The Down Days
THE BOOK OF M MEETS DISTRICT 19 IN A FAST PACED, CHARACTER-DRIVEN LITERARY APOCALYPTIC NOVEL THAT EXPLORES LIFE, LOVE, AND LOSS IN A POST-TRUTH SOCIETY.In the aftermath of a deadly outbreak - reminiscent of the 1962 event of mass hysteria that was the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic - a city at the tip of Africa is losing its mind, with residents experiencing hallucinations and paranoia. Is it simply another episode of mass hysteria, or something more sinister? Ina quarantined city in which the inexplicable has already occurred, rumors, superstitions, and conspiracy theories abound.During these strange days, Faith works as a full time corpse collector and a freelance "truthologist", putting together disparate pieces of information to solve problems. But after Faith agrees to help an orphaned girl find her abducted baby brother, she begins to wonder whether the boy is even real. Meanwhile, a young man named Sans who trades in illicit goods is so distracted by a glimpse of his dream woman that he lets a bag of money he owes his gang partners go missing - leaving him desperately searching for both and soon questioning his own sanity.Over the course of a single week, the paths of faith, Sans, and a cast of other hustlers - including a data dealer, a drug addict, a sin eater, and a hyena man - will cross and intertwine as they move about the city, looking for lost souls, uncertain absolution, and answers that may not exist.RUNNING TIME ⇒ 10hrs. and 30mins.©2020 Ilze Hugo (P)2020 Simon & Schuster Audio

The Down Days Details

TitleThe Down Days
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 1st, 1970
Rating
GenreScience Fiction, Fiction, Dystopia

The Down Days Review

  • Faith
    January 1, 1970
    “As a pony man – the best, mind you, in this Sick City – he made a living dealing in real, 100 percent human hair, which a network of street kids and a convent of swindling sisters procured for him by all manner of means. It was the Down Days, sure, and Sick City was worse off than most, but chicks still dug their weaves, and a full head of hair cost a pretty penny.”The story takes place in an African city 7 years after the start of a pandemic of unknown origin. The disease is called the Laughte “As a pony man – the best, mind you, in this Sick City – he made a living dealing in real, 100 percent human hair, which a network of street kids and a convent of swindling sisters procured for him by all manner of means. It was the Down Days, sure, and Sick City was worse off than most, but chicks still dug their weaves, and a full head of hair cost a pretty penny.”The story takes place in an African city 7 years after the start of a pandemic of unknown origin. The disease is called the Laughter because it’s victims first laugh uncontrollably, followed by fevers, breathing difficulties and death. The main protagonists are Faith, who picks up corpses and also has a side occupation as a truthologist (sort of a PI), and Sans, who is an all around hustler but primarily a dealer in human hair. The two ultimately intersect in a quest to find a missing infant and possibly a cure for the Laughter. The book also introduces a lot of other characters struggling to get by in Sick City. The book uses some South African terms, but there is a Glossary at the end of the book that explains them. I recently read “The End of October” by Lawrence Wright. That book was quite prescient about the start of a pandemic. Let’s hope that “Down Days is not equally prescient about what the world might look like 7 years from now if there is no vaccine for Covid-19. There were many things in this book that hit close to home, and many more that seem more plausible now than they did 2 months ago. Does this sound familiar: “A few suckers even started drinking diluted bleach, thinking it would cure them from the inside out.”? In this post apocalyptic world people are regularly scanned to prove that they are healthy. Masks are worn at all times. Conspiracy theories abound about who spread the disease and why. Cell phone apps were used for medical screening (until they were hacked). Therapy bars let you beat up the target of your choice to relieve stress. Professional athletes are screened daily. All borders have been closed. There are no handshakes, elbow bumps only. Smog is caused by the constant cremations. Truth is invalidated. Public laughter is a crime. There are shortages of cleaning products and long lines at groceries. Establishment entrances have buckets of chlorine to dip your hands into. This book was very fast paced, imaginative and entertaining. The last 20% took a supernatural turn that was abrupt, confusing and unconvincing, but overall I liked this book a lot. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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  • Dave
    January 1, 1970
    "The Down Days" is part of a book of new wave of African literature that has sailed across the Atlantic in recent years. There's a lot of real interesting stuff coming from all over these days. What's common about this new wave is that the fantasies seem to be a bit looser. Here, we are treated to a South Africa beset by a laughing plague that begins with giggling and ends in death. Taxi drivers aren't needed so much as gatherers of the dead. The city is filled with orphans and people seeking re "The Down Days" is part of a book of new wave of African literature that has sailed across the Atlantic in recent years. There's a lot of real interesting stuff coming from all over these days. What's common about this new wave is that the fantasies seem to be a bit looser. Here, we are treated to a South Africa beset by a laughing plague that begins with giggling and ends in death. Taxi drivers aren't needed so much as gatherers of the dead. The city is filled with orphans and people seeking refuge. There are truthologists as well because of all the conspiracies going around. There are cults. There are thin lines between real and imagined. An orphaned girl named Tomorrow hunts for her missing brother but the records show he expired months earlier. It's a richly imagined world, twisted just a degree from this one. Personally though, this wasn't for me. Somewhere along the line I lost the storyline and lost interest.
