carol. 's Reviews > Indexing

Indexing by Seanan McGuire
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it was ok
bookshelves: fairy-tale, female-lead, urban-fantasy, meh
Read 2 times. Last read April 1, 2018 to April 4, 2018.

At the end of the day, McGuire needs to stop turning in first drafts. Either that, or hire a new editor, because the one she has is about as rigorous as a kindergarten teacher (I hesitate to say first grade, because I know how Mrs. Bauman was about penmanship back in the day).

It could also be that I like my lines neatly drawn; a book is a novel, and a serial story is something read in short installments, allowing time and life to fuzz details between episodes. Books are not tv series, and tv tells mini-stories within each week while keeping in mind an overall direction (barring cancellation, so never plan too far ahead). I realized format incompatibility when I read Bookburners: The Complete Season 1, and Indexing is even less effective. That said, I enjoyed Ilona Andrews' serial, Clean Sweep, so it just goes to show you that there are exceptions (then again, the Andrews reworked it before releasing as a book). Indexing tries to make allowances for people joining the series at different points, providing a bit of exposition in every installment. It's usually, and dismayingly, the same exposition, such as "Jeff was a type XX, a shoemaker, who makes the best footwear" and "Sloane was almost wicked and couldn't be trusted to go on cases by herself."

Snow White--I mean, Henrietta--and her team of almost fairy-tale types, excepting former journalist Andy, investigate fairy-tales-in-the-making. The 'narrative' can hijack certain situations and force almost-fairy-tale types to act in ways they normally wouldn't as the 'narrative' plays out an archtype, more or less. It's a great premise that would be entertaining with better writing. The first section is a Sleeping Beauty variant, then a Goldilocks and a Cinderella. McGuire does eventually weave in a larger plot that helps hold the overall narrative together, sort of. Mostly. There's a lot of narrative fuzzy area, and I suspect a bit of ret-conning (early on Henri is described as literally 'white,' while later she is thankful she didn't entirely lose all melanin), along with items that May Be Foreshadowing but end up not (useful when not being entirely sure where one would like to go or for how long, I imagine).

To make it sound vaguely X-Files-like, fairy stories are given a number and then all the types are kept together in an Index. This is a totally pointless device, since the reader has no actual index, and McGuire has to have her characters say awkward things to each other like, "You think she's a four-fifty?' Henri asked sharply. 'No, I don't think she's Cinderella because we don't have the step-sisters." (I totally made that dialogue up but that's almost exactly how it goes).

The challenge with working with character archetypes is, you know, archetypes. As in, these characters are supposed to think and perform along a particular trope when the narrative forces them. While we should know it as the reader, Henri also constantly reminds us, usually right after Sloan says something mean. But it also means characterization for everyone by Henri and Sloan is generally weak, existing only enough to (surprise!) perform a needed story function (information! Tension! Villain!)

Honestly, I should probably give up on McGuire, because her habit of telling over showing drives me bonkers, except every four years or so, she'll come out with a home run for me. There are absolutely great kernels of fun in here. I liked Andy dealing with the talking frog who offers to get a lost object, the description of Mr. Reynard's den, and the smell of apples being a trigger for knowing Henri is near a dead person. When McGuire describes a storybook scene, it's fabulous. So there's that. My attention wandered when trying to read; I think me pacing reading like a novel just doesn't work. But then, I'm not a tv watcher, either.

But, yay, me. Another one off the TBR list. In the spirit of McGuire, I'll just turn in my first second draft.
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Quotes carol. Liked

Seanan McGuire
“Everyone thinks of them in terms of poisoned apples and glass coffins, and forgets that they represent girls who walked into dark forests and remade them into their own reflections.”
Seanan McGuire, Indexing

Reading Progress

Finished Reading
March 18, 2018 – Shelved
March 18, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
March 18, 2018 – Shelved as: fairy-tale
April 1, 2018 – Started Reading
April 4, 2018 – Shelved as: female-lead
April 4, 2018 – Shelved as: urban-fantasy
April 4, 2018 – Shelved as: meh
April 4, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-29 of 29 (29 new)

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message 1: by M (new)

M Scott I liked "Every Heart a Doorway"

carol. That's good. I did too. Like I said, about every four years... maybe three. I wish she'd stop churning things out and work at improving them.

message 3: by Caro (new)

Caro the Helmet Lady I wish she only wrote short stories.

