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Girl in Landscape

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  3,198 ratings  ·  293 reviews
Lethem's latest genre-bending exploration of science, landscape and the metaphysics of love and loss. A coming of age story about a teenage girl on the frontiers of space.

Pella's father, Clement, has just been swept out of elective office in New York and has set his sights on the next political frontier: joining the first human settlers on the Planet of the Archbuilders. O
Paperback, 280 pages
Published January 26th 1999 by Vintage (first published 1998)
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Average rating 3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,198 ratings  ·  293 reviews

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I have absolutely no interest in science fiction in any capacity. I also am deeply terrified of outer space and I once had a dream about my dad being abducted by aliens through my parents' kitchen window that left me unable to sleep without the bathroom light on for years.

I found Girl in Landscape on my bookshelf. I have no memory of purchasing it, and my boyfriend says he's never seen it before. I have a ton of books cluttering my shelves right now, so I picked this up with the intention of rea
Oct 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: this year's girl
Recommended to Mariel by: wind in the wires
If every book were like Jonathan Lethem's Girl in Landscape I'd probably never talk to anyone ever again. That'd not be such a bad thing, really (I mean for everybody else. I can be a right pain in the ass). I could move to a new frontier and read all day. (Start my own planet!) Everything would be the great read that makes me feel fullfilled. Longing sigh.
'Landscape' I read in one sitting on a ass numbingly long flight. That I didn't notice anything else around me was amazing. That's what I wan
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
It appears necessary that I begin my review with a true story. I was enjoying reading in the pregnant sunshine, robins flirted in the leaves behind me, a gentle breeze stirred the budding trees. I was not, however, enjoying this novel, in fact, I was sighing as I sped along. Suddenly the novel in question was targeted by an Avian Airborne Excrement attack. Now i have experienced the white drops of British sketch comedy before. This was a blast, it nearly tore the book from stunned fingers. I dec ...more
Kevin Fanning
Aug 28, 2007 rated it liked it
I liked it. Scanning through all the reviews of this book on Goodreads, it looks like most people don't have much to say about the book, beyond listing what happens in it. The scene where the author reveals what's going on, with the planet and the virus, is super good and my enjoyment in the book instantly went off the charts. But then it's kind of a slow fade back down to regular Like after that. Everything after the fire felt a little messy, like it was part of a different book. The narration ...more
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
i found nothing unlikeable about this book.
the perspective from the preteen girl is, as far as i can tell, totally infallible. i buy it completely in the sense that i never feel like it's a guy writing how he THINKS she would feel.
on top of that we have classic western set in sci fi future.
and itsy bitsy alien deer.

the strength of his work is to write great characters and stories but set them in a sci fi setting. it's not about the setting or the world. it's about them. and that's how he transce
Nicholas Karpuk
Sep 30, 2008 rated it liked it
I like science fiction more as a setting than a genre. Too much of the writing that falls under that banner seems like the well-informed prattling of Asperger sufferers who used world-building as catharsis. Whether it's steam-punk Victorian era or a million years in the future, my deepest desire is for a story with strong character development an good pacing.

Lethem gets it mostly right with Girl in Landscape, creating something akin to a Steinbeck story set in a near-future on a mostly uninhabit
Nov 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a terrific coming-of-age story, a terrific space Western, and a really smart reflection on human nature. But you can't quite hold it directly. There is something about it, like the sun out West, where it seems too bright to approach directly. The shattered sense of this future America sets it off on that foot; the scene at the beginning at Coney Island. We almost don't want to look but at the same time feel compelled and so those two impulses meet somewhere just off to the side of the thing ...more
Dec 02, 2019 rated it liked it
3 or 4, really. I can't find the reference now but I believe John Scalzi mentioned "household deer" somewhere which sent me chasing this down. I had recently finished Motherless Brooklyn so I thought I would continue with reading Lethem. It's weird. It's suspenseful and creepy almost all the way through. The author did wrap things up nicely and left everyone in a good place but I didn't have good feelings about it. The SF aspect is almost irrelevant. Well done though. I guess it's literature.
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would call Lethem's work something like "allegorical science fiction" and maybe that is a real term. While it operates on the tropes of a scorched future earth and living on an alien planet in the ruins of a lost civilization, that is all just setting. The story is a fable of growing up while realizing that all adults around you are failing. Through the eyes (and that is really saying something in this book) of our fourteen year old protagonist, Pella Marsh, we see humanity stripped down to it ...more
May 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
I want to mention, but skip over aspects of Girl in landscape likely to be covered by other reviewers. It certainly stands out because of its genre bending of Western and Science Fiction tale. It is clearly an homage of sorts to The Searchers. It is other aspects of the book that made it very moving to read.

