Moira Russell's Reviews > Welcome to Bordertown

Welcome to Bordertown by Ellen Kushner
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's review
Jul 15, 2011

bookshelves: ebook, on-the-kindle, 2011-50-new-books-challenge

I'm not sure this book works. The introduction of new computer technology to Bordertown seems off (did they really have to have a typical Cory Doctorow "teenage hero invents the internet and gets laid at the same time" story? Really truly?), and the "it's been thirteen days in Bordertown but thirteen years for the World" conceit seems invented to cover up the gap in books more than anything else, altho some of the writers use it very well. Most of the poetry reads like song lyrics without music, which doesn't really work. The Jane Yolen rap is especially, embarrassingly bad. (Also, dammit, don't put "NEIL GAIMAN" on the cover in giant type unless he writes something besides a page-long poem.)

What's more, a lot of the stories are "meta" as much about the experience of reading Bordertown stories while growing up as the actual Bordertown itself, and that gets tiresome after a while. Yesyes, Bordertown is fantasy/scifi and the runaways are the readers disappointed in the "real world," but what about the place itself, without all the romantic expectations and crushing disappointments? Or maybe that's the actual point after all, that such a place doesn't really exist, just as books aren't actual reality, and the romantic expectations and crushing disappointments are all that's there -- but as I said, that gets tiresome after a while, and too besides (as one character says), that turns us all into Mme Bovary. The journey to Bordertown itself is the tale told too often.

Many of the stories remind me a bit like early-middle Pratchett (with obvious stylistic differences), in which he was having fun playing around with tropes and ideas about storytelling and narrative's effect on people, before he got interested in the nuts-and-bolts worldbuilding of how his creation actually worked. (The origin of the Bordertown "police," for example -- how do you become a cop? Aren't there courts? Who gives the cops their authority? Where do they all get those shiny silver suits? How did they get started in the first place? I always annoy people with questions like these. "Shut up and watch the movie and don't ruin it for the rest of us, Moi," is the usual response.)

I didn't read the original Bordertown anthologies growing up (not sure why, I was a real genre hound in my teens, and devoured most of the science fiction and fantasy anthologies the Santa Fe Public library had), which might be part of the problem. This book inspired me to pick up some earlier volumes, Bordertown and The Essential Bordertown, which struck me as much stronger books, as well as Emma Bull's Finder, which is fantastic. Bull has written all my favourite stories in all the Border anthologies I've read so far, and I'd love to see another novel (or three) about it from her. Maybe the earlier books work better for me because there isn't that thick gloss of nostalgia slicked over them. There's the real joy of discovery and freedom in a lot of them; it feels a little bit like receiving actual dispatches from the sixties and seventies, rather than the decades-later reminiscences about them. Maybe somewhere there is a book about the actual emotional impact of "you had to be there" on people who actually couldn't ever be there (whether because of the inexorable flow of time, the nature of fiction itself, or whatever), but this isn't it.

Obligatory GoodReads musical accompaniment provided by YouTube for this review:
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Reading Progress

July 15, 2011 – Shelved
July 15, 2011 – Shelved as: ebook
July 15, 2011 – Shelved as: on-the-kindle
July 23, 2011 –
3.0% "'"What about Rosco?" I asked her miserably. "He's only a puppy. He won't understand."' Oy."
Started Reading
July 24, 2011 –
18.0% "Doctorow, ugh"
July 24, 2011 –
30.0% "boy, all the poetry in this just really sucks"
July 24, 2011 –
53.0% "Argh, the comic is unreadable on a Kindle."
July 24, 2011 – Shelved as: 2011-50-new-books-challenge
July 24, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Audra (Unabridged Chick) Don't ever change. <3

message 2: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Audra (Unabridged Chick) wrote: "Don't ever change. <3"

Aww! You sweetie.

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