Nataliya's Reviews > Silently and Very Fast

Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente
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it was amazing
bookshelves: hugo-nebula, 2012-reads, favorites, locus-winner, valente-whimsical-magic, book-list-for-bri
Recommended to Nataliya by: Catie
Read 2 times. Last read December 11, 2018 to December 12, 2018.

This surreal, mesmerizing and intensely emotional novella is a masterpiece of such beauty, color and life that left me awed and (albeit temporarily) speechless. It's like Van Gogh's "Starry Night" in a book form.

"Starry Night" is my favorite painting, and is EXACTLY what my dreamspace - my 'Interior' - would look like. Such a beautiful and fascinating piece - just like Valente's novella.

Every book has its perfect audience, and every audience has its perfect book, and so Silently and Very Fast and yours truly are a match made in heaven. It struck such a perfect chord with me and brought forward such strong emotions and feelings that after finishing it I felt completely overwhelmed and awestruck.

Transcending the usual genre conventions and boundaries in the perfectly unique blend of fairy-tale, sci-fi, emotionally charged soul-baring memoir, love story, philosophical exercise and poignant declaration of simply being, this flawless novella accomplishes more in the short 127 pages than hefty volumes and tomes can only hope to accomplish in a lifetime, so to say.

Catherynne M. Valente has a fascinating way with language, forgoing simplicity and understatement in favor of charged, colorful, poignant, almost graphic in their vividness descriptions that are based on metaphors, allegories, associations, and at times almost stream-of-consciousness prose. Her writing is almost visual - she paints in brave and confident and yet at the same refined and fragile brush pen strokes. And every word and every sentence come to life.
"Everything has a narrative, really, and if you can't understand a story and relate to it, figure out how you fit inside it, you're not really alive at all."
The story takes place in the hauntingly fascinating and surreal environment of dreams and daydreams - the "Interior", a virtual reality originally created as a children's playspace which has evolved to be something infinitely more. It's a place of infinite fluidity and possibility, constantly changing and shifting to fit moods and desires and metaphors. It's a place of dreams where everything is possible, nothing needs to stay the same, but nothing is ever thrown away. It's a place where you can be anything. It's hauntingly fascinating and surreal.

This is a story of Elefsis, artificial intelligence that started as a child's plaything and grew and evolved through five generations of a family, their loves and deaths, sharing the worst and the best and the most intimate moments. They are everything to Elefsis - "my mother and my sister and my child and my wife and my husband and my father and my brother". Through metaphors and fairy-tales, she learned to love, feel, and to simply be. As Ceno, her first human, says: "It's not alive, but it's not NOT alive."
The Good Robot cut out her own heart and gave it to her god and for this she was rewarded, though never loved. Love is wasted on machines.
But is Elefsis alive? Does she truly feel? Is she capable of love? After all, she is not human, and aren't all these human qualities? And what does it even mean - to be alive? Valente does not give definite answers, she remains ambiguous while subtly steering us down the path to realization that central to any kind of being and living is love.

She quietly takes on a popular theme in sci-fi that gave us Asimov's robot laws and Dick's androids who may or may not dream of electric sheep - the presumed inability of machines to love, the fear that they would dominate the world. When you get to its core, it's really, a fear of otherness. We look for something that resembles us - "We are alike. We are alike." Scared of otherness, we designed the Turing test, evaluating machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior by a human's observer's inability to distinguish machine's answers from those of a human. Are life and intelligence solely human qualities then? Valente simply answers: "Love is the Turing test [...] It's how we check for life."
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gorgeous, beautiful, touching book with surprising intensity and emotional depth. It is one of those books that touch my soul in an unexpected way and leave it a little bit changed. Thank you, Catie, for your wonderful review that made me pick up this book!
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Quotes Nataliya Liked

Catherynne M. Valente
“[...] everything has a narrative, really, and if you can’t understand a story and relate to it, figure out how you fit inside it, you’re not really alive at all.”
Catherynne M. Valente, Silently and Very Fast


Reading Progress

April 9, 2012 – Shelved
April 23, 2012 – Started Reading
April 24, 2012 –
50.0%
April 24, 2012 – Finished Reading
December 11, 2018 – Started Reading
December 12, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 51 (51 new)


Trudi I'm reading this now too!


Catie Yes! You'll probably have it finished today. I am so excited to read your review later. (Fabulous Mieville review, by the way. I haven't had a chance to comment yet but I loved it!)