It should not be overlooked that it is a wonderful coming-of-age story (or bildungsromane to quote the German literary term). Pella Marsh is a young woman forced to grow up far too quickly a
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-f, sff-favorites
This one is a strange mix even for genre-bending genius Jonathon Lethem. "Girl in Landscape" combines a young girl's coming of age and awakening sexuality with an alien landscape and the strange relationships between human and alien beings. At times charting the landscapes of children and adults and the odd spaces in between, at others chronicling failure, loss and the inherent possibility of settling a new world. This is my favorite of his novels. It is poignant and lovely, quirky and curious, ...more
Shane Jones
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Randomly bought this at the used book store around the corner and felt surprised how much I enjoyed this, although at times the nerdy quality of Lethem gets a bit too thick. But the imagination, genre twisting, images, spare prose, etc, is surprising
Mark Palermo
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
The first third is terrific, and then the next 100 pages slow down into one of those "sexual awakening through fantasy genre trope" things, but once I adjusted to it not continuing with its initial inventiveness, I really liked this. Good ending, too.
I might bump this up to four stars after mulling it over some. Hard to get a handle on this book.
Kyle Muntz
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
A really peculiar novel. This is my first time reading Lethem, and I wasn't sure what to expect--though from what I can tell, his writing is very different from book to book. This books starts really strong with a family recovering from the death of their mother; there are some interesting science fiction elements, but the bigger picture had a kind vagueness that almost reminds me of a fable, contrasting with extremely interesting specific details from scene to scene. The prose is really sharp, ...more
Josh Duggan
Nov 15, 2011 rated it did not like it
Anyway, a little while back I read this book having heard good things about Jonathan Lethem. It is a post-apocalyptic novel in which largely ineffectual characters settle on a foreign planet with the primary character being 14-year-old Pella Marsh. If none of that sounded good, it is because it wasn't.

Now the back of the book sold Girl in Landscape as a "genre-bending, mind-expanding tale of sexual perversity on a new frontier." Look elsewhere, brave reader, because there is little in the way of
Halley Sutton
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Upping my review to five stars. I loved this and also feel like it was pretty flawed but then I'm also not sure if the flaws were flaws or just unmet expectations I had? For example, had no real idea what the aliens looked like. Actually, that's not true at all-- they looked like Big Bird to me, so I guess I DID have an idea, but also, I don't know? That's more or less how I felt about most of this book. "What about X...wait, does X matter, isn't Y more important? BUT THEN Z..." So: loved the co ...more
MJ Nicholls
May 04, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: merkins, novels
The blurb describes this book as The Searchers meets Lolita. This is total BS. The comparison with Lolita is frankly desperate.

I'll admit to being distracted reading this novel. More distracted than usual. However, I wouldn't have found myself as distracted had the novel been more immersive, Jonathan. I found myself flicking through with vague interest, never really latching onto the prose, getting confused more than twice.

It was, well... rather dull.

I appreciate Lethem's originality and weirdn
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2014
Here is the thing: despite this novel being set in a future in which the earth is falling apart and a family travels over a light-year away to live on an alien planet with inscrutable aliens in a very young and empty alien colony, it isn't really sci-fi. It is really just a story about a thirteen year old girl, and growing up--it is about the secrets of the body, some yours, some known to all, it is about the secrets of childhood and of adulthood, of the secrets that foster in that liminal space ...more
Absolutely loved Motherless Brooklyn and really liked the totally different Amnesia Mooon, but was frankly disappointed by this one. An interesting premise that started strong but then petered out to kind of nothing. Lethem is always an excellent writer, and so the book held my interest right to the end, as I was hoping for a big reveal that justified all the lead up, but the ultimate "surprise" was really anti-climatic considering the post-apocalyptic, alien planet build-up.