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  • Tzipora
    January 1, 1970
    Ponytail thieves! Ghosts! A pet hyena! A sin eater! A missing diary that may have predicted the future as well as containing a cure to an ongoing pandemic! Secret library! Do I have your attention yet?In the aftermath of a deadly pandemic-one where the key symptom is laughter- residents of Sick City, a quarantined city on the tip of Africa, are losing their minds with hallucinations , paranoia, and visions of the dead. Is it simply more mass hysteria or something more sinister? In a city where t Ponytail thieves! Ghosts! A pet hyena! A sin eater! A missing diary that may have predicted the future as well as containing a cure to an ongoing pandemic! Secret library! Do I have your attention yet?In the aftermath of a deadly pandemic-one where the key symptom is laughter- residents of Sick City, a quarantined city on the tip of Africa, are losing their minds with hallucinations , paranoia, and visions of the dead. Is it simply more mass hysteria or something more sinister? In a city where the inexplicable has already occurred, rumors, superstition, & conspiracy theories abound. Follow Faith, corpse collector by day, puzzle solving truthologist in her spare time, as she attempts to help a young girl find her missing brother who may or nay not be real in the first place. Then there’s Sans, illicit hair dealer, who becomes so enthralled by a mysterious woman that he lets a bag of money he owes his “business partners” go missing. On a desperate quest for both, he begins to question how own sanity. Told over the course of just one week, Faith, Sans, and motley crew of others- a security guard with a pet hyena, a data dealer, a sin eater, and more- are each searching for answers in a city where nothing is as it seems. If you read one pandemic novel during this time, it should be this one! I know not everyone is feeling up to reading books like this one and I had requested my copy from Net Galley months before our own “down days” of sorts came upon us. If anything though, living through a real life pandemic adds to the whole experience of reading this and I’m so glad I did. Ilze Hugo is a phenomenally talented writer. I fell in love with her writing style by the second or third page. It’s sharp, filled with unique description, and a viewpoint unlike any other I’ve encountered. The characters are all offbeat in their own individual and different ways and you want to get to know them. You want to see where this wild ride will take you. It’s addictive. Plus scroll back up to my first paragraph for a moment. Tell me that doesn’t sound awesome, right? And it is!I’ve simply never read a book quite like this one. I had no idea what was going to happen and couldn’t even begin to guess. Best to just buckle up, pop your face mask on, and enjoy the ride. And what a ride it is! I was glad I read it on my Kindle because there’s a number of references to South African animals, slang, alternative medicine, and a sprinkling of Afrikaans. Nothing too confusing but being able to quickly look those bits and pieces up added to the experience for me. It, in addition to the incredible writing, made the book come alive for me. And reading it in the time of COVID-19 added to the experience as well. For me it was just the right blend of uncannily familiar things- the ubiquity of face masks and gloves, a quarantined city, the number of unknown aspects and distrust in government leading to all kinds of conspiracy theories and even a fringe group who baths one bleach! Yet there’s also so much that is different as well from the popularity yet difficulty in acquiring weaves (and hence the ponytail thievery), the fact that in this case it’s the city that is quarantined so our characters aren’t stuck at home but they are stuck within the city, and so much more. Hugo has a way of subverting the utter absurdity of living in a pandemic and running with it and it makes for one heck of an adventure and wild ride!I also love when an author can get across a deeper message or make you think but manage to do it in a way where you’re having so much fun with the text, you don’t even fully realize or mind that beneath it you’re also thinking about those deeper issues. There’s a really timely aspect of that happening here. This feels a bit like a near future where we’ve pushed and stretched the idea of truth and listening to both sides so far that it has all begun to lose meaning. And as heavy as that may sound, the sheer talent of Hugo’s storytelling and writing means it doesn’t feel that way. It grounded this story a bit for me but I was so wrapped up in chasing these characters forward too. It straddles this fantastic line of giving me plenty to think about but secondary to just having a ton of fun with this. I bet you never thought reading a pandemic novel during an actual pandemic could be fun, right? It is with this one. I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed this book plenty had I read it pre-Coronavirus but I’m so glad I read it now. More than any other book, this will be the one I most remember and connect to this wild and weird time in our real world. Sick of being stuck at home & yearning for an adventure? You’ll get that here and so much more. And did I mention that hyena? The mysterious diary? That underground library?! This book candy, a delicious treat, unexpectedly exactly the book I needed right now and I strongly suspect it may be just the adventure you need now as well. Let this be *the* pandemic novel you read right now!
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  • Ana
    January 1, 1970
    I’d only meant to read a few pages, see how I liked it and soon enough I found myself hooked. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the twist that happens halfway through (it moved the story in a different direction than I’d anticipated and made a bit of a mess out of it), it was a fast-paced, entertaining read. And since this is a debut, I can safely say I’ve discovered a new author to watch out for. A bookish win-win!
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  • Heather Lou Reads
    January 1, 1970
    *I want to thank the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to review this book!*The quirkiness of this book was super entertaining. I loved the mystery of the novel until the end. It kept me on the edge of my seat up until the last page. The laughing disease that leaves it's victims into bleeding mush before death has taken a toll on the locked down city. People who haven't been infected with the disease are able to have jobs, carry cell phones and still interact with their peers, but under ex *I want to thank the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to review this book!*The quirkiness of this book was super entertaining. I loved the mystery of the novel until the end. It kept me on the edge of my seat up until the last page. The laughing disease that leaves it's victims into bleeding mush before death has taken a toll on the locked down city. People who haven't been infected with the disease are able to have jobs, carry cell phones and still interact with their peers, but under extreme guidelines. Face masks and gloves are a must, which the novel explains multiple times. While people still move on with their lives under constant worry and fear, there is still no cure for this mysterious disease.I thought the ghost aspect of this novel was unique and that was one of the main reasons I was so intrigued the entire novel! The only negative I have is there are too many perspectives we read from. That was a little confusing, but other than that, I thought this was a wild ride of a novel that I highly recommend!
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  • caroline
    January 1, 1970
    I wanted to love this book so much, and not just because of the Book of M comparisons, but it ultimately fell flat. The pacing was so erratic- the first 75% of the novel felt like background exposition, the next 24% was the buildup to the climax, and then the entire conflict was hastily resolved in the two pages of the epilogue. Looking back, I can see some vague attempts at foreshadowing, but they were so underdeveloped in context that I didn't find the ending satisfying at all. I think the cha I wanted to love this book so much, and not just because of the Book of M comparisons, but it ultimately fell flat. The pacing was so erratic- the first 75% of the novel felt like background exposition, the next 24% was the buildup to the climax, and then the entire conflict was hastily resolved in the two pages of the epilogue. Looking back, I can see some vague attempts at foreshadowing, but they were so underdeveloped in context that I didn't find the ending satisfying at all. I think the characters were the stronger point of the story- I was partial to Faith and Tomorrow in particular- but while their storylines intertwined almost from the get-go, they didn't mesh well until the last quarter of the book, by which point it almost felt too late.This story has such good bones- the ghosts, the Joke, the cast of main characters- but it was frustratingly undeveloped. The sickness itself is never addressed in any way, with regards to its origins and potential cure; the book that Faith begins to decipher just vanishes from the plot without explanation; the kidnapped child plotline moves from point A to point B with almost no explanation. A disappointed 3.5/5 stars.
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  • Paula Lyle
    January 1, 1970
    Timing is everything! I would have liked this book no matter when I read it, but right now locked inside my house added a layer of verisimilitude that would have been lacking at another time. How do we survive when the world is collapsing? What can we hold onto when everything is disappearing? Family is one answer and if we lose our own we can build another. Great book with a sense of hope woven throughout. Highly recommend!I received an eARC through NetGalley.
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  • Jordan Stivers
    January 1, 1970
    A really fascinating read, particularly for these times. I won't lie, I read this one slower than I usually would because it was so immersive that my anxiety kick up. It was just too real! It may have been due to this (which is totally on me because the novel is wonderfully written) but it took me a while to connect to the characters. Faith was the first one I really meshed with and ended up being my favorite of the several POVs because I liked the weight and history to her having lived before t A really fascinating read, particularly for these times. I won't lie, I read this one slower than I usually would because it was so immersive that my anxiety kick up. It was just too real! It may have been due to this (which is totally on me because the novel is wonderfully written) but it took me a while to connect to the characters. Faith was the first one I really meshed with and ended up being my favorite of the several POVs because I liked the weight and history to her having lived before the Laughter came. Once I hit the halfway mark, I was enjoying it more as more of the fantastical/supernatural side of the plot came out. I often highlighted lines simply for how awesome the prose was. No words are wasted in this story and you can feel the impact of them on a visceral level. You get to experience a lot of different characters throughout the story. I liked how characters would dip in and out of being the POV for chapters based on their involvement in the plot, which is a nice take on the more traditional 'here's the four POVs you'll always see' that many novels take. In the end, I liked it. I probably missed a lot of the symbolism (though the repetition of hyenas was a great touch) but in the end it's a story about people and how they cope/overcome a crazy situation. It's a lesson we could all use right now. Note: I received a free Kindle edition of this book via NetGalley in exchange for the honest review above. I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher Gallery Books, and the author Ilze Hugo for the opportunity to do so.
