Leo Gursky's melancholy, lonely presence. The sections of the novel told from his perspective are hauntingly beaut...more1. What I like about Krauss's novel.
Leo Gursky's melancholy, lonely presence. The sections of the novel told from his perspective are hauntingly beautiful.
Alma's precocious teenager voice. Her voice is less compelling for me than that of Leo Gursky, but still good.
The slow development of the connections between Leo, Alma, Zvi Litvinoff, Isaac, and the book The History of Love, in terms not only of plot but of theme.
2. What is mildly irritating about the book.
Leo's habit of saying "And yet."
Alma's lists. Each of her sections of the book is written in list form. It gets old after a while, even though it's an interesting conceit.
The introduction of Bird, Alma's brother, as a new narrator in the last 30 or so pages of the novel. I would've preferred Krauss to find another narrative device or incorporate him more fully into the rest of the book.
3. What I am not sure about yet
The structure of the ending. Bringing Alma and Leo's narrative voices together in alternating pages is a neat trick, but it involves a rather major shift in tone and pacing. What I liked about the first 80-85% of the book had a lot to do with the reflective nature of the story's development. Here, suddenly, we are moving forward in what is essentially real time and are given only short sections of each narrative voice at a time.
The content of the ending. Without giving much away here, I will say that the concluding scene felt as if it wanted to be deep and meaningful, but was rather hollow instead. There is one major revelation, but it is not one that takes on the relationship between Leo and Alma (either Alma). The reader is left hanging regarding Leo and Alma as well as Leo and his book(s).
4. What else to say
Despite my hesitations about the end of the novel, it gets four stars for its compelling characters and its ability to create a mood through the development of those characters.
I began this book at about 11 pm, thinking I would get a jump on it before finishing it tomorrow, but it is now 3:30 am and I have just finished the book. I did not want to stop reading it and couldn't put it down until I reached the ending. Perhaps it is that ability to draw the reader in and make her read well past her bedtime in anticipation that makes the lightweight ending so disappointing.(less)
This is a difficult book to rate and to review. Most of it is fantastic. Moon puts the reader in the mind of the autistic protagonist extremely effect...moreThis is a difficult book to rate and to review. Most of it is fantastic. Moon puts the reader in the mind of the autistic protagonist extremely effectively and raises lots of great questions about what it means to be normal, about disability rights, about ethics and humanity - and then the ending just ruins all of this.
I don't know that I would quite recommend this book to anyone because the ending is so disappointing, but I do think it would be fun to teach in a course where we could explore that ending alongside the power of the rest of the book.
I just wish I could read it again and choose a different ending. (less)
This is an entertaining read with plenty of interesting developments; however, after reading, teaching, and loving Slonczewski's A Door Into Ocean, wh...moreThis is an entertaining read with plenty of interesting developments; however, after reading, teaching, and loving Slonczewski's A Door Into Ocean, which is a careful examination of nonviolence and gender, philosophically interesting as well as carried along by an interesting plot, Brain Plague falls short.
The central character, Chrysoberyl, is an artist who chooses to become a carrier of the "brain plague" (really not a disease but a colony of "micropeople" who live in the brain and communicate with the carrier) in order to help her art. This is a cool premise, one that seems to promise an exploration of what it means to be human, what counts as the self (and the self's creation) when the self is inhabited by other beings, especially if those beings are intelligent and communicative.
But this isn't really what we get in this book. Instead of an exploration of those issues/questions, or even a continuation of the question of the micropeople's intelligence, humanity, or individual rights, a question that was first raised in the previous book of this series (The Children Star), we get an adventure story about Chrys's attempts to survive the transition to being a carrier, her struggle to survive the prejudices of the rest of the world against carriers (seen as plague-ridden and dangerous), and the politics of power among carriers (who tests the others, who carries the dangerous microbes, who is trying to subvert the system, etc.). We also get a bit of romance toward the end, but this doesn't make up for the dearth of philosophical or political insight.
This is not at all a bad book, just, I suppose, not what I had expected. If you have not already read it, I highly recommend Joan Slonczewski's earlier novel set in this universe, A Door Into Ocean. I would also recommend Daughter of Elysium, her second book in this series. The latter two, however, The Children Star and Brain Plague, I could take or leave. (less)