The most interesting
Christina Zanakos
Apr 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Though I'm not usually a fan of science fiction, girl in landscape captivated me from the very beginning. The story is told through Pella Marsh, a twelve year old girl whose world is about to be flipped upside down as her family moves to an entirely new planet. Her father, losing his policital election on earth, believes he is needed for order and stability on the new planet of the archbuilders and relocates his family there, but not before tragedy strikes. His wife, Pella's mother, dies before ...more
Apr 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alison by: Book Lust
Shelves: fiction, audiobook
This is another great Lethem novel. It is set in the future, at a time when the earth has become so polluted that we are setting up colonies on other planets. The novel follows the Marsh family, and in particular the daughter Pella. It picks up as they are finalizing their plans to move to the Planet of the Archbuilders, but the majority of the action takes place there. As you can see this is a sci-fi novel, but something about the way Lethem writes it makes it seem completely normal and plausib ...more
May 01, 2008 rated it liked it
(Having just read Johnny's review, I have to throw in my 2 cents.)

I liked this one, but it's not one of my favorite scifi novels. The allusions to John Ford's The Searchers are pretty interesting. Good characters, very involving narrative, and a better-than-average scifi mise en scene. The novel reminded me a bit of Philip K. Dick's Martian Time-Slip.

I was just a little disappointed that the story ended up basically revolving around sex taboos... I mean, heading off to explore a new planet and s
Apr 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A good read, I blasted through this well thought out and well written novel. Filled with surprise when I first began reading it, the narrator is a 12 year old girl, I quickly found that Lethem's choice in doing so works very well and even helps to drive the story and create conflict within his novel. I also think that Lethem's choice of following children and their actions and responses on/to the world of the Archbuilders works very well, especially in how he presents an idea of how childlike th ...more
Igor Nemirovsky
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A superb novel, from beginning to end. A sci-fi Western at its core, the story interweaves coming of age with discovering the alien in oneself (and the self in the alien), which I suppose aren't that different from one another. As much about bullying as self discovery, it borrows lightly from themes I've read before in Scott-Card's Ender sequels, only more expansive, and yet also more elegant and concise. As a film buff I have to admit that I'd love to see this made into a movie, if only to see ...more
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mesmerising, enigmatic and strangely moving novel which tells the story of a girl on the brink of puberty, set in a far-off world that is inhabited by descendents of a mythical race of Archbuilders. To escape inevitable change from playful childhood to adolescent responsibilities, Lethem allows her to move her consciousness into a small indigenous animal and to run freely and happy. The language is poetic and beautifully fits the story. Comes recommended.
Aug 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Being around books all day, there are a few names that constantly make me think 'oh yeah, i need to read that' Jonathon Letham fits into that category, although I never really knew what to expect.
Turns out, a family on the moon with deermice & furry (furbyish?) aliens. Enjoyed the story and the pacing, and now must read something more of his. I wonder if there will be deermice....
Sep 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
A sci-fi Western with Lolita elements. Layered, edgy and artistic. A small community that needs each other to survive on an alien planet is too caught up in its individuals' struggles to come together. While aliens abound, the book focuses on character to create a rich and complex novel. ...more
Apr 29, 2015 rated it liked it
This was an extremely quick read. I finished it in just a couple days. I like the idea of the deer mice, and what they offered Pella. But I wish the author added more detail and depth to that aspect of the book. I also would have liked the author to delve into the Archbuilders history and culture more.
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I've read most of Lethem's works and have considered him one of my favorite authors for years. This book highlights his sci-fi skills, but combines it with the stark setting of Mars that is reminiscent of pioneers forging life on the western frontier. My favorite of his novels.
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Jonathan Allen Lethem (born February 19, 1964) is an American novelist, essayist and short story writer.

His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a genre work that mixed elements of science fiction and detective fiction, was published in 1994. It was followed by three more science fiction novels. In 1999, Lethem published Motherless Brooklyn, a National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novel t

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