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  • Diane Hernandez
    January 1, 1970
    The Down Days is about an African epidemic of laughter that quickly turns sour when it is found to be 100% fatal. It is based on a real pandemic of mass delusions that happened in Tanzania in 1962. The Down Days seems like it is a news report from our present day pandemic. Unfortunately, the setting in the book has much in common with our own troubled times. Shortages, PPE, stay-at-home orders, home delivery, masses of bodies, and a feeling that life is never going to return to normal are all he The Down Days is about an African epidemic of laughter that quickly turns sour when it is found to be 100% fatal. It is based on a real pandemic of mass delusions that happened in Tanzania in 1962. The Down Days seems like it is a news report from our present day pandemic. Unfortunately, the setting in the book has much in common with our own troubled times. Shortages, PPE, stay-at-home orders, home delivery, masses of bodies, and a feeling that life is never going to return to normal are all here. The only difference is we have people dying from too little oxygen and the characters are dying from too much laughter. The middle of the book is where we currently are—paranoid theories abound about what started the virus including their own government and foreign ones. I just pray that we don’t get hit with the twists at the end.This tale was written by a South African author in 2019 or earlier. It is eerily spot-on about what happens during a pandemic. If you don’t mind reading a fictional tale based on a real pandemic in 1962 Tanzania, I believe you will enjoy this book. It is a compelling read with a surprising twist at the end. 4 stars!Thanks to Skybound Books, Gallery Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Aimee Dars
    January 1, 1970
    Seven years ago, the Laughing sickness appeared in Sick Town. Basically abandoned, with no outside governments or organizations appearing to provide possible supplies, cures, or vaccines, it has only a limited connection to the world outside, which seems to be spared the disease. Now quarantined, residents must wear masks and gloves, submit to daily medical checks, and acclimate to a city with a crippled supply chain and an unreliable government where taxis now transport the dead. It’s a city wh Seven years ago, the Laughing sickness appeared in Sick Town. Basically abandoned, with no outside governments or organizations appearing to provide possible supplies, cures, or vaccines, it has only a limited connection to the world outside, which seems to be spared the disease. Now quarantined, residents must wear masks and gloves, submit to daily medical checks, and acclimate to a city with a crippled supply chain and an unreliable government where taxis now transport the dead. It’s a city where people have developed new rituals. No one wants to shake hands, so the elbow bump came into fashion, and polite smiles have disappeared since mouths are behind masks.Tomorrow, a young orphan who is her brother Elliot's sole caretaker, visits the old museum which has turned into a flea market. While shopping, someone steals him from his stroller. Faith, a former taxi driver, now a “dead collector” and a truthologist in her spare time,  agrees to help Tomorrow.On the same day, Sans, a black-market hustler, spots his dream woman, and he is so enamored, he implores his employee, Lucky, to make a drop for him. Not only does the woman disappear, Lucky never delivers the payment, and Sans’s business partners demand their due.In the following week, the two stories intertwine as Faith and Sans independently encouter a Sin-Eater, an underground librarian, a hacker who provides information from outside the city, and the caretaker of a strange convent that fetishizes hair. Meanwhile, the residents of Sick City become increasingly malcontent as rumors and conspiracy theories as well as a rash of hallucinations proliferate.Faith wonders if she can really help Tomorrow find Elliot—or if Elliot is just a vision—and if the quest will take her too deep into the past to recover while Sans struggles with morality and mortality.Reading The Down Days by Ilze Hugo during quarantine is certainly strange and uncomfortably realistic. For example, masks as fashion accessories were mentioned, and it was both funny and tragic when a charlatan at the market sold a bleach solution to drink as a cure for the Laughing disease. Not concerned with the outbreak itself, the novel is more interested in what happens in a contained city and the long-term effects on the residents. I thought the world building was fabulous, and I was completely engrossed. The point of view shifts between several characters which seems important in this book partly to present a larger view of the city and partly because no one is completely reliable, and multiple perspectives provides some triangulation. Confident, playful, and insightful, the writing style is fabulous, and I was amazed that the novel is Hugo’s book-length debut.I do wish, though, there was more to the ending. It felt a little rushed to me, and I’m not sure how certain events described in the epilogue came to be. The resolution for the primary characters, though, was satisfying, and I enjoyed reading the book.Thank you to NetGalley and Skybound Books for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Lydia
    January 1, 1970
    What a book to read during the time of COVID-19
  • Celeste
    January 1, 1970
    In Sick City, South Africa laughter is illegal. A laughing sickness has killed a swath of the population and leaves in their wake, government mandated health checkpoints daily and a economy of fight clubs and the like. Think District 9 meets Bladerunner. Our cast of characters include a ghost-napper, dead collector/ private eye, a security guard with a pet hyena, and pony tail thief whose stories twist and turn like a roller coaster, intersecting and looping around one another. A fun fast-paced In Sick City, South Africa laughter is illegal. A laughing sickness has killed a swath of the population and leaves in their wake, government mandated health checkpoints daily and a economy of fight clubs and the like. Think District 9 meets Bladerunner. Our cast of characters include a ghost-napper, dead collector/ private eye, a security guard with a pet hyena, and pony tail thief whose stories twist and turn like a roller coaster, intersecting and looping around one another. A fun fast-paced read with a sprinkle of magical realism.
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  • Luz Trevino
    January 1, 1970
    Rating: 3 stars Thank you to the publisher for the the ARC given through NetGalley for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The Down Days was not an easy story for me to read at this moment due the pandemic that our characters are trying to survive and sadly so are we. But....overall it was an interesting story. It’s told from several POVs but it was easy to follow. These characters are living day by day with fear. Fear of the disease, the government and the religious. They do their best b Rating: 3 stars Thank you to the publisher for the the ARC given through NetGalley for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The Down Days was not an easy story for me to read at this moment due the pandemic that our characters are trying to survive and sadly so are we. But....overall it was an interesting story. It’s told from several POVs but it was easy to follow. These characters are living day by day with fear. Fear of the disease, the government and the religious. They do their best but at times the choices they made come back to haunt them. There are some paranormal elements towards the end of the story that I was left a little confused with. This is the first book I read by this author and I did like her style of writing. I look forwards to more of her work.
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  • Clever Cat
    January 1, 1970
    It was okay. The South African location was interesting. And reading this in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic gave it an extra eerie feel. What made it less enjoyable for me, was the large amount of characters. I don’t really love head-hopping in books. Listening to it as an audiobook made it a little more difficult to keep track.
