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Yarn by Jon Armstrong
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's review
Aug 24, 2010

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Read from August 24 to September 05, 2010

Armstrong spins a dystopian future that's perhaps more focused on fashion than I personally could relate to, but if one goes with his premise, the result is highly believable and more than a little scary.

It's the life story of a tailor, Tane Cedar, who grows up in the "slubs" (Armstrong's writing is overflowing with coined words or new usages, reminding this reader of A Clockwork Orange and other masterworks of wordsmithing) outside of Seattlehama. In his future, the great masses of people toil in the countryside to extract and produce the base resources (in Tane's case, corn) for the cities. The slubs are run like cults by cartoonish celebrities. He escapes to Seattlehama, a shopping and sex mecca, where he plunges into his lifelong love of fashion and political intrigues surrounding M-Bunny, the uber-celebrity who runs both Seattlehama and the slub from where Tane came. The book has two time lines, a present track where Tane tries to obtain the pharmaceutically powerful Xi yarn to make a coat for a mysterious former companion, and a past track which follows his progress from slubs and up the ladder through Seattlehama's corridors of fashion and political intrigue.

It's fascinating work, but perhaps slow to get started. The first half of the book is a masterwork of style, but it takes a long time for the characters to emerge from behind all the hubbub. And I'm not sure about the ending, which is very poetic, but tragic. It's honest, but not satisfying. A few aspects remain too unclear. Perhaps a sequel is intended, but I'm not sure that's what is needed either. I'd just like a little more elucidation.

Armstrong has some serious game, and deserves a readership. You'll certainly find some important and frightening insight on our current world in his fashionpunk future. I suspect this work will stay with me, but I think his best work could still be ahead.
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