MLA Gold Award Site

Excerpt from Heliopolis by James Scudamore, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Heliopolis

by James Scudamore

Heliopolis
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Oct 2010, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


The point is that it’s my real name, not an adopted one. Zé, Melissa’s father, took me aside not long after the process was finalised and explained why he wasn’t giving me his:

‘It would give you more problems than advantages. And we can’t afford to take chances after what happened to Melissa.’

As he is chief executive of the MaxiMarket supermarket chain, and also enjoyed a brief stint as Minister for Agriculture before a change of government sent him back to commerce, he and his family have always been prime targets for kidnappers. Melissa was ten when she was taken, and she only escaped because she had the presence of mind to fake an epileptic seizure. Her kidnappers were so spooked by it that they threw her out of a moving car and were never heard from again.

‘She’s a little shaken,’ I heard Zé saying into the phone that weekend. ‘It’s most unfortunate. But we still have her.’ Unfortunate. I doubt he’d pay any attention at all if someone grabbed me.

Melissa’s kidnapping occurred because she wandered off into the streets after school when the chauffeur was late picking her up, but it wasn’t her fault – in this city, you’re only marginally safer in a vehicle. They changed the traffic laws not long ago to prevent carjacking: red no longer means ‘stop’. Now, it means ‘proceed with caution’.

Unlike Melissa, I do not live in the clouds. Nor do I inhabit a fortress, like her father. I have a studio apartment in a reasonable area – one of three candy-bar blocks in beige, pink and white, clustered around a communal pool. My apartment is on the first floor of the white one, nestled in its base: it’s like living in a cave at the foot of a cliff. My sole concession to deterrence is the balcony wall, into which I have embedded shards of bottle glass in blue, green and red, but these are obscured by the dense foliage of the plants I grow to remind me of the farm where I grew up.

Zé lectures me on the subject. ‘You’re naïve, Ludo. The minute we adopted you, you became different. One day it will happen – someone will target you – and there will be no use regretting it after the fact.’

He may have a point, but I have less to steal than he does, and given the differences between our lifestyles I suspect an element of paranoia. In his worldview there is no such thing as a middle class, and no such thing as a non-criminal underclass. The house that he flies home to every weeknight is a fortified compound, buffered by terraced ponds and beds of hostile, spiky shrubs. His self-watering lawns are patrolled by two pure-bred fighting mastiffs, which roll over on demand for Zé and his family, but would take the leg off an uninvited guest. His palm trees contain motion–sensitive cameras connected to the hub of technology in the guardhouse: if you disturbed so much as a blade of his grass, Zé would know about it. And that’s just the beginning. Before you even get to the house you have to enter the compound itself, which is defended by bundles of oiled razor wire and a tooledup crew that resembles a private army rather than a team of security guards. It would take a thief with Special Forces training to get past the outer walls, let alone breach Zé’s last line of defence, and even if you did, you wouldn’t find him – he’d be sealed in his tungsten panic room long before you got in, along with every other member of his family, and every object of value. Zé Fischer Carnicelli trusts nobody but himself, however many people he employs to protect him.

For the very rich, like him, a pall of fear almost as heavy as the pollution hangs over this unmappable metropolis – but if, like me, you have less to protect, you can get high on the energy of the place, and allow it to fascinate and excite you. Town planning never happened: there wasn’t time. The city ambushed its inhabitants, exploding in consecutive booms of coffee, sugar and rubber, so quickly that nobody could draw breath to say what should go where. It has been expanding ever since, sustained by all that ferocious energy. And here, just as in the universe, anything could happen.

Excerpted from Heliopolis by James Scudamore. Copyright © 2010 by James Scudamore. Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: All Tomorrow's Parties
    All Tomorrow's Parties
    by Rob Spillman
    In this absorbing memoir, co-founder of Tin House magazine, Rob Spillman, recalls his artistic ...
  • Book Jacket: The Never-Open Desert Diner
    The Never-Open Desert Diner
    by James Anderson
    James Anderson's debut novel, The Never-Open Desert Diner, starts off as an entertaining ...
  • Book Jacket: The Vanishing Velazquez
    The Vanishing Velazquez
    by Laura Cumming
    Author Laura Cumming spins out a tale of obsession and ruin in her latest book, The Vanishing Vel&#...
Win this book!
Win The 100 Year Miracle

50 Copies to Give Away!

The 100 Year Miracle is a rich, enthralling novel, full of great characters.

Enter

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Fair Fight
by Anna Freeman

A page-turning novel set in the world of 18th century female pugilists.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
    by Phaedra Patrick

    In a poignant and sparkling debut, a lovable widower embarks on a life-changing adventure.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Dark Lady's Mask
    by Mary Sharratt

    Based on the life of the first professional woman poet in Renaissance England, and her collaboration with Shakespeare.

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H Now B C?

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.