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  • Darrell
    January 1, 1970
    In The Down Days, a laughter epidemic (similar to the real-life Tanganyika laughter epidemic) infects Cape Town, South Africa and the name of the city gets changed to Sick City. It's forbidden to laugh in public and people are required to get tested daily for the disease. Due to everyone wearing masks all the time, lips become fetishized and giggle porn becomes a thing. The laughter disease is largely off-screen for most of the book, which was a bit disappointing. There should have been a scene In The Down Days, a laughter epidemic (similar to the real-life Tanganyika laughter epidemic) infects Cape Town, South Africa and the name of the city gets changed to Sick City. It's forbidden to laugh in public and people are required to get tested daily for the disease. Due to everyone wearing masks all the time, lips become fetishized and giggle porn becomes a thing. The laughter disease is largely off-screen for most of the book, which was a bit disappointing. There should have been a scene early on featuring someone cracking up in public.With everyone wearing masks, people selling homemade toilet paper, people drinking bleach thinking it will cure them, schools shut down, online funerals, temperature checks, elbow bumps replacing handshakes, and people thinking the whole thing is just a hoax, the novel hits a little close to home right now. I can't help wondering if a few of these references were added after COVID-19 hit.In order to stop the laughing disease from spreading, there's an internet blackout, however this leads to something called withdrawal rage. People vent their rage at places called therapy bars where you can beat up people dressed in costumes. Personally, I'd think an internet blackout would cause people to be happier since social media tends to make people angry. Also, catharsis theory (the idea that screaming or punching pillows reduces your anger) hasn't been backed up by evidence, and if anything, seems to make people angrier.One of the characters we meet along the way is Faith. She's a dead collector, someone who transports corpses for a living. She's also a private detective in her spare time. Her latest case involves searching for a missing child. Faith pretentiously calls herself a truthologist, however she believes the truth is subjective. She's also a conspiracy theorist, but this is a good thing because it allows her to find patterns in random data. Given this setup, I was expecting her to solve the mystery by putting together a bunch of seemingly random clues, but disappointingly, she doesn't.Sans, our other major character, is also searching for a missing child. He's a ponyjacker, someone who makes a living by cutting off women's hair and selling it. He's a foolish skeptic who doesn't believe in ghosts or magic, even though ghosts are real.We're given the point of view of a few other characters, but Faith and Sans are the two we spend the most time with. We also meet a sin-eater, a security guard who has a pet hyena, and a group of nuns who cut hair as part of their religious practice. I didn't realize one of the characters, Lucky, was a child until about halfway through.There's a secret library only certain people can go to which offers multiple perspectives on history. Since regular libraries also offer multiple perspectives on what is true, I don't know why this library has to be secret. The conspiracy theory newspaper the characters read isn't forbidden, so I don't know why anything in the secret library would have to be kept hidden, but it is.Something a bit problematic about the book is one of the characters is a schizophrenic who realizes he should stop taking his pills so he can see ghosts again. Is the book trying to tell us mentally ill people shouldn't take their medication? I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume this character's situation is a unique one.The following quote from John Lennon is repeated several times in the book, so I think it's safe to assume this is its main theme:"I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind."Since it's impossible to disprove anything (the best you can do is point out that something has an extremely low probability), believing in everything that hasn't been disproved means you have to believe in everything, even things that contradict each other. You have to believe that the world is both round and flat. You'd have to believe that ghosts both do and don't exist.This isn't practical, though. Even if you believe you can fly, you're not going to actually jump off a cliff and expect to soar through the air. So what you believe doesn't matter, unless you act on it. As long as your beliefs don't harm others, go ahead and believe in dragons and fairies. However, distrust in science can do real harm. (For example, Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa from 1999 to 2008, didn’t believe HIV is the cause of AIDS. His government therefor denied people treatment which resulted in over 330,000 deaths.)At one point, a character says science is the same as religion, which I took issue with. Science isn't a belief system, but rather a method for eliminating bias, and it's led to a lot of good in the world. In fact, billions of lives have been saved by scientific discoveries over the years. Toilets, synthetic fertilizers, blood transfusions, the green revolution, and vaccines have each saved a billion lives each. Pasteurization, water chlorination, antibiotics, antimalarial drugs, and the bifurcated needle (which eliminated smallpox) have saved millions of lives each. Even satellites have saved a quarter million lives by accurately forecasting natural disasters. How many lives have been saved by believing in fairies and dragons?Science denial aside, there were a lot of great lines in this book like references to people packed into a cab like Tetris blocks, a bruise throbbing like techno, a view to make your jaw dislocate, and the blinking light on a cell compared to the blinking lights on a bomb right before it goes off. It was interesting to learn that the South African Police Force actually has an Occult Related Crimes Unit. There were also a lot of fun pop culture references. A fun read, even if the characters don't value all the good things science has done for them.
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  • Matthew
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars.It feels like eons have passed since that first week. Yet I remember it just like yesterday. The naysayers dismissing it for another strain of flu (I too was guilty, at first). The endless chirping of my phone as each news notification came in, confirming it was more than just the flu. The cancelled events. The announcements from famous people who’d tested positive. The sudden, seemingly overnight transition to a mostly-virtual existence. It was as exhilarating as it was exhausting. Ea 3.5 stars.It feels like eons have passed since that first week. Yet I remember it just like yesterday. The naysayers dismissing it for another strain of flu (I too was guilty, at first). The endless chirping of my phone as each news notification came in, confirming it was more than just the flu. The cancelled events. The announcements from famous people who’d tested positive. The sudden, seemingly overnight transition to a mostly-virtual existence. It was as exhilarating as it was exhausting. Each day felt like three, if not more. We never thought it would let up. But as we learned more, the speeding bullet that was that first week began to slow down. Incrementally, sure, but slowed down nonetheless. With it, we adapted. Despite all uncertainty we began to assimilate. The new normal became routine.A lot of what came out of that first week remains today. Most certainly the uncertainty. But now it’s to be expected, what with every other ad calling out “these uncertain times” as though we needed reminding that Pizza Hut is here for us no matter what. The pandemic that centers Ilze Hugo’s inventive and ambitious debut, The Down Days, is not one mistaken for flu. Nor is it one that has gone global in its affection rate. It’s not even in its first week of existence, as I’d posited in the paragraphs above (it’s 7 years in). In fact, it’s literally a “Joke” – an epidemic of sudden and uncontrollable laughter, one that has impacted residents of the southern tip of Africa and their way of life. Set over the course of a week, The Down Days documents precisely that: a sick city under quarantine, slowly collapsing unto itself. Residents have adjusted to their new reality; much like COVID, the virus’s impact has affected people in different ways. Hugo articulates its wide-reaching impact by unfolding her story through many – at times, too many – perspectives, ping ponging between characters by way of short, propulsive, tension-filled chapters. The parallels between our current crisis and that of Hugo’s are startling. Save for one: The Down Days brings an air of hope unlike one we’ve yet to experience.This hope wouldn’t be possible without the characters who help bring it to fruition. Sans, a “DIY scavenging schemer”, makes weaves from hair extracted during religious rituals and resells them. While positioned as a petty crook, you get the sense his intentions are good; he’s difficult not to root for. And when he becomes distracted by visions of a dream woman (with unicorn-like hair, natch), causing him to lose money owed to his gangster partners, you want to help him in his quest. Along with Sans, The Down Days follows Faith, a taxi driver-turned-“dead collector” who also does side-work as a freelance “truthologist”. It’s the latter job which connects Faith to Tomorrow (the names Hugo selects for her protagonists are equal parts ingenious and over-literal), a young girl searching for her missing brother. Upon taking Tomorrow’s case, Faith uncovers clues that are more than just help towards finding the missing boy – they offer hope that a cure for their laughter epidemic isn’t as far-fetched as believed. Hugo’s execution is nothing short of impressive, though there were times which I felt the writer were trying to force-fit too many good ideas into a novel already rife with them. It’s a go-for-broke approach, and one that deserves much recognition and applause. Yet it’s also what holds The Down Days back from a higher rating. Yes, ultimately the seemingly endless cast of characters Hugo introduces play an integral part in the overall narrative; I’m of the opinion her narrative would’ve been even stronger had she dialed it back a few notches, perhaps given some of the stronger secondary characters – Lawyer, a journalist who run a daily “truth” rag, for instance – a bit more focus. Above all, where The Down Days shines is through Hugo’s imaginative prose and breakneck pacing. Peppering magical realism throughout, her descriptions are wildly vivid; the striking cover art all but clues us in before reaching the first page. What’s more, the tension Hugo sets is breathtakingly real and frighteningly reminiscent to that with which we’re experiencing currently. To which I pose: would The Down Days have had the same impact if read before the COVID crisis? I’d argue yes, though for different reasons. Current pandemic aside, the novel is a remarkably imaginative glimpse into a society suddenly turned on its head by a uniquely powerful and entirely uncontrollable force. But when taking our current times into consideration, The Down Days is a poignant reflection, if not a zeitgeist capturing of the exhilarating, exhausting nature of a world undone, and learning to navigate through such a world despite all adversity. If only the world in which we reside can follow a similar path, that we too can learn to adapt, if not grow, improve, evolve. At this point, I’ll even settle for a little bit of hope.
