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Smoketown

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3.65  ·  Rating details ·  103 ratings  ·  34 reviews
The city of Leiodare is unlike any other in the post-climate change United States. Within its boundaries, birds are outlawed and what was once a crater in Appalachia is now a tropical, glittering metropolis where Anna Armour is waiting. An artist by passion and a factory worker by trade, Anna is a woman of special gifts. She has chosen this beautiful, traumatized city to w ...more
Paperback, 197 pages
Published July 26th 2011 by Blind Eye Books
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3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  103 ratings  ·  34 reviews


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K.J. Charles
Jun 20, 2018 added it
Shelves: f-f, fantasy
A very weird book. It's a lyrical sf/f of the sort with nanotech and also magic, wildly imaginative and strange. On the one hand it's a fable set in a jungle city in post climate change US where birds are illegal after an avian-spread plague, but a woman who can bring her drawings to life starts drawing them while she waits for her lover to come back. On the other, it's a SF about virtual reality and corporate conspiracy. The two halves fit in a dreamlike way, along with the beginnings of a new ...more
Craig
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Smoketown, the debut novel of Tenea D. Johnson, belongs in a rare subset of speculative fiction novels that examine the relationship between art and society. These books include Pat Murphy's The City, Not Long After and a number of Samuel R. Delany's work, most notably Dhalgren. Smoketown, like the aforementioned works, blurs the boundaries between perception, magic and science, and the futuristic/transformed landscape is both a living metaphor and geography.
Anna Armour, an artist, is at the ce
...more
Catherine
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Dreamlike, post-apocalyptic novel with fabulous world-building. I liked the protagonist, the world building and the plot which makes a dotted-line connection between magic and science. The characters are diverse and interesting, and I love Johnson's writing. It's also a lovely little book, ornamented with an occasional drawing. My only complaint was that the ending felt a bit flat to me after the rest of the journey, but some of that was due to me wanting to read more about this world and these ...more
Naberius
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book reminded me a lot of what I like about many of China Mieville's books: a fascinating setting that is both intriguing and disturbing, and a story that completely captures me. As you can see from the above summary, there are multiple characters in this story who encounter each other, and whose stories are intertwined and woven into each other, as well. Anna is, I feel, the real main character in the story -- we get to know her as the story progresses, and she is the focus of much of the ...more
Melinda
Apr 23, 2012 rated it liked it
I liked the premise of this book a lot. I liked Anna and her complicated relationship with Peru. I appreciate twists of the plot and I liked all of the characters. Most of all, I liked the mystery at the heart of the novel. I with that the novel had been longer and really developed the relationship between Anna and Peru & Anna and Seife. There were side characters whose background I didn't always understand. I found that I wasn't sure who the Starlings where. What was the purpose behind the ...more
Althea Ann
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
In a post-apocalyptic city, a woman waits for her missing lover.
Fearful of a recurrence of plague (some kind of mutated avian flu?), the city of Leiodare has banned birds of all kinds, and most citizens have a phobia of them.
Anna, however, has a magical gift; her drawings can come to life - and she is compelled to draw birds.

In an emotional limbo, Anna's path intertwines with that of the inhabitants of Leiodare, which under the surface, is a pressure-cooker waiting to explode.

This short novel
...more
Melissa
Mar 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've been trying to figure out how to talk about this book. I always have this problem with books that surprise and astound me. Confident but subtle style and world-building. Compelling and complex characters. Entangled stories that weave together to create a fascinating larger story that builds to a breathless climax. I still can't believe this is a first novel.
Chris Shaffer
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Dreamlike storytelling with empathetic characters.
Juushika
After being decimated by plague, the city of Leiodare stands isolated and safeguarded against the world near-future world. This is a book in which the setting is the central, and arguably most distinct, character; isolationist and traumatized; divided between advanced technology and gangs, cults and ritual. It's stylized and not especially convincing worldbuilding (I could do without the made-up nouns), but is also the book's highlight, an evocative, atmospheric study of society-building and soc ...more
Robbie
Aug 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a little better than ok. The story is good, the structure of the story-telling was good, but the writing itself -- the way the words worked together on me as a reader -- was weak. The story has a dreamy, magical element to it in terms of the actual facts of the story but that dreamy magic never found its way into the author's language. There were parts that I felt could have been fleshed out more -- easily about 100 more pages worth of material -- but I found that I didn't really want t ...more
Angela
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
In what we now think of as Appalachia, Leiodare is a jungle due to pharma companies destroying the climate. Twenty-five years ago, an epidemic hit Leiodare called 'The Crumble,' and even though the quarantine of the city has been lifted, it's still not the same. Birds were blamed for the epidemic, and thus have been banned - with a sonic wall guarding the city and check-points at all entrances and exits. Anna is there awaiting her love's return when she re-discovers her power to make drawings th ...more
Michelle
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was captivated by the simultaneous bleakness and beauty of this story, and by the ending that gave some resolution but also possibility for a world continuing to change. The magical elements of the story were woven in so deftly I had to stop a few times and say "Whoa, that just happened!".

