I picked this up remembering that Cheryl Morgan had recommended it some time back and wasn't disappointed. Going solely from reading this book I can sI picked this up remembering that Cheryl Morgan had recommended it some time back and wasn't disappointed. Going solely from reading this book I can see that China Meiville didn't just arise from nowhere, because this book reminded me a lot of some of the better aspects of Meiville's earlier novels (the only ones I've read so far). There is a lot of sex power - magic - goddess talk in the book, but it isn't as airy fairy 90s grrl power blather as that might sounds to the more cynical of you (or of me).
I really enjoyed how I came to love, and well love, the trans character Zambia Crevecoeur. At first the descriptions of the character were on the side of horrifying, but this has to do with the inner state of the character at that point in the novel. Constantine was amazing at taking me into a character who was falling in love with hir. (Yes the novel uses hir and SHe, and while I have ZERO knowledge of the use, context or history of those pronouns, they seemed to work quite elegantly and naturally in the context of this novel.)
It does get quite - let's say - metaphorical towards the end, but I liked that and felt that the novel earned it. There are some novels that get all wild and abstract towards the end and it seems like the novelist is simply waving their hands in the air chanting - "you know! you know!", but you don't know. This novel feels like it achieves it climax in a way that brings the reader along. Will be reading more of Constantine....more
Am I a sf philistine? Clarke's book bogged right the hell down for me. I put it down for weeks and only picked it back up cause I was bloody minded. IAm I a sf philistine? Clarke's book bogged right the hell down for me. I put it down for weeks and only picked it back up cause I was bloody minded. I remember reading other of his books, probably Childhood's End, 2001 and Rendezvous with Rama and enjoying them when I was a teen. But I found the book had most of the sins of early sf - a cypher for a main character, completely cut off from anything that would ground the book in some sort of believable world. Interesting ideas, but it just could not hold me, even for such a short book. Such a very long short book!
Okay, so this is me talking completely out of my ass, but I do wonder if Clarke being gay at a time when it was not okay to be gay, is a part of what makes this book so terrible for me? I'm really glad I went back to the book, because one of the later sections is from the point of view of Alvin's best friend in the novel - Hilvar - the other half of the human beings who are telepathic and much more in touch with their feelings and the world around them. If the book had been from Hilvar's point of view I probably could have gotten into the story, but it might have been much more dangerous for Clarke, because, at least from the vantage point of today, I think Hilvar is in love with Alvin. (This might be me reading modern sensibilities into a story re-written in the 50s, yet Alvin is simply not interested in the female 'love interest' in the book and does want to hang around with his friend - 50s code for gayness?) Perhaps this is Clarke being brilliant - he's written a novel about human beings cut off from their human quality with a main character who can't admit his own desires - yet I found the book so dry and alienating that I nearly didn't make my way through it.
I think it is a flawed book, in the sense that, like many other reviewers, I think that once Alvin gets outside the city the book flags seriously and only picks up again right at the very end where there is a burst of - not action - but explanation! That such a small book can have such a flabby middle is quite the accomplishment! Still, it's a interesting book, both for the author's huge ego and conflicted sexuality, as well as some of its ideas. Alvin's learned humility was quite amusing! One of Clarke's constant motifs is about what comes beyond 'mankind', yet in this novel, hand waving about transcendence seems like yet another psychological escape for discomfort over the body and what it really wants. This is probably a reductionist reading, but take it for what it is, my frustrated reaction to a vexing book....more
**spoiler alert** I love that after the interspersed wonderful snippets of how weird and racist late 19th century America was Fowler ends by listing e**spoiler alert** I love that after the interspersed wonderful snippets of how weird and racist late 19th century America was Fowler ends by listing even more bizarre and terrible stuff that a historical novelist might select from the late 20th century (when the novel was written). Don't get the illusion that it's only people in the past that are fucked up. We're all inmates in the same mad house, just at different times.
Fowler is an amazing writer and had me in her grasp from line one. That said, the first chapters felt like linked short stories rather than a cohesive piece. I know this is her first novel so wondered perhaps if the book started out as short stories or if it just took her a bit to get going. They are good chapters regardless and once past them the book starts to flow, especially when the main characters are all together.
I don't know if I was as hooked on the mystery of Sarah Canary as I was supposed to be. Well, no, I just didn't care about the mystery of Sarah. I think the goal was to get the reader to project their own idea of what she was onto her blank slate, as did all the other characters in the book. But that strategy became clear early on, there isn't really anything there but Fowler's conceit (which, spoiler in my spoiler review may be completely sf makee upeee immortal male-female creature by the end or just mentally ill).
If Sarah's origins and particulars were the only thing going on then the book would be a failure, but there is so much more. There is Chin trying to survive the white demons (the racist white north-west folk), B.J. an escape mental patient, Adelaide Dixon an suffragette and the whole truly foreign landscape of the past that Fowler puts together in a way that is so off kilter as to be true.
So not a complete success for me, but miles ahead of your run of the mill historical-science-fictional book....more
Mr. Morgan does good violence - but there was too much business between the set pieces of mayhem. No I take that back, the book has a nice consistencyMr. Morgan does good violence - but there was too much business between the set pieces of mayhem. No I take that back, the book has a nice consistency of visceral violence with brilliant peaks, but I still feel like the book meandered.
I'm not that much of mystery guy in that I rarely care who-done-it or why. There is a question as to whether we are meant to be able to follow the mystery. Kovcas uses his Envoy mind powers that leave the reader in the dust. Also, I'm a slow reader so I really noticed the length of this book - it dragged for me until the last chapters, where I felt it pick-up the pace.
That is the difficult of crossing the sf genre with the noir book. A hard boiled detective book should be short and sharp - Elmore Leonard - cutting out all the boring bits and making the story hum along ruthlessly. But sf has its own requirements - all that world building which Morgan with his Meths (Methuselahs), cordical stacks, sleeves, needlecasts, and Envoys does excel at. But for all that I was in the middle of this book wishing it was shorter - that the boring bits had been left out. Now what those bits are... hey I'm just the reader here! It just seems to me that this is not the kind of book that should be 500+ pages.
While the end of the book seems to pick up the pace and becomes driving, there was too much of the book that simply dragged for me. I liked it, but if there had been more compression it could have been great.