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  • Ceelee
    January 1, 1970
    First, thank you to the author Ilza Hugo, Simon and Schuster's Skybound Books/Gallery Books , publishers and Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to read the ARC galley of DOWN DAYS in exchange for my honest review. I gave the book 5 stars because it is just that good! Yes, the book is a novel about a pandemic and oddly enough we are going through a pandemic ourselves. A weird coincidence but this should not stop you from reading DOWN DAYS The story is actually based on an outbreak of mass h First, thank you to the author Ilza Hugo, Simon and Schuster's Skybound Books/Gallery Books , publishers and Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to read the ARC galley of DOWN DAYS in exchange for my honest review. I gave the book 5 stars because it is just that good! Yes, the book is a novel about a pandemic and oddly enough we are going through a pandemic ourselves. A weird coincidence but this should not stop you from reading DOWN DAYS The story is actually based on an outbreak of mass hysteria called the Laughing Epidemic nin Tanganyika in 1962. The story may be different but a reader can see the similarities to that outbreak, the pandemic in the story and our own current situation. People are dying and there is no cure, outrageous remedies like bathing in cleaning products, wearing masks, protestors, crazy politicians and even a newspaper spouting conspiracy theory. The world has gone insane and laugher is forbidden. I know, it sounds awful, but is not! DOWN DAYS reminds me of books I used to read in college where there is a Tragic Event and there are a group of diverse people trying to cling to some sort of normal and whose lives intersect in some way. In the novel, which takes place over the span of a week, Faith is a dead collector who is contacted by Tomorrow, an orphan girl, who is looking for her little brother who was snatched when she wasn't looking. There is also Sars, a trader in illicit goods, like pony tail hair, for the group of nuns who have opened their own business. selling the pony tails. (kind of like dying for a haircut) Sars is also looking for his Unicorn, the woman he saw in a fleeting glance and knew she was the One. Reminds me of the movie "American Graffiti" when Richard Dreyfus was looking for his own Unicorn, the blonde in the white T Bird. :) There are many characters besides these including a sin eater, a pet hyena, a guy named Lawyer who writes for the TRUTH, and enjoys dressing as the Easter Bunny while boxing. There are therapry bars, seers, ghosts, an underground library and a mysterious book that is supposed to connect the entire story and provide the answer for a cure. Literary references abound, quotes from Shakespeare, George Orwell John Lennon, Johnny Cash, and more. Also the information about the Bicycle cards in WWII is TRUE! I looked it up! Ms Hugo gets an extra star for that because I never heard of it and I wish my dad was still here so I could ask him about it because he spent 21 months in a German prison camp and could have used them.The literary and cultural references are great because it gives the reader a sense of connection with the story and for the characters a connection to the past that is still remembered and valued. I am so glad I read DOWN DAYS! It is funny, has many interesting people that are fleshed out and real and it is relatable to my life while experiencing our own lives during COVID19. You don't think you want to read a book about a pandemic when you are in the middle of one? This is EXACTLY the kind of book you should be reading during a pandemic! It's a fun and crazy ride and so much deeper than a cozy mystery or a sappy romance. I read those too but I discovered I needed this book too. I hope we can find that book with the cure and not become Sick City but time will tell how we will face the future.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    If you want to escape the current pandemic through the pages of a book, this is definitely not that story. It is so eerily prescient of what is happening now that it is a bit mind-blowing. This is a portrait of a country torn asunder as the result of long term pandemic. It is a gritty and raw look at how society as a whole along with individual people both fall apart and people lose their grip on reality and civilization. It’s not quite a Lord of the Flies situation but it is similar in some way If you want to escape the current pandemic through the pages of a book, this is definitely not that story. It is so eerily prescient of what is happening now that it is a bit mind-blowing. This is a portrait of a country torn asunder as the result of long term pandemic. It is a gritty and raw look at how society as a whole along with individual people both fall apart and people lose their grip on reality and civilization. It’s not quite a Lord of the Flies situation but it is similar in some ways just on a larger more adult scale. In this case the setting is South Africa which has a different set of real world problems than here in the West but so much is easily recognizable in the current situation. In response to the disease the government closes the border and puts strict restrictions on behaviour. Everyone must wear gloves and a mask at all times. The medical and death systems are overwhelmed. Conspiracy theories and rumours run rampant and many people point the blame at other countries for starting the pandemic. There is distant faint hope for a vaccine but the disease has been ravaging the world for years and the vaccine hasn’t materialized yet. When it is finally produced and distributed some won’t trust it due to misinformation and false rumours. Some people try crazy cures like drinking bleach. Yep, this is way too close to our present world to be comfortable.The Down Days started out quite strong, lost my interest for a bit in the middle, and finished up as a real suspenseful thriller. It took me forever to read but that may be because it was just too much like the situation outside which I am trying my best to forget about for at least short periods. Reading graphic descriptions of a pandemic during a pandemic might be fine for some but I had a difficult time with it. There are some elements especially near the end that are clearly not of our world which is maybe a bit of magical realism. It is never really clear if the surreal weirdness is supernatural or just hallucinations. After finishing I’m still not sure what I just read or how I feel about it. In some ways it was painfully realistic but in others it was just bizarre. If you want to immerse yourself more fully in the terror and strangeness of a pandemic then pick this one up. I’m going to pull the covers over my head and go to a happy place.Thank you to Gallery Books and Skybound Books for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.