I did struggle to follow the story line a little bit, there were several point of view shifts, but it wasn't badly done, just required me to focus. Overall quite gorgeous.
Jade Austin
While it was a good book, there was definitely something missing from the storytelling. It was a bit like reading the second book in the series. I felt like a lot of chances were missed in the storytelling.
Alison (ง'̀-'́)ง
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed the book. Excellent story, great story-telling, a lovely afternoon read.
Featherheart
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: orientation
Too much jumping around--nonlinear narrative itself is fine, but you gotta mark when you're changing time periods if you want me to follow the plot.
Lindsay
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Could have used with more explanation on her ability. Besides that, awesome!
L. Cherelle
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
A Kentucky native, Johnson named the story after Louisville’s Smoketown, a historically African American neighborhood that housed a 'large number of (smoke-producing) kilns'. Johnson retains the history of the people and place in her novel and transforms the futuristic Smoketown into a bustling district in the large city-state of Leiodare.

Climate change has altered the landscapes of the United States, converting Kentucky into lush, tropical lands. Twenty-five years prior to the story opening, a
...more
Sarah (CoolCurryBooks)
Smoketown is a novel that’s hard to categorize. It’s got elements of the post-apocalyptic, dystopian, and urban fantasy. And the writing is simply lovely! So lyrical and beautiful. There’s a reason I’ve compared this one to the books of Charles de Lint. Really, it’s a huge shame that more people haven’t heard of Smoketown.

Twenty years ago the city of Leiodare, a futuristic city-state located in the former state of Kentucky, was struck by a plague. Birds were perceived to be the cause, and so bir
...more
Nick Fagerlund
Jun 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book was odd as hell! Not least on the genre front:

* It takes place in a futuristic city in the eastern US, post major climate change, where sensory/emotional simulations are the entertainment of choice, which is arguably mundane SF.
* But there's an intense enough sense of place and preoccupation with place to push it into urban SF (by parallel with the late-80s/early-90s iteration of “urban fantasy”).
* Also, the city is traumatized in the wake of a plague and lives in fear of birds, with i
...more
Wade
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In this inventive story, the reader is plopped into the middle of a world that is somehow very familiar yet quite different from our own - a work of almost cultural anthropology.
The author remarkably gives very little background, and yet somehow the world of Leiodare emerges almost as a work of cultural anthropology. There is wealth and poverty, shiny and mysterious technology in the middle of a very grounded physical reality. There is unexplained magic (that perhaps is simply new techology), st
...more
Solace Ames
Sep 26, 2014 is currently reading it
Shelves: poc-sff
The city of Leiodare is unlike any other in the post-climate change United State. Within its boundaries, birds are outlawed and what was once a crater in Appalachia is now a tropical, glittering metropolis where Anna Armour is waiting. An artist by passion and a factory worker by trade, Anna is a woman of special gifts. She has chosen this beautiful, traumatized city to wait for the woman she's lost, the one she believes can save her from her troubled past and uncertain future. When one night An ...more
Z
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I owe this strong novel a longer review, and hope to post one later. For now I will say this: fascinating world-building and inclusion of believable cultural and environmental elements. Likeable, imperfect, intelligent heroine. The complexity, humor, and pacing of this novel take it far beyond typical dystopian themes.

This is no simple dystopia: in this world artists earn money by capturing and altering reality for those able to purchase escapism, and the simple beauty of birdsong has become an
...more
Paul Anderson
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Smoketown is an incredibly lyrical book, so highly imaginative and creative it took my breath away. Johnson is such a sophisticated writer she surprised me with images and emotions as if I were experiencing a virtu real. Very highly recommended.
Carolyn
Dec 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this several years ago but continue to think about it so may read it again. It's quite memorable.
Emma (Miss Print)
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Writing really kept reader at a distance. Anna is 30. Not sure about teen appeal. Felt more dystopian than post-apocalyptic which I think of as having more immediacy to it.
Carmen
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fantasy and post-apocalypse fans
The town has banned and killed all birds, because birds caused the Crumble (a plague). Anna can create things with drawings and will. Everyone is bisexual.
Heather Henkel
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book

Thus was a very weird and odd book. Not bad, I enjoyed reading it, but very weird at the same time.
willowdog
Found not enough explicit gay content. Thought the story had alot of oles in it. Maybe I just don't like futuristic science fiction
Andrea
Apr 03, 2012 marked it as to-someday-finish
Can't get into it. Will try again at some point.
Conorcrumley
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
amazing. this is a well crafted, one sitting book.
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PoC SFF Book Club: DISCUSSION POST: Smoketown by Tenea Johnson 1 4 Nov 03, 2014 11:50AM  

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