Gary's Reviews > Archangel

Archangel by Marguerite Reed
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it was amazing

Archangel is an emotionally complex debut science fiction novel written in tough yet lyrical prose. It is the story of Vashti Loren, a leading figure on the recently colonized planet of Ubastis, who must decide between protecting the delicate ecological balance of the planet or bowing to political pressure to open Ubastis to mass settlement. Along the way she uncovers a plan put into motion by her late husband that has staggering consequences no matter which direction she and the citizens of Ubastis choose.
Marguerite Reed is one of those contemporary authors who, like Ann Leckie and Carolyn Ives Gilman, has a genius for writing SF in the Le Guin mold: combining exquisite, imaginative worldbuilding with scientific inquiry. Like those authors' novels, Archangel explores the insurmountable gulf between the needs of the individual and the demands of civilization - the perpetually alienating experience of being human, and the sometimes destructive ways people try to manage that experience.
This novel provoked quite a bit of internal debate for me. I finished reading it more than a week before posting this review; for me, the intervening time was necessary to work out how to respond to this book in a way that could do it justice. Vashti is a brilliantly drawn character, but also one who consistently makes choices that are difficult - even impossible - for the reader to get behind. She has a propensity for violence in a society that abhors and rejects violent behavior, and a suicidal, irrational obsession with avenging her husband's murder. These flaws cause the reader to question her judgement even as she, as narrator, offers justifications for her actions. Reed rightly refuses to supply a clear moral framework for assessing Vashti's flaws, forcing the reader to accept the fact of her myriad contradictions and destructive impulses without the comfort of a safety net.
This may make it a tough book to love for some readers. It certainly was for me. But after a week of deliberation, I remembered that tough love is always the best kind.
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Reading Progress

February 12, 2016 – Shelved
February 12, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
April 3, 2016 – Started Reading
April 17, 2016 – Finished Reading

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