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  • Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
    January 1, 1970
    You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight This is a bizarre and timely book about what happens after the pandemic has wreaked havoc. I mean, I won't pretend it didn't scare the hell out of me to think that the world could be like this for the better part of a decade, but alas. In this book, set in South Africa (which yes please, more of this!), one of the symptoms of the disease is uncontrollable laughter. The bananas part is, p You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight This is a bizarre and timely book about what happens after the pandemic has wreaked havoc. I mean, I won't pretend it didn't scare the hell out of me to think that the world could be like this for the better part of a decade, but alas. In this book, set in South Africa (which yes please, more of this!), one of the symptoms of the disease is uncontrollable laughter. The bananas part is, people in our timeline are vilified for coughing, much like these folks are for laughing. Obviously, laughing in public is not allowed. People wear masks everywhere. People attend online funerals only. There are random temperature checks. Honestly it hits really close to home.Luckily, this book doesn't focus on the plague itself so much as the aftermath. It follows several characters (maybe one or two too many, if I am being totally honest, but it wasn't a dealbreaker, just... a thing) throughout their new normals. Gone are the jobs of yesteryear, they now do things like ferry bodies. Engage in fight clubs. Steal and sell hair. Look, when the apocalypse comes to town, you sometimes have to find some... inventive ways to make a dollar. And that's the whole thing- the severity in which life has changed, and how these people have come to adapt when the only choices are adapt or die. I really can't say much about the plot, because it takes some turns I did not see coming and obviously I have no plans to spoil them. I will say that it is a slower paced book, definitely dealing more with the character development and world-building than action. I loved all the little South African details that are seamlessly woven into the story. I had to look some of them up (though there is a glossary at the end in the eARC) and I absolutely loved falling into this culture. By the end, I even had a pretty good idea of the phrases and such without having to look them up! Bottom Line: An incredibly timely look at what happens to a society after the end of the world. It asks all kinds of questions, and definitely provides a lot of character exploration. Perhaps you'll find some of your own reactions in some of these characters. 
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  • Melody
    January 1, 1970
    Sans, a peddler of stolen ponytails, sees his whole life going belly up after a fling with a mysterious woman and the disappearance of one of his runners. Tomorrow's brother has been kidnapped, and she hires Faith to help her find him. Oh and the whole city is plagued by a mysterious laughing illness that is deadly enough to inspire those who patrol for the sick and whole new industries for a new world. The stories of Sans, Tomorrow, and Faith weave in and out of each other, along with other cha Sans, a peddler of stolen ponytails, sees his whole life going belly up after a fling with a mysterious woman and the disappearance of one of his runners. Tomorrow's brother has been kidnapped, and she hires Faith to help her find him. Oh and the whole city is plagued by a mysterious laughing illness that is deadly enough to inspire those who patrol for the sick and whole new industries for a new world. The stories of Sans, Tomorrow, and Faith weave in and out of each other, along with other characters, including a sin eater, a doctor turned junkie, a man named Mickey Mouse who can get you any data you want, nuns that will share your head (and sell the hair to Sans), and a mysterious librarian. In a quarantined city in South Africa that is coming apart at the seams, not even reality can be trusted.The world of this novel was not supposed to hit this close to home. And yet. We have a story about a pandemic--here a disease that shows itself in uncontrollable laughing. People go about their business in masks. Comedy clubs are run underground. There are daily med checks. It's hard to know how I would have responded to this book at any other moment. There is enough of a supernatural bend to help it feel like an escape. There are also things like lines about people drinking bleach that resonate more than I'm sure they were ever meant to.It did take a bit for the narrative threads to make sense with all the different points of view and plot lines. While the world of the book may feel closer to home than we'd like, it's still a completely new world to have to ground ourselves in. The rules have to be established. Add on to that points of view that often change, and it took me a second for me to feel confident in who we were with and where we were. But, once they all cemented themselves, the way these stories wove in and out of each other was skillfully done.The supernatural-esque elements started to show up just when the narrative was starting to drag a bit for me. The seeds were laid throughout, but the entertaining of the supernatural ideas did not happen right away. I loved the idea of the dead not really being dead, and I do wish it had been explored a bit more. Because it was introduced so late, the resolution of this could feel a little rushed to me.This definitely had a unique, quirky voice. At times it felt like this tone could be the focus more than the plot. Still, Hugo painted some distinct images (I'll be having nightmares about cockroach walls thank you). All of these characters had developed backstories that gave them specific wants and needs in this world, but the voice could keep them at a distance for me as a reader.As a bit of a coincidence, this novel also features a sin eater as a character. I had never heard of this before this year and have now read two books within a month or so that feature sin eaters (Sin Eater by Megan Campisi).https://teaandtomes.wordpress.com/202...
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  • Modioperandii
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to NetGalley for my ARC.This book is a rollercoaster for a lot of reasons. First the timing of publication and subject matter pandemic-pandemic: EEEK! In a good way though but also in a totally chilling way too. Also the pacing is totally insane but that also feels right since the pandemic here is uncontrollable laughter that is 100% fatal. Also must be said that this laughing pandemic, not the fatal part though, actually happened in 1962 Tanzania. There are surprising twists by way of wi Thanks to NetGalley for my ARC.This book is a rollercoaster for a lot of reasons. First the timing of publication and subject matter pandemic-pandemic: EEEK! In a good way though but also in a totally chilling way too. Also the pacing is totally insane but that also feels right since the pandemic here is uncontrollable laughter that is 100% fatal. Also must be said that this laughing pandemic, not the fatal part though, actually happened in 1962 Tanzania. There are surprising twists by way of wildly good writing. Ilze Hugo is such a good writer she is totally unexpected. Its also great to be reading work from other parts of the world the isights and writing feel universal but also very not-American which is great.So it is in the post-outbreak world that this novel begins. The deadly laughing hysteria has left Tanganyika on the edge. The city is on the edge and also well beyond it with paranoia and visions abound. It feels very much like what could happen in the wake of the current pandemic. In this case it a situation of what to do with the quarantined city where now paranoia and conspiracy theory and superstitions are the new-abnormal. The question looms was this real is it more mass hysteria or is the paranoia justified? It is here that we have Faith a freelance journalist 'truthologist' and collector of dead bodies. Faith meets a cast of characters including a hyena man, HYENA MAN, to find answers. Answers are not easy to come by and the tale just unwinds in so many unexpected directions all I can add is that it's a must read if you can handle the pandemic-pandemic proximity of the writing. If you are prepared for that then you are read and also not ready for The Down Days. In The Down Days the absurdity know is not only set to unholy levels but its also connected to a distortion pedal that Ilze Hugo relentlessly stomps on throughout the course of the narrative that fittingly jams all the action into a seven-day span. Pick up The Down Days and prepare to be shocked and entertained and wowed by some wildly inventive and beautiful writing.
