I read this book almost a year ago, and the plot made almost no impact on me. In a vaguely steam-punk fantasy kingdom bards can do...magic? Maybe? ExcI read this book almost a year ago, and the plot made almost no impact on me. In a vaguely steam-punk fantasy kingdom bards can do...magic? Maybe? Except that the knack has been lost through the ages and now all that's left is myth, history, and archeology? There's a mystery to be solved and a conflict developing, but figuring that out through the clouds of narration is a bit of a task.
The problem is that Mckillip is style over clarity and...heart, I guess. Her characters are all beautifully described and completely flat, unloveable. Not unlikeable, but I find myself unable to feel passionate about any of them. They don't have the determination of Raederle or the capricious whimsy of the Cygnet. Instead they are just dense blocks of text. Mckillip has lost control of her own writing style and the result is as self-indulgent as it is unsatisfying. At one point (and this really isn't much of a spoiler), one of the characters declares that they are in love with one of the other characters. And I thought, really? In love with WHAT?
I liked the emphasis on scholarship and the belief that mystery can be solved if one just delves into the historical record deep enough; I liked the excerpts of old songs and poems. But I felt like this story was a good idea that could have been a great one with a little more self-control and clarity....more
In the early days of the twenty-first century, scientists genetically engineer humans who do not sleep.
This is a Big Ideas science fiction book, whicIn the early days of the twenty-first century, scientists genetically engineer humans who do not sleep.
This is a Big Ideas science fiction book, which means that it examines, through the lens of Leisha Camden, the daughter of an industry millionaire and one of the first of the "Sleepless" to be engineered, how humanity responds to an influx of people who are not like us. I don't think I'm spoiling anything when I say: not well. This book echoes in odd ways now, in 2009, sixteen years after it was first published, in an America that has seen the rise of a similar rhetoric of embattlement and intolerance, though in our case we are fighting the idea of Islamic terrorist/illegal immigrants/gay marriage/socialized medicine, and not the specter of a race of super-humans who will economically marginalize us.
Kress tells her story in chronological parts, jumping decades between sections. This technique gives scope to her story. In a more intimately-told story, I might feel disjoint and like I was missing interactions, history, that I wanted to read, but the truth is that this book is such a Big Ideas story at the expense of emotional intimacy that I didn't feel close to any of the recurring characters, and so the gaps in time didn't particularly bother me. Kress is careful of the ways that individual relationships shape lifelong choices, but also detached from those relationships.
As a result of that distance, I found myself unmoved by the story as a whole, which is not to say that it doesn't have urgency, but the narrative urgency that pulled me through the second half of the story, through Leisha's young adult life, later middle age, and then Miranda's childhood, was entirely external-world-event-based, and not character-based. I wanted to see how this world and its associated societies were going to react and change. I didn't particularly care whether Leisha stayed with any of her succession of lovers.
Pieces of this book are staying with me, but I don't find myself drawn to the world enough to pick up the sequel....more