The motif of this Connie Willis story is H.L. Mencken and con artists, and it is pure joy to read. Willis is rightly one of the most awarded authors iThe motif of this Connie Willis story is H.L. Mencken and con artists, and it is pure joy to read. Willis is rightly one of the most awarded authors in science fiction, and her wit and humanism are on full display here. This story sparkles....more
This is the closest de Lint has come to writing a sequel to any of his Newford novels; it takes place two years after the events in The Onion Girl andThis is the closest de Lint has come to writing a sequel to any of his Newford novels; it takes place two years after the events in The Onion Girl and finishes Jilly's story. Still, it isn't absolutely necessary to have read The Onion Girl first; de Lint does a decent job of catching new readers up.
As with The Onion Girl, the thing that takes me the most by surprise is that the returning characters hold less interest than the new characters for me. I was involved with Lizzie from her very first chapter as narrator, but it took until mid-way through the book for me to particularly care what was happening with Jilly and Geordie -- even though when they were new characters in the stories in Dreams Underfoot they were two of my favorite characters. Part of it may simply be that I'm tired of de Lint's descriptions of his regular characters -- Jilly is always messy, petite, with masses of tangled hair and a perpetual smile, which is a great description the first time you see it in a short story, but by the time she's been the focus of two novels and appeared in dozens of other stories the description is getting rather hackneyed. The same goes for Geordie, Joe, and Cassie in Widdershins -- I've just heard them described way too many times by now and it's always exactly the same no matter what other character is describing them.
Still, by halfway through I was invested in all of the characters (with the exception of Galfreya who seemed like a wasted viewpoint), and the story was moving along briskly. Then the other major problem with Widdershins became apparent: de Lint simply had too many moving pieces in this novel. By the halfway point the plot felt poised on the brink of the climax -- buffalo cousins living and dead had massed in between and had brought out the war drums and everyone else was scrambling to find some way to stop it. I could feel the tension permeating the novel -- until that was followed with over 100 pages of jumping from viewpoint to viewpoint to get all the characters who needed to be there in position, which totally wrecked the tension, so that by the time the showdown occurred I was totally taken out of the story. Pacing is commonly a problem with novels that have such large casts of viewpoint characters, and de Lint does not overcome it here.
Still, despite those two (fairly sizable) issues, I liked Widdershins better than The Onion Girl. It does conclude Jilly's story happily, it introduces us to more cousins (always my favorite parts of de Lint stories), and despite the pacing issues it has more action than The Onion Girl did, more jeopardy for everyone involved, so it feels like a more rounded out novel. Definitely recommended for de Lint fans....more
I can't even rate this book, simple as the question of "How much did you like it?" would seem to be. It is horrifying, I feel dirty after finishing itI can't even rate this book, simple as the question of "How much did you like it?" would seem to be. It is horrifying, I feel dirty after finishing it, and it is undeniably brilliant. I will admit I do not have a strong stomach for brutality -- I couldn't finish Don Quixote because I just could not stomach the continual beating of that poor old man -- but while the violence in Don Quixote is casual, the violence in The Wasp Factory is elevated to ritual, and there isn't a moment of it that isn't necessary for the story. (Well, except maybe the battle with the Hare. But a case can be made even for that.) Thinking about it critically, perhaps the only flaw is the psychoanalysis at the end -- it would almost have been more powerful had the twist come and the book simply stopped. But beyond that, reading it was an experience I almost wish I could have erased from my memory, but only just almost....more
Palimpsest is urban fantasy by two of the three most common meanings for the phrase. Half of it is set in a contemporary urban setting -- four, actualPalimpsest is urban fantasy by two of the three most common meanings for the phrase. Half of it is set in a contemporary urban setting -- four, actually, with Sei’s plot in Tokyo, November’s in San Francisco, Oleg’s in New York, and Ludovico’s in Rome – and half is set in and completely and utterly about the fantastical city of Palimpsest. Its structure is convoluted -- though still simpler than the labyrinthine structure of Valente’s previous work, the two-volumes of The Orphan’s Tales – and its prose is dreamlike, distantly beautiful and gossamer-light despite the weight of metaphor attendant on every phrase. It is a work of beautiful yearnings, and clearly I’ve been infected by it.
It’s not the sort of book that is suited for a wide audience – the prose is too poetic, the structure is too difficult, and the premise would earn it an NC-17 rating were this ever turned into a movie, even though most of the sex (and there is necessarily a lot of it) is practically fade-to-black. I didn’t love it, despite being in its target audience (and having read Valente before), but I did admire the heck out of it and in retrospect I think it may have moved me deeply at the end.
But that question mark is why the book ultimately frustrated me. There was a great deal that I loved about the book. I loved how well Valente drew the four real-world cities and (more importantly) the strange isolated little burrows the four main characters inhabited in those cities; I loved even more the peculiar but very much character-reflective neighborhoods each of them inhabited in Palimpsest. I loved the city of Palimpsest itself, and the dark beauty Valente imbued it with; and deep down I got how it would be addictive. I even really enjoyed the structure, though I tend to have a better-than-average instinctive grasp of patterns, so I never once got lost.
But ultimately, even though I loved Valente’s lyrical prose at the beginning of the novel, and even though I thought it absolutely the right sort of prose for a story of this sort, it distanced me from the muted tragedy inherent in the ending. One of the things I loved most about the previous Valente work I read (the two volumes of The Orphan’s Tales) was the way she wove joy and tragedy together in every page. She does the same thing in Palimpsest by the end, but I didn’t feel either emotion until I thought about the story afterwards, and I’m pretty sure that that disconnect was because of distance created by the prose.
As a flaw, that’s a pretty minor one – after all, I feel the emotion NOW – but it is a flaw, and I wish with all my heart that I could have loved Palimpsest more....more