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  • Joe Buckler
    January 1, 1970
    While the timing of Ilza Hugo’s The Down Days will likely lead to a fair share of attention, there is a great deal to take away from this debut novel other than the ways it parallels the extraordinary times we are currently living in. This supernaturally charged dystopia, fueled by noir-like tones and a pulp mystery format, paints a poignant picture of the class division that plagues South Africa, magnifying it through the lens of a pandemic. With sickness and death the new norm, an abstract exa While the timing of Ilza Hugo’s The Down Days will likely lead to a fair share of attention, there is a great deal to take away from this debut novel other than the ways it parallels the extraordinary times we are currently living in. This supernaturally charged dystopia, fueled by noir-like tones and a pulp mystery format, paints a poignant picture of the class division that plagues South Africa, magnifying it through the lens of a pandemic. With sickness and death the new norm, an abstract examination of the tenets of grief becomes one of the novel's most persuasive themes, laying the groundwork to explore the frightening—and occasionally beautiful—ways that tragedy can transform a city and its people. Under these circumstances, it is not long before the very meaning of death becomes an unstable construct, and Hugo is given free reign to traverse the themes of this existential playground unabashed.This crossover of science, tradition, and the supernatural molds together to create something wholly unique, where reality is as diverse as the people who are experiencing it, and the lines between the past and the present are unforgivingly blurred by the paranormal. With an eclectic cast of characters for support, all of whom are continuously crossing paths within the chaos, this genre-bending tale of both the lost and the found weaves together a colorful, intricate storyline that keeps you happily guessing throughout, and pleasantly surprised at its conclusion. This approach goes to show that, despite its roots in science fiction and urban fantasy, it is the lean toward a procedural, hardboiled detective novel that really showcases the novel's originality, giving it a noteworthy and persuasive flair.Full Review at www.blindcornermagazine.com
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  • Faith Hurst-Bilinski
    January 1, 1970
    I review books in order of publication date. It's my way of trying to stay ahead. When this one was moved up 2 months I wondered what had happened all of a sudden. Then I started reading. Outbreak, masks, people who cart off the dead...OK, I get it. The change of timing leaves me feeling of two minds. Maybe in July this would be all behind us and reading about a small case of mass hysteria turning into a deadly disease and still going strong seven years later would be a little less troubling. Is I review books in order of publication date. It's my way of trying to stay ahead. When this one was moved up 2 months I wondered what had happened all of a sudden. Then I started reading. Outbreak, masks, people who cart off the dead...OK, I get it. The change of timing leaves me feeling of two minds. Maybe in July this would be all behind us and reading about a small case of mass hysteria turning into a deadly disease and still going strong seven years later would be a little less troubling. Isn't that our nightmare right now? This distancing not ending but becoming so routine that it is engrained in every part of our social structure?The idea is great. Laugh until you die. Based loosely on real events of mass hysteria, the question is asked, What if the hysteria had never ended? This is how society would change. Or at least one possibility. I loved that the book jumped right in. We are just in a world in which it is normal for people to die laughing. It is a job to collect the dead. There is a dehumanizing nickname for the victims of the plague. Grinners. I mean, cmon,. It was just right there. It's not as silly as it sounds. It's sad and disturbing to describe piles of dead and orphans running the streets in cutesy masks trying to find enough to eat.We are immediately thrown in with character after character. You get a little of each as if they are being rationed. Hustlers, drug dealers, dead collectors, wayward children, and of course Tomorrow. The center of it all. The mystery. Where did her brother go? Did she ever really have a toddler in the first place. All in all, a good ride with a subject matter that is both outrageous and just a tiny bit close to home right now.
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  • Kristin Sledge
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.The Down Days follows a group of people(no really, there's like 12 POV's to keep straight here) in a post-pandemic and quarantined section of South Africa. We see a sin eater, a security guard with a hyena, a dead collector, a drug pusher(only it's not the normal cargo), a junkie, and other characters I'm sure I'm forgetting as they help a young girl look for her brother she claims has been taken. However ther Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.The Down Days follows a group of people(no really, there's like 12 POV's to keep straight here) in a post-pandemic and quarantined section of South Africa. We see a sin eater, a security guard with a hyena, a dead collector, a drug pusher(only it's not the normal cargo), a junkie, and other characters I'm sure I'm forgetting as they help a young girl look for her brother she claims has been taken. However there is no evidence a toddler was with her when she claims her brother was taken, leading to doubts that a brother ever existedThis book was 100% not my cup of tea. There were so many POV's and it because super choppy and disruptive to the story when you change POV every chapter and the majority of chapters are only a few pages. This really killed the story(or lack there of) since the author spent so much time trying to make sure you knew the characters were near each other and crossing paths without knowing it rather than developing a great story. The pandemic explanation was almost non existent, and once a big reveal came it was just meh at best since you hadn't really bonded with any character at all. This story could easily be a short story at about 75-100 pages and be way better because a plot would be visible. Overall, I'm withholding giving this a one star simply because the concept of the story and the twists the author was attempting deserve more. If you can handle a chopped up story with 2500 characters than this one is the book for you. Otherwise, I would sit this one out.
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  • Donna Tallent
    January 1, 1970
    An African city has been quarantined after the outbreak of the Laughter; people are infected with the giggles and the laugh uncontrollable until death. Such an interesting unique concept, I never thought about how much laughter could be something to fear. This book follows many perspectives of the people within the city; a young girl searching for her brother, a truthologist solving puzzles, a man looking for a lost bag of money and his gang partner who skipped out on him, a mysterious woman wit An African city has been quarantined after the outbreak of the Laughter; people are infected with the giggles and the laugh uncontrollable until death. Such an interesting unique concept, I never thought about how much laughter could be something to fear. This book follows many perspectives of the people within the city; a young girl searching for her brother, a truthologist solving puzzles, a man looking for a lost bag of money and his gang partner who skipped out on him, a mysterious woman with unicorn hair, and a slew of other characters. At first I was a little confused about whose perspective I was in and just what was going on but you just really need to let it go and enjoy the ride. People are paranoid, panicking, hallucinating, experiencing loss, and trying to make sense of their new world. It was so bizarre and unique and I loved it! It was also such a timely book to be reading right now. The characters having trouble finding essential items at the grocery store, everyone wearing masks, public deciding whether to stay home or rise up and protest, and officials determine who’s sick based on a thermometer reading. I enjoyed the Science Fiction/Magical elements and the search of the old book was a great addition to the plot. I certainly enjoyed the second half of the book a lot more than the first book, more high action and I really enjoyed the way all the characters ended up being intertwined in each other's lives at the end. Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Naomi (naomi.reads.world)
    January 1, 1970