Nataliya Thanks, Catie!
I haven't had a chance to start it yet - an incredibly busy day at work followed by hours of patient-related stuff I still have to do at home. I do hope to read at least a few pages when I get all of that done though.


message 4: by Richard (new) - added it

Richard Derus *pulls on hip boots*
Unleash the fangirl gush at will, Doctor.


Catie Yay!! I knew you would love it.


Trudi Simply gorgeous Nataliya...and I love that 'Starry Night' would be your Interior :)


message 7: by Mosca (new) - added it

Mosca Isn't this why we read!


Nataliya Trudi wrote: "Simply gorgeous Nataliya...and I love that 'Starry Night' would be your Interior :)"

Thanks, Trudi! And ever since I figured out what the Interior was, I never had any doubt about what mine would be.

Mosca wrote: "Isn't this why we read!"

So true.


Catie Wow! You really did this book justice Nataliya! I love your whole last paragraph there - I think you really were able to articulate what this book is all about. Beautiful review!

P.S. - I love Van Gogh. This is my favorite painting:

[image error]


message 10: by Darnell (new) - added it

Darnell J. Stemming from your review alone, I have to read this book. If you weren't a "Medical student desperately trying to stay sane." I would swear you had a profession in literature. The intensity of your review could only be matched by your conviction to enlighten individuals like myself.


Nataliya Darnell wrote: "Stemming from your review alone, I have to read this book. If you weren't a "Medical student desperately trying to stay sane." I would swear you had a profession in literature. The intensity of yo..."

Thanks, Darnell! Literature is my other love (besides medicine) - but luckily I'm very aware of my literary limitations to actually attempt to write fiction. Now, reviewing fiction - that's another thing ;)


message 12: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Fabulous review, Nataliya! I expect to finish it tomorrow, and love it just as much as you and Catie do. :)

Dazzling story, spectacular review!


Nataliya Thanks, Jim! I'm glad to hear that there are more of us who adore this story! I can't wait to hear your thoughts about it - will you review it?


message 14: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim I will review it for sure, but I certainly can't match what you and Catie have done!

I definitely want to link to both of your reviews, and have a few ideas about where to go from there. I need to see how she finishes the story!


message 15: by Mary (new)

Mary Wow, this book sounds like something I need to read. I have an oil replica of 'Starry Night' in my living room :)


Nataliya Mary wrote: "Wow, this book sounds like something I need to read. I have an oil replica of 'Starry Night' in my living room :)"

This book is amazing.
I'm not as cool as you - I have "Starry Night" sticker on my laptop and as my phone background. And now I want a replica for my apartment walls.


message 17: by Mary (last edited May 09, 2012 11:39AM) (new)

Mary Who knew you could get Starry Night boxer shorts and thong? Look at all this stuff lol http://www.buy.com/sr/searchresults.a...


Nataliya 'Starry Night' thong... My poor eyes have now definitely seen EVERYTHONG ...ahem... EVERYTHING (Freudian typo!)


message 19: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Nataliya wrote: "'Starry Night' thong... My poor eyes have now definitely seen EVERYTHONG ...ahem... EVERYTHING (Freudian typo!)"

Did you really say that?!?

And I gotta get me one of them Starry Night thongs, boxer shorts, whatever...


message 20: by Mary (new)

Mary I don't think one has truly lived until they've worn Starry Night undergarments....


Nataliya Mary wrote: "I don't think one has truly lived until they've worn Starry Night undergarments...."

I want this exact sentence printed on a t-shirt.

And Jim - yes. That was the best typo ever.


message 22: by Mary (new)

Mary ^ I'd buy one


message 23: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim With you all the way, Mary and Nataliya!

We don't make mistakes - we just have happy accidents..:)


Nataliya Jim wrote: "With you all the way, Mary and Nataliya!

We don't make mistakes - we just have happy accidents..:)"


And that's another t-shirt worthy slogan that I'd pay for ;)


message 25: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Nataliya wrote: "And that's another t-shirt worthy slogan that I'd pay for ;)"

I cannot tell a lie, Nataliya. I stole that slogan from another painter of somewhat lesser renown - Bob Ross of PBS' Joy of Painting. He died years ago, but his show still runs here and I record it for my aspiring-artist 2nd grader.

