British Fiction Focus

A Life in the Day: Revealing Release by Patrick Ness

What a fine time of it Patrick Ness fans have been having! There was the first series of his Doctor Who spin-off, Class, which has been called “a British Buffy” with a touch of Torchwood. Then there was the film adaptation of his Carnegie Award winning novel A Monster Calls: an amazing movie that inexplicably bombed at the box office, shaming cinema-goers such as myself in process.

As delightful as these diversions have been, however, Ness is about to get back to what he’s best at: books. His new novel, Release, is slated for publication in the UK in early May, and it takes place over the course of a single day:

It’s Saturday, it’s summer and, although he doesn’t know it yet, everything in Adam Thorn’s life is going to fall apart. But maybe, just maybe, he’ll find freedom from the release. Time is running out though, because way across town, a ghost has risen from the lake…

Release is being touted as Ness’ “most personal and tender novel yet,” and coming as it does on the back of More Than This and The Rest of Us Just Live Here—two books at bottom about connection and reflection—I dare say that plays.

Ness himself spoke to Buzzfeed recently about how hard it was for him to write Release:

Release is—well, I was going to say it’s an unusual novel for me, but they all have been, I suppose. I always want to frighten myself, challenge myself to do something new. Fear makes you pay attention! And complacency is creative death.

So the challenge this time was taking the incomparable structural model of Mrs Dalloway—could I detail an entire life in just a single day?—and strive for even a fraction of the emotional intensity she gets. It’s one of the very best books in the English language, so what could be scarier?

It also is a very, very personal story for me. It’s about Adam Thorn, 17, living in a very religious American home and having to keep his boyfriend a very strict secret. Yeah, I know what that’s like. Plus, it’s about one of those days where, though you didn’t plan it, everything changes. Everything. And maybe it has to. Maybe you have to let go of some things so you can grab on to the right new things. It’s a hard experience, but you’re bigger at the end. You’re more yourself. You’re ready for what’s next.

Also, there’s a lost soul, shadowing his day. Are they on a collision course?

Why, I imagine they are! But whatever you do, don’t expect any explosions—unless, of course, we’re talking about explosions of emotion. Those I can as good as guarantee, reader.

Now let’s take a closer look at Ben Norland’s clever cover art:


See the faces?

Took me a minute, too! I suppose sometimes you just can’t see the people for the trees…

Release will be released in Great Britain on May 5 by Walker Books.

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.


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