    The Down Days is Ilze Hugo’s debut novel, and follows a handful of characters as they are living and surviving in a quarantined South African city during a pandemic that sends you laughing to your grave. The parallels between the world of “Sick City” and our current, lived reality are eerie: face masks required by law, a change in businesses and the economy, and people convinced the Laughter is a government conspiracy.A Few NotesHugo has a unique, creative voice, and a talent for description. Th The Down Days is Ilze Hugo’s debut novel, and follows a handful of characters as they are living and surviving in a quarantined South African city during a pandemic that sends you laughing to your grave. The parallels between the world of “Sick City” and our current, lived reality are eerie: face masks required by law, a change in businesses and the economy, and people convinced the Laughter is a government conspiracy.A Few NotesHugo has a unique, creative voice, and a talent for description. The novel is written from multiple points of view, where each chapter is from a specific character’s viewpoint. I thought this was really effective for pacing and loved seeing the story unfold from multiple perspectives. However, I didn’t always feel like the voices of the different characters/chapters were distinct enough from each other. The novel felt ripe (to me, an American who has never been to South Africa) with South African language and culture. There was a glossary for the language used throughout the novel, which was super helpful.Overall, I thought the concept was really engaging and dark - an illness nicknamed the Joke that sends you into fits of laughter? A government ban on laughing in public spaces? I’m in. The Down Days is a fast-paced and quick read, perfect for those who enjoy a mix of sci fi and spirituality (and who are up to reading a book about a pandemic). Thank you to NetGalley and Skybound Books for the free eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Read with Kaylie Seed
    January 1, 1970
    https://www.cloudlakeliterary.ca/blog...Originally posted on Cloud Lake Literary, link above.*Huge thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for both the gifted ARC E-Copy and finished physical copy*Entering into the world at the perfect time, Ilze Hugo’s debut novel The Down Days follows corpse collector (and self-proclaimed “truthologist”) Faith as she tries to help an orphaned girl locate her baby brother. Hugo has created a cast of quirky characters who are all trying to survive in this new pos https://www.cloudlakeliterary.ca/blog...Originally posted on Cloud Lake Literary, link above.*Huge thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for both the gifted ARC E-Copy and finished physical copy*Entering into the world at the perfect time, Ilze Hugo’s debut novel The Down Days follows corpse collector (and self-proclaimed “truthologist”) Faith as she tries to help an orphaned girl locate her baby brother. Hugo has created a cast of quirky characters who are all trying to survive in this new post-truth world. After a mysterious illness that residents are calling “the Laughter” sweeps the world, Sick City is a place where laughing is prohibited, masks are essential, hair is underground currency, and lip porn is all the rage. The Down Days is heavily character driven, extremely fast-paced and switches between different narrators as the story progresses, sometimes leaving the reader confused as to what is happening but Hugo always reigns it back in and then continues the plot forward. This apocalyptic novel questions life, love, and loss in what is now a post-truth society.Along with Faith, the reader learns a great deal about Sans, an illicit goods trader. As the story progresses Sans sanity denigrates leaving him to wonder what is true and what just might be a hallucination. The reader also follows some secondary characters as they recount parts of the plot. This is not always common as there is usually one or two main characters who tell the story, but Hugo takes in multiple perspectives (even for just one chapter) to help the reader understand what is going on as the story progresses.The Down Days focuses on themes that we all deal with on a daily basis: life, love, and loss. What is so different about The Down Days is that these themes are surrounded by a new type of world, one that is in constant decay, fear, and the unpredictable. Hugo addresses these themes by using various characters to question and try to answer them through conversations with other characters and the actions that they take throughout the novel. Hugo also includes themes like trade, culture, and death that are explored through this mysterious illness. Hugo is South African and she weaves in this culture and language into her story. It’s absolutely wonderful to get to escape to a different part of the world while not leaving your house. Hugo even includes a glossary at the back of The Down Days so that readers can educate themselves on the language used throughout the novel. Hugo’s story is one wild trip that is fast paced and full of questions surrounding humanity. With COVID-19 still a huge issue around the world (and one that is bound to create waves in our history book), Hugo’s story parallels perfectly with how the world is today.
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  • Angie
    January 1, 1970
    Read my full review (and others) at: https://mediadrome.wordpress.comThere was a lot going on in this story which I appreciated, and the multiple narrators were surprisingly easy to follow. Everyone had a distinct voice, which meant that I never had to go back and double check whose perspective I was supposed to be getting – that was nice because I feel like I tend to struggle with that a lot where multiple narratives are involved.There are definite shades of Orwell here, but, (and I don’t know Read my full review (and others) at: https://mediadrome.wordpress.comThere was a lot going on in this story which I appreciated, and the multiple narrators were surprisingly easy to follow. Everyone had a distinct voice, which meant that I never had to go back and double check whose perspective I was supposed to be getting – that was nice because I feel like I tend to struggle with that a lot where multiple narratives are involved.There are definite shades of Orwell here, but, (and I don’t know if this is just because one is familiar and the other isn’t) where I find comfort in reading 1984, (and I really do), I didn’t get that same feeling from The Down Days. This one really wasn’t playing well with my admittedly already ratcheted up anxiety.Normally bleak stuff is my jam during tough times. I like to wallow, I guess. But this one is just a little too on the nose for me right now.This is definitely a well-written story, but ultimately now doesn’t feel like quite the right time to be reading a book about a pandemic of any kind. I’ll definitely be picking this one up to give it another shot sometime in the future.
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  • Shawna
    January 1, 1970
    As usual I get hyped because the publisher chooses to relate a book to one I really enjoyed, and it just doesn't flush out the same. I really adored The Book of M, and shoved it at all my friends when it came out. This is not the same. I had trouble keeping the characters straight, I was over a third of the way through before I got them down, and I chalk this up to the short chapters where we don't really learn anything about them except for their jobs, and a bit about their temperaments. In the As usual I get hyped because the publisher chooses to relate a book to one I really enjoyed, and it just doesn't flush out the same. I really adored The Book of M, and shoved it at all my friends when it came out. This is not the same. I had trouble keeping the characters straight, I was over a third of the way through before I got them down, and I chalk this up to the short chapters where we don't really learn anything about them except for their jobs, and a bit about their temperaments. In the end the writing was fine, but nothing of this grabbed me, and the parts that might have came and went so quickly that I was never fully pulled into the story. I like a pandemic novel and ones that are inventive - here a laughing sickness. I might circle back around to this one again some day, it is possible that the book needs a good sit down where you read it in one day to fully appreciate it, instead of reading it on lunches and a few spare minutes in waiting rooms like I was doing.
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  • Tiffany
    January 1, 1970
    Ilze Hugo's work is a unique mix of apocalyptic fiction, surrealism, and other-worldly mysticism all rolled into one neat package. The story is told from the viewpoint of several narrators such as a young girl, a hair trader, a dead retriever. The way Hugo melds the different narrative POVs with the plot of the novel is something many authors fail to achieve successfully, yet she didn't have any glaring parts that threw off the readability of the story. The use of visual language brings to life Ilze Hugo's work is a unique mix of apocalyptic fiction, surrealism, and other-worldly mysticism all rolled into one neat package. The story is told from the viewpoint of several narrators such as a young girl, a hair trader, a dead retriever. The way Hugo melds the different narrative POVs with the plot of the novel is something many authors fail to achieve successfully, yet she didn't have any glaring parts that threw off the readability of the story. The use of visual language brings to life sick town and its inhabitants. Overall, I would say this is a successful first novel. I admit this book took me a few tries to get into, but that may just be because there is a current global pandemic that could have eerily twisted this work of fiction into a jagged mirror of reality. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys dystopian fiction, a good story, or mystery. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the DARC of this work in exchange for my honest review.
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