Juushika's Reviews > The Fixed Stars: Thirty-Seven Emblems for the Perilous Season

The Fixed Stars by Brian Conn
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May 10, 11

bookshelves: status-owned
Read in May, 2011

In an obscure future, cataclysm and plague has forced the society to retreat into the past. Now, on the eve of John's Day, a rambling cast tell their various stories. I would call The Fixed Stars a fever-dream, but that there's no fever in it--;indeed, no heat at all. Composed of loosely-connected scifi-/fantasy-slanted vignettes in varying styles (including an inset play) and formats, it's a boldy strange book. Some of the individual vignettes are promising, even meaningful, but the book as a whole feels more like experiment than product: there's a vague setting and hints of a plot to tie the pieces together, but not enough; lots goes on without making sense or, more importantly, having any sense of purpose. The strongest uniting factor is unfortunately Conn's distant, indefinite writing style: a fetish for ambiguity initially gives his work depth, but ultimately strips it of any meaning or movement, and leaves The Fixed Stars lying lifeless on the page. (For the record I also find no humor in it, although other readers apparently do.)

I don't begrudge difficult or strange books--indeed I adore them, but I think that they need to be more than just an experiment in style: there should be something that rewards the effort of reading them. The Fixed Stars has promise, but it's ultimately a disappointment. Despite some strong moments (and to be fair, some of them have stuck with me--there are parts of this book that I like, and I wanted badly to like the whole thing), the book comes to nothing. It rewards the reader with nothing more than the joy of the rare remarkable vignette, and certainly with nothing that justifies 300 pages of them. Experimental literature has produced some fantastic books, but this is not one of them. Spend your time elsewhere: I can't in the least recommend The Fixed Stars.
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