The Bunker Diary – Book Review

Bought Kevin Brooks’ The Bunker Diary randomly after seeing it in a list of recent-ish YA books. Entirely worth it. You can check it out at Goodreads, and here it is on Amazon.

Here’s the review:

When I finished this book, I slowly rose, lifted it protectively to my chest, walked a short distance to place it tenderly on a shelf, slumped to the floor, and stroked my sweet kitten. Only then did I begin to cry.

Did not expect that. Thinking on it, though, it makes perfect sense. Poetic, beautiful, miserable, realistic, empty-but-not, pointless-but-not sense. How many kidnappings happen like this? How many lives of the most unfortunate, whatever their circumstances—war, abuse, famine, bigotry—happen like this, in total ignorance and agony? Why? There’s no reason, none good enough. This is real stuff. No movie gloss, no impossible stunts. Just cruelty and slow, sad loss of almost everything.

Expected this to be sort of a combo of hellish reality TV and Saw. Bits of both, with added essence from Danganronpa and Changi, with some seriously twisted psychological experimentation included, whether that is His (the unknown captor’s) purpose or not. Was numb throughout most of it, but heavily compelled to read on, gutted by the helplessness, desperation and almost-utter-hopelessness—there is still some lovely, stubborn optimism hidden in here—every sensation delivered painfully by the diary format, nothing to do but self-reflect, survive, and maybe try to make things less terrible for those you’ve come to care for and depend on. Being as in the dark as the characters as to every how and why was frustrating, but, again, it’s real. Most everyone’s guts would be twisted and minced, reading this.

Loved Linus—he’s nothing but a sweet kid trying to sort himself out, only to be snared into nightmare by his good heart. Seeing him left to try and finish this sorting out in such a brutal situation is heartbreaking. Every character, their reactions, their attempts to cope—they’re all relatable, all understandable. Linus’ perspective of his fellow prisoners is poignant—through him, I see much of myself in this mixed bag of individuals. Not a great thought, in some cases. They don’t all get on—there’s some serious dislike going on with any number of causes—but there’s no desire to hurt, no sinking en masse into uncontrolled violence, despite no hope of salvation (though things get rougher with His intervention). I’m glad of this. It’s one of very few bright-ish points in this bleak novel.

The stream of consciousness parts are pretty intense—don’t think I’ve read any quite so raw. The random reflections and great importance of such little things, like remembering rhymes, worked well. What do people think about in this situation? What can they think about in this situation? Anything to distract, even when they can’t think about finding distractions any more—a powerful protective mechanism, I think.

I’ll repeat a few words to finish, I suppose—painful, realistic, beautiful. Very dark, clever and thoughtful, terrible content handled not quite delicately, but humanly. Kevin Brooks is most deserving of the high praise The Bunker Diary has received. Four and a half stars from me—shall be thinking of random moments from this book at random times for a long while.

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Dream Fillings

Rose from a creepy dream the other night, and as I was washing the dishes after breakfast it plugged a glaring gap in my dear friend Micah Crest’s past.  I’d known that time in his life was strange (and turned him rather strange) and potentially disturbing, but was blank as to the details.  Now, seemingly with not a speck of work done, that history was nicely filled in.  I was right.  It was disturbing.

As to how this very effective dream filling came about, I am currently working with four scenarios:

Number One:  I was already subconsciously aware of Micah’s past and it was made clear to me in that dream.

Number Two:  Having been wondering about Micah in wakefulness, my mind was quietly folding around his personality, temperament, decisions, and the bare bones of that time in his life, and by their powers combined this dream was born naturally.

Number Three:  My sleeping mind knew the hole in his life had to be filled, and so was not-so-quietly tearing through his personality, temperament, decisions, and the bare bones of that time in his life, actively working to create the perfect scenario that was then displayed in dream-form.

Number Four:  It was simply a normal, creepy dream with nothing to do with Micah (he did not make an appearance himself during it), and after the fact I realised the contents quite suited him, and everything clunked neatly into place.

I’ve no clue which it is, or whether this dream filling could truly be attributed to any of these possibilities in any way.  Since sleep is when brain connections are rewired more to be more effective, I’m leaning more towards numbers one or two, and two is my favourite.  I not sure my sleeping mind could be so driven as to keep on actively working during break time, so I’m doubting number three.  And considering I think about my stories every day, particularly before I go to sleep, and that dream matter is drawn from available stimulus, I don’t think such a perfect fill could have arisen entirely independently of Micah.

I do love dreams.  The entire original plot line and main characters for what I still consider to be my fantasy epic (conceived when I was fourteen and still very, very far from being written) came from a single dream that utilised the four new names I had randomly decided to give the four famous hobbits in the newspaper cut-out blue-tacked to my cupboard door.  My zombie stories were born of dreams, too.  My favourite story/dreaming moment was when I was watching one of my characters in a scene, but there was another person there that I didn’t know interacting quite freely with the character I did know.  He was definitely meant to be there.  So he stayed.  I called him Blitz.

Dreams are one thing I’m sure all writers draw on significantly for inspiration.  Considering my liking for staying quietly in my house, they often replace true life experience as a primary source of ideas.  Perhaps this isn’t a good thing, and maybe I’ll work on changing that one day.  But for now, I’m perfectly happy to build my fantasy dream worlds with blocks shaped predominantly from stuff of the same matter.

(All information pertaining to dreams was recalled either accurately or not so from my university psych lectures and texts – please forgive me for not referencing)