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Maggot Moon review

A poignant tale of courage and enduring friendship in the face of cruel oppression, told by an unforgettable narrator…

maggot moonMaggot Moon, August 2012, Hot Key Books

Book jacket blurb:

Hector and Standish are friends.

They live together in Zone Seven where the Motherland can keep them, and others like them, under surveillance. When the friends find out something about the Motherland’s plans for a moon landing their lives take on ever more threatening levels of change. And soon Standish finds he really does have to make a stand.

A powerfully original and moving story in which friendship and trust are the real weapons of opposition.


This is the first book I have read in 2013, and boy has it raised the bar for whatever else I read this year. I think the blurb tells you pretty much all you need to know, so I won’t summarise any further – it’s one of those occasions where you want to tell people ‘I won’t give too much away – just read it!’.

It’s written in deceptively simple prose and in that sense, it’s easy to read. I rattled through it because I wanted to find out what happened to Standish and Hector. But at some point I am going to have to go back and reread it to truly appreciate the fine craftsmanship of the writing. On another level, it doesn’t make for easy reading because of the truly awful things going on in the Motherland – particularly when you realise with unease that similar things have indeed happened in human history. And are happening still. Sally Gardner is known for her ‘unique blend of magic and historical realism’, and in this case there is the inkling that you might be reading a re-imagined history. It’s all the more powerful because the world doesn’t feel like some distant dystopia – it all seems very close to home. You really get a sense of the precariousness of the characters’ situation, and though they are two very different books, I would compare the emotional response I got from reading Maggot Moon to what I experienced when I read Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. It’s both heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful, because it illustrates the eternal presence of friendship, courage and hope in even the most dire of circumstances.

I instantly warmed to the narrator, Standish Treadwill, and his voice is one of those that echoes in your mind long after the story ends. He’s someone who doesn’t do well at school and is underestimated because of this, when in fact he possesses a singular intelligence and originality – a dangerous trait in an oppressive state where conformity to the norm and received thinking is tantamount to survival.

I love it when pictorial elements are included in fiction (if it’s done well), and the doodles scattered through the pages really enhanced the reading experience by subtly echoing the story arc. That, along with the layout and the short chapters, tied in really well with Standish’s character, as someone who can’t read and interprets the world in more visual terms. So not only is it a good story – it’s also a beautifully created book, and I’m very pleased that I received the hardcover edition (thanks, big sis!), because I think this one is a classic to be treasured and shared with friends for years to come.

Leave a comment


  1. Herman

     /  January 7, 2013

    Yes, this sounds delightful! I would like to be a friend who gets to share it, please!

  2. Title, blurb, and review– I’m sold. Adding this to my must-read list this year. 🙂

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