Theo Clare - The Book of Sand

SAND. A hostile world of burning sun. Outlines of several once-busy cities shimmer on the horizon. Now empty of inhabitants, their buildings lie in ruins. In the distance a group of people – a family – walk towards us.

Ahead lies shelter: a ‘shuck’ the family call home and which they know they must reach before the light fails, as to be out after dark is to invite danger and almost certain death. To survive in this alien world of shifting sand, they must find an object hidden in or near water. But other families want it too. And they are willing to fight to the death to make it theirs.

It is beginning to rain in Fairfax County, Virginia when McKenzie Strathie wakes up. An ordinary teenage girl living an ordinary life – except that the previous night she found a sand-lizard in her bed, and now she’s beginning to question everything around her, especially who she really is…

Two very different worlds featuring a group of extraordinary characters driven to the very limit of their endurance in a place where only the strongest will survive.


The Book of Sand is an immersive and rich story which will dry out your mouth and scratch your skin with it’s vivid images of the desert and its sparse population. Clinging on by a thread to survival, the family at the centre of this tale are a mis-matched gimcrack bunch, much like the patched up tower they live in.

The main interest in the book is these characters and their lives, which build block by block as the story unfolds and they search for a way to leave the dunes and dry lakes. The mysterious Sarkpoint has been eluded to in some vague instructions they have been given and acts as the focal point to draw the story along, but really the family members are where the story excels. They are deep, thoughtful, and real in their differing reactions to the situations faced as they search abandoned towns for water, resources, and ultimately a way to leave the desert.

In terms of endings, Clare doesn’t do much of the work for you. Having assembled enough clues throughout the book, the reader’s intelligence is respected in a visually dense but information-sparse final chapter, which zips off the page like the flourish on a signature. If you need people to explain “what just happened” at the end of films, you might feel a little unresolved by the shoe-laces that have been left for you to tie up for yourself.

This is an epic story, excellently crafted so you can feel the grit and sharpness experienced by the protagonists.

Fenton
Steve Fenton was Editor in Chief for The Mag and also wrote for DV8 Magazine and Spill Magazine. He was often found in venues across the country alongside ace-photographer, Mark Holloway. Steve studied Psychology at OSC, and Anarchy in the UK: A History of Punk from 1976-1978 at the University of Reading.