Spare and Found Parts is set in a future dystopian Earth. Where advanced technology is feared and the internet is a hushed legend that nobody is allowed to discuss.
Nell Crane lives with her father in a city hit by an unexplained epidemic. That’s not actually necessary to the plot, so it heightens the mysticism of the story nicely. However, the epidemic has left the residents missing body parts. Nell’s father is a brilliant scientist who specialises in bio-mechanical limbs.
In a city where people coming of age are expected to contribute to the good of society, Nell has nothing. She doesn’t have the ideas of her father and her mother has passed away.
When trawling the beach for washed up parts, she discovers a mannequin’s hand and inspiration hits.
The adventure takes Nell on a coming of age tale as she enlists the help of her friends to develop her controversial plan while keeping it as secret as possible. Throughout the novel she discovers new friends, upsets and alienates old ones. She discovers new places and tries to avoid being shipped off to old ones. Namely her mysterious grandmother in the countryside (the Pasture) whom we never actually meet. She consistently writes to Nell to voice her disapproval at what she’s doing.
I find it interesting that in many futuristic dystopian novels where humans are trying to rebuild their lives, they seem to take themselves back to the 19th century in both aesthetics and they way they live their lives. Spare and Found Parts does this also, but only in places. The aforementioned countryside residence of Nell’s grandmother isn’t explained in detail so as to leave some of it to the imagination. I got the feeling of a place similar to the historical plantations. Though without the slavery. Nell lives in a city which still has remnants of the past so would look more advanced than the 19th century in terms of design. But the popular night spot The Bayou comes across as an old western style saloon with drinking, dancing and gambling. Though again, much of this is left to the imagination.
There’s a wonderful moment in the novel where Nell gets to listen to some non-live music and it really made me smile. Because the way the scene is written, you don’t quite realise what it is she’s discovered. Both in terms of the technology she has and what it is she’s listening to. Griffin describes the scene perfectly as someone who has literally listened to electronic music for the first time.
In fact the book is littered with these instances. Griffin is certainly poetic in her story telling and it shows throughout the novel. Each chapter flows beautifully and small but important aspects are thoroughly covered. Such as Nell struggling when she has to use excessive energy due to her mechanical heart. It won’t increase it’s rate to adapt to situations.
Arguably the main thread of the story is of a girl who is expected to do great things and the pressures that it involves. We follow her progress through the tricky part of her ascent into adulthood with no mother figure and a father who is loving but consumed in his work; so is largely absent. She has friends in the way of a “chalk and cheese” style girl friend that rarely understands her and a chap who is smitten with her.
In a current world where writers, film makers et al are excluding or under-representing gay or bisexual people, I got an overwhelming feeling that Nell is in fact the latter. She talks of boys and girls in with romantic appreciation and has an obvious crush on the girl in The Bayou. But the descriptive terms aren’t actually mentioned in the book. But then to use them, would that come across as pretentious and trying too hard? Possibly. By simply having Nell as this person without the need for explanation, it dissolves any possibility of “token gay” criticism.
As with many novels, there’s an interesting twist at the end along with heart breaking decisions and sacrifices that Nell has to make. All while under considerable pressure to come up with a technological marvel to help the society evolve.
It’s a hearty read and thoroughly enjoyable. The story is well paced and in places where there’s not a great deal of “adventure”, the conversations make up for the lack of action. Attention to detail is excellent and I even like the red edging on the pages.
Initial release: Spare and Found Parts press release
Buy the book from Amazon for £8.99 paperback or £4.31 on eBook: Spare and Found Parts on Amazon