This book comes across as a light summer read, but there are some interesting things going on here that kept my interest. As other reviewers have note...moreThis book comes across as a light summer read, but there are some interesting things going on here that kept my interest. As other reviewers have noted, none of the characters are at all likeable. Fortunately or unfortunately the likeability of the protagonist doesn't really determine whether I like a book or not. Some of the best protagonists in literature are profoundly unlikeable. Mabel is not the moral counterpoint to the corrupt Winslows, she is one of them from the start, or rather, I think the point is that we all have some "Winslow" inside of us - the capacity to manipulate in order to gain power or a sense of belonging. Mabel is essentially infected early by the Winslows and her own coming-of-age corresponds with her "becoming" a Winslow. At the start of the novel she is still a girl, and by the end of the ordeal she is hardened (a point brought home by the physical transformation that she goes through). I didn't read the ending as particularly optimistic, because I don't trust Mabel as a narrator. By the end of the novel, she is literally and figuratively a Winslow, and whether or not she was able to break the family's cycle of generational corruption...I'm not convinced. I think my favourite thing about this novel is that eerie uncertainty that runs throughout, all the way to the end. Things remain unspoken and hidden in the background, only this time, it is Mabel constructing her own surface story to hide what lies beneath. Yeah, cliche, I know. But I liked it. (less)
I really wish I had read this 10 years ago, when I would have responded to this book with the fierce political optimism that it deserves. Unfortunatel...moreI really wish I had read this 10 years ago, when I would have responded to this book with the fierce political optimism that it deserves. Unfortunately, I am reading it now, having read way too much political and social theory not to feel a bit let down with how didactic and old-fashioned this feels. It reads more like a treatise in parts than an actual novel, and that distanced me from the narrative. There are sf novels more effective to me, personally, because they subtly interrogate political issues without including solid pages of speeches about solidarity and brotherhood. Don't get me wrong - these ideas are awesome and I thoroughly respect this book. But it certainly feels dated, both in terms of its socio-political outlook and its representation of gender. Now that I've let it percolate a bit, it is the more subtle aspects that are the most riveting, and that will stick with me: Shevek's relationship with Takver, who was easily my favourite character; those mobiles - "occupations of space;" The story where the boys learn about prisons and how this episode establishes a theme that runs throughout; The interesting musings on temporality and the present/past relation. In short, I think this book is most effective when the message is more subtle - shown to us, rather than told (via one of Shevek's epic but annoying-to-me speeches). (less)
**spoiler alert** I normally don't read books like this, but I really enjoyed this one until the 60% mark. There are some plot aspects that are frankl...more**spoiler alert** I normally don't read books like this, but I really enjoyed this one until the 60% mark. There are some plot aspects that are frankly ridiculous, so there I was a lot of eye-rolling going as I read. For one - calling someone a "mud vein" in an effort to sound dark and mysterious (even romantic?) is kind of hilarious. The mud vein of the shrimp is its intestinal tract. It will only be brown if it is full of waste, i.e. shrimp poop. So calling someone a mud vein is essentially telling them that they are full of sh*t. Maybe I'm just a 10-year-old boy at heart, but I found this hilarious and incongruous with the tone of the novel and the way that Senna was generally portrayed. She may be full of sh*t but one thing I truly appreciated was Tarryn Fisher's ability to catch herself and/or the protagonist in cliches and call them out immediately, sometimes in the same breath. I loved this.
My two main issues with the novel are the following: 1. Senna is often portrayed as a strong independent woman (all good). But the ultimate discovery that concludes the novel and allows her to move forward is that Isaac is her savior and soul mate and that he allowed her to open up, etc. I get that this is a "romance" novel, but isn't that a little old-fashioned? Her self-discovery and psychological recovery is dependent on a man, and her self-sufficiency is often portrayed as dangerous. Not to mention - Isaac is basically an impossible god-like figure who is sensitive but masculine and strong, traditionally handsome but just "alt" enough to add some mystery, a musician who ALSO has a solid career. Isaac is basically the magical impossible man. And because of this, he irritated me to no end. 2. The conclusion really, really, disappointed me. There wasn't enough of a twist or a reveal. The psychiatrist manages to abduct and transport two patients across the border and install them in an isolated house around Anchorage without anyone finding them for fourteen months? Nope. Not a thing that would ever happen. If Senna's relationship with the psychiatrist was more developed during the flashback moments, then this might have been at least a little (just a little bit) more believable. But we barely get any information about the psychiatrist that would make this reveal interesting or shocking. (less)