Sydney and New South Wales. Her small country town in the Blue Mountains could be located on Mars for all its similarities to a place situated on the east coast of Australia. But worse is her stereotypical, shrimp on the barbie, Crocodile Dundee portrayal of the people. We’re all racists – the word “abbo” is flung around with abandon – and we’re misogynists – all the men are objectifying arseholes. I know, I know Australia has its fair share of racists and misogynists, just look at the guys representing us in Parliament. I’m also cognisant that there’s a shift in language and a greater preponderance of Aussie slang when you leave the major cities, but Booth’s depiction lacks authenticity. It’s inconsistent in tone; the prose shifts wildly from elegant language – some of it is indeed quite beautiful – to ockerisms, regularly in the same paragraph.

    If Booth were Australian, I’d still be annoyed, but the fact that she’s an outsider makes it all the more offensive. And here’s the thing there’s nothing about the story that requires it to be set in Australia. If Booth was going for a sense of isolation, I’m sure there are places in the UK or Europe that would have provided the same effect. I’m genuinely bewildered as to why she chose Australia given the inherent risk of not getting it right.

    If you’re not an Aussie, you’ll likely not have the same reaction that I did. I’m sure there are some Australians that will look past the slang and the setting. (Some Aussies may even believe that Booth has nailed us). For me, though, it was a dealbreaker. I’d certainly read more by Booth just not stories set in Australia.

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