Review: Line by Niall Bourke (2021)


That’s the problem thinks Willard.
In the Line the dead still have a say, and their say counts for double.
It’s a necrocracy and so everyone left alive walks into tomorrow facing backwards. 

Willard, his mother, and his girlfriend Nyla have spent their entire lives in an endless procession, where daily survival is dictated by the ultimate imperative: obey the rules, or lose your place in the Line.

Everything changes the day Willard’s mother dies and he finds a book hidden among her few belongings.

Line is speculative fiction at its most ambitious, leading the reader on a journey to make sense of a world that is ultimately not so different from our own.

A stunning debut from a major new voice in Irish literature.


A big thank you to the author for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review – and apologies that it took me a while to get to it!

I thought this book was utterly brilliant. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea how to write a review of it, because the danger of spoilers is ever-present. I am going to have to keep this much briefer than I would like, and implore you to trust me, read it, and then find someone who has read it to talk to about it. I’ve already pressed it on my husband and said he’s got a week before Line: The Book Club.

Here is the little that I can say: as I stated on Twitter, this book is like steampunk Cormac McCarthy. It has echoes of The Road, and the same McCarthy-esque blend of beauty and violence. From the start, it grabs you and throws you into the dystopian world of the novel, a future which gradually becomes more terrifyingly plausible as the driving forces are revealed.

I read Line in one sitting, completely captivated by Bourke’s vision. There were three or four points where I had to close the book and take deep breaths, so shocking and emotional were the revelations laid out on the page. But as well as being an incredibly powerful, intelligent novel, it is also sharp-witted, full of a dark humour and a sense of knowingness that adds a real frisson to the unfolding narrative. It isn’t exactly parody – it’s something more complex – a sly, wry turning inside-out of our own stark reality, and yet there is love at its centre, there are characters to root for, and the experience of reading is not entirely bleak.

I wish I could say more, I really do, but I can feel myself teetering close to spoilers as it is, so I will stop there. If you enjoy speculative fiction, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of the genre. And when you’ve finished, you’ll understand exactly why I am I so desperate to talk about this sharp, clever, original, terrifying novel.

Line by Niall Bourke is published by Tramp Press and is available to purchase here.


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