Beth That last sentence. Hee hee. :D

MrsJoseph *grouchy* What Caro said. I haven't been able to enjoy anything by her but 1 short.

carol. Beth wrote: "That last sentence. Hee hee. :D"

Thanks for catching it :)

carol. I have liked some of her books four stars worth:

Into the Rolling Deep
Discount Armageddon
Every Heart a Doorway
Midnight-Blue Light Special
One of the October Daye books

which is why I keep reading her books. If I just liked one, I would have given up long ago. Which is my point: she's probably late thirties, early forties, and has over forty books I think, so why not JUST EDIT THEM so they are stronger and more consistent? Seriously, she's a UF idea genius, which is why I find this one-off shit so disappointing.

message 8: by Anne (last edited Apr 08, 2018 01:36AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anne Seebach I agree the serialised approach is a little jarring when reading a full set as a novel. I thought I picked up a few small inconsistencies, but on review I suspect it is more that some of the lines and phrasing resulted in some ambiguity, easily open to misinterpretation by the reader. Your comment about the melanin for example - if you're referring to the section I think you are (Henry's return to consciousness after the bomb) I read this differently. I thought she was saying she was thankful she didn't have any more melanin to lose (ie. she never actually had any) because she wouldn't have been able to deal with that on top of everything else. But I can also see the writing was a little sloppy and could have been interpreted differently. Point of interest though: the 'Aarne-Thomson Index' is actually a real thing. In fact there are several versions now, as it's been modified a few times since it was first created a century ago. I thought that was pretty interesting when I stumbled on it. I would have liked to have seen this blended into McGuire's story more strongly.

carol. Thanks, Ana. I keep trying McGuire... at least I could finish it :)

carol. Anne wrote: "I agree the serialised approach is a little jarring when reading a full set as a novel. I thought I picked up a few small inconsistencies, but on review I suspect it is more that some of the lines ..."

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I hadn't realized the Index was an actual thing, so now the artificiality of the numbers makes more sense. I can see what you are saying about blending it in more, and I agree, that would have helped make it more understandable that McGuire was using a real reference.

message 11: by Tria (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tria Have you read it in book form rather than the serialised edition? It's a bit better edited and might be less jarring for you. I waited for that instead of the serial.

carol. It was the paperback book with everything collected. Sometimes that can help, but not always.

message 13: by Tria (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tria Ah, fair enough! I wondered, since you didn't specify. I'm finding Sparrow Hill Road a bit frustrating that way too, having read the original stories when they were online for free on The Edge of Propinquity.

carol. McGuire isn't really the best writer. Interesting ideas, however.

message 15: by Lori (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lori Claxton I so loved the premise of this book, which is why its flaws bother me so much.

I wholeheartedly agree that it should have been edited when released as a novel. The repetitive "For those of you who are just joining the story now..." expositions were distracting and annoying.

As to how "fairy stories are given a number and then all the types are kept together in an Index"...the Aarne-Thompson index actually exists. It's a classification system used by folklorists. (See: ). I thought her incorporation of it was quite clever.

Otherwise...yeah...I felt pretty much the same way about this book.

carol. Thanks, Lori, for sharing. Anne in message #8 mentioned it too, but didn't have a link. Seanan McGuire is an idea-machine, but somewhere, sometime, someone needs to start collaborating with her on writing.

MrsJoseph *grouchy* You know what this review reminds me of, a little: The Refrigerator Monologues. Instead of being based on fairy tales, it is based on superheroes.

message 18: by Lori (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lori Claxton carol. wrote: "Thanks, Lori, for sharing. Anne in message #8 mentioned it too, but didn't have a link. Seanan McGuire is an idea-machine, but somewhere, sometime, someone needs to start collaborating with her on ..."

Ah, yes, I missed Anne's message.

I've only read a small handful of McGuire's books: This one, Sparrow Hill Road (which has similar short-story/serial-turned-novel issues), the first October Daye book, and Every Heart a Doorway (just read last night/today).

I love her ideas, and some of the writing is quite beautiful. But when one of her books doesn't work for me, it's that much more crushing, for its promise/my expectations. Alas.

carol. Lori, I absolutely understand what you meant about when one of the books doesn't work being that much more disappointing. It's even worse if it's one book out of a series or so (there were a couple Incryptid books I liked). Her bibliography has three or four books a year, which is why I desperately want someone to slow her down and instill some quality. Or hand her ideas off to someone who will take more time with them.

message 20: by Maya (new) - rated it 3 stars

Maya Completely agree about the need for more editing and for more actual time to let those ideas mature into a real plot. But why should she change her approach ... she's successful because many people are satisfied with this "fast food" literature. Why spend time editing if you can instead write a new 1st draft, which will sell just as well ;)

carol. Well, I think you definitely hit on a truth there, Maya. Although maybe it is also her creativity--some readers know she's capable of more and so keep waiting for the next book to be the one. I think she might be taking more pains with the Folk tales series.

message 22: by Maya (new) - rated it 3 stars

Maya Indeed. I did come back to her work several times even once the plotting became too sloppy for me ... but I'm totally on the fence now xD The October Daye series has turned into such a disappointment, I just want it to end. Which one is the folk tales series?

carol. Down Among the Sticks and Bones and those books. I read one, but have heard mixed reviews about subsequent ones. I thought shorter seems to be better for her, but I did like Into the Drowning Deep which was a one-off.

message 24: by Maya (new) - rated it 3 stars

Maya Ah, ok! the wayward children series really isn't working for me, but I will try the Mira Grant works at some point.

carol. Luck to you!

message 26: by Carmen (new)

Carmen Great review!

carol. Thank you, Carmen.

Courtney I did want to point out that the ATI is an actual thing. Seanan McGuire wasn't just making up the reference numbers; she owns a copy of the Index.

carol. Message #8 and #16 say the same thing. Thanks for sharing, Courtney.

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