Review: Finitude by Hamish MacDonald

Finitude by Hamish MacDonald

Photo: Structo (CC BY 2.0)

Hamish MacDonald is the author of four novels and the creator of the DIY Book podcast. It was this last that I heard of first a number of years ago, and it struck a chord. The idea of being in control of the publishing process right from the first germ of an idea through the writing and printing and binding all the way to selling the finished book online was (and is) an intriguing one. The project is now complete and the complete archive is accessible for free at the link above. I highly recommend you have a look if you’re interested in publishing your own writing.

It was with this background that a few of us met MacDonlad last year at the International Alternative Press Fair in London. I almost always leave events like the IAPF having spent our entire take on small press books and magazines, and that day wasn’t any different. One of the things I picked up was MacDonald’s novel Finitude, an adventure story set in the midst of catastrophic climate change. This year I’m supposedly catching up with my unread backlog, or at least making a sizeable dent in it, and so a few weeks ago I finally got around to reading Finitude.

I shouldn’t have waited so long — it’s a great little book.

Although set in an almost-Earth engulfed by the devastating effects of changing climate, it doesn’t read like a polemic. It remembers to be an entertaining story first; it’s a fable of climate change. It helps that MacDonald has Douglas Adams’ ear for dialogue. The world might be falling apart around them, but the characters in Finitude never sound anything other than human. Wittier than most of us, but human nonetheless. It is this bounding good nature that carries the episodic narrative through to the book’s beautifully gauged conclusion.

Even if this was a normal book I’d recommend it, but if you are interested in DIY publishing, you need to pick up one of MacDonald’s creations, if only to understand the kind of quality that is achievable by doing things on your own. Finitude is beautifully written, strongly edited (often a key failing of self-published books), well designed and constructed. I’ll be reading more, and so should you.

— Euan

You can read/listen to chapter one of Finitude, or buy a copy, here.

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