To be completely accurate, I should quote (or paraphrase) Mark Twain:

"I don't tell lies. I differ from George Washington in that respect. George could NOT tell a lie. I can, but I won't.." ;)


Catie Hahahahahaha!! Bob Ross!! Such a staple of my childhood.




message 27: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Ahh, Catie, you are my hero(ine)!!

My 2nd-grader was jumping up and down and screaming the first time he saw Bob paint one of his mountains..

"Daddy, he just painted a mountain, and it looks EXACTLY like a REAL mountain!"


Catie His voice is so soothing. And his mountains (and trees!!!) are incredibly realistic. Well spotted, Jim Jr.


message 29: by Richard (new) - added it

Richard Derus Bob Ross! "I think...he needs...yes, he needs a little friend...right...there!"

"And the clouds, well, this is your world, where you want them is where the clouds go..."

*drifts into happy slumber*


Nataliya Jim wrote: "To be completely accurate, I should quote (or paraphrase) Mark Twain:

"I don't tell lies. I differ from George Washington in that respect. George could NOT tell a lie. I can, but I won't.." ;) "


Love it!


message 31: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Thanks, Catie, and I will pass the praise along..

Yes, the trees are great too. But the most impressive thing to me is that he starts with a blank canvas, and in 28 minutes he has a finished painting, with that soothing voice explaining what he is doing at every stage...

Still, I don't think we will be seeing Bob Ross undergarments any time soon. :)


Nataliya Jim wrote: "Thanks, Catie, and I will pass the praise along..

Yes, the trees are great too. But the most impressive thing to me is that he starts with a blank canvas, and in 28 minutes he has a finished pain..."


I've never heard of Bob Ross before (I blame my Eastern European childhood), but now I definitely need to see that!


message 33: by Richard (new) - added it

Richard Derus Bob Ross's Christmas Eve Snow.

So relaxing.


Catie Here you go, Nataliya. The man is a PBS legend!


Catie Richard - Jinx! You can never have too much Bob Ross.


message 36: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Richard wrote: "Bob Ross! "I think...he needs...yes, he needs a little friend...right...there!"

"And the clouds, well, this is your world, where you want them is where the clouds go..."

*drifts into happy slumber*"


That's it!!


message 37: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Catie wrote: "Here you go, Nataliya. The man is a PBS legend!"

Catie, you are my hero(ine)! Have I mentioned that before?


message 38: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Nataliya wrote: "I've never heard of Bob Ross before (I blame my Eastern European childhood), but now I definitely need to see that!"

I am thinking that Catie's link is a great way to wind down from 13 hours in the hospital.


message 40: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Nataliya wrote: "Jim wrote:
"I don't tell lies. I differ from George Washington in that respect. George could NOT tell a lie. I can, but I won't..."


Love it! "

I actually had the privilege of seeing Hal Holbrook's one-man stage play - "Mark Twain Tonight!" - and he worked that line in somewhere along the way.


message 41: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Richard wrote: "And now you have to make a major decision, where does the mountain live in your world?"

Richard, you do seem to have a sizable catalog of Bob Ross sayings at your fingertips, so to speak...

Those are among my favorites, of course!


message 42: by Richard (new) - added it

Richard Derus I own DVDs of his shows. When I have a **really** bad pain night, I pop one in and am contentedly asleep in a half hour.

Loves me some Bob Ross!


message 43: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Richard wrote: "I own DVDs of his shows. When I have a **really** bad pain night, I pop one in and am contentedly asleep in a half hour.

Loves me some Bob Ross!"


Count me in with that crowd! I can feel the love here tonight..


Nataliya I just watched quite a few Bob Ross videos - thanks for the links, guys! This is really awesome. I love it!


message 45: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Haha, That is great, Nataliya!


message 46: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday i just re-read your review after reading this novella, and i love it even more! the novella and your review, both. thanks for leading me to this one.


Nataliya mark wrote: "i just re-read your review after reading this novella, and i love it even more! the novella and your review, both. thanks for leading me to this one."

Thanks, Mark - and you are very welcome. I love it so much when my reviews lead to people reading and loving the same books that I adored :)
Your review is really wonderful, by the way!


message 48: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday thank you!


Forrest After that review, I will definitely have to read this.

And why aren't there more novellas out in the world? I love reading and writing them! A most under-appreciated form!


message 50: by Dida (new) - added it

Dida Valente's stories don't always work for me, but when she's on she's ON. Good review, this sounds amazing.


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