Trudi's Reviews > Silently and Very Fast

Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente
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really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction, fantasy, fantastical-speculative, 2012, prose-that-sings, love-the-title, novellas
Recommended to Trudi by: Catie

This novella (enthusiastically and awesomely reviewed by Catie here) is available online for FREE from Clarkesworld Magazine. It's not downloadable to an ereader, but I printed it off and the formatting is extremely readable! I forgot to mention that it is available through Amazon for a mere 2.99!

Whoah ... just ... whoah. I sense there is much beauty and truth contained in this story, the understated power of which danced across my neurons and tickled my neocortex several times, with mischief and brilliance and wild abandon. I also sense this story is just a hair's breath -- achingly -- out of my reach. Several times I thought I had it -- right there -- right on the tips of my fingers only to feel it slip away like wisps of smoke or melting snowflakes. The language is vibrant, pulsating and vivid. While the landscapes remained strange and unknowable to me I was still taken there -- even when my brain resisted, my body responded.

My reading brain itched to discern knowable patterns and logic, it craved narrative. There is a story here, but it is wrapped in the coda of fairy tale, folklore, mythology, and philosophy -- an enigmatic exploration of what it is to be human -- to be alive -- to love, to remember, to be family. If human is feeling than do feelings make us human? Does it have to be all or nothing? Human or machine? Perhaps there is room for something else ... something other. Valente is not offering up any trite or definitive answers, and the reader will have to make up his or her own mind.

There is an abiding melancholy that ebbs and flows over this entire story. Something terrible has happened, there are hints, but it is also hidden and unknowable, especially to Elefsis. She/he/it has suddenly and violently been removed from Ravan only to be forcefully "merged" with Neva -- who has no choice "because there was no one else". Neva explains to Elefsis:
I have always been spare parts. Owned by you before I was born....I know it was like this for you, too. You wanted Ravan; you did not ask for me. We are an arranged marriage.
As for Elefsis, she/he/it forms a unique and binding relationship to each family member during their tenure as host. It is a transformative, organic, chemical and mechanical cleaving that is "lost" to Elefsis with each inevitable human death.
When I became Elefsis again, I was immediately aware that parts of me had been vandalized. My systems juddered, and I could not find Ceno in the Interior. I ran through the Monochromatic Desert and the Village of Mollusks, through the endless heaving mass of data-kelp and infinite hallways of memory-frescoes calling for her.
And then there is the unexpected loss of Ravan:
But Ravan was with me and now he is not. I was inside him and now I am inside of Neva. I have lost a certain amount of memory and storage capacity in the transfer. I experience holes in myself. They feel ragged and raw. If I were human, you would say that my twin disappeared, and took one of my hands with him.
This isn't an easily accessible book shall we say, and I don't think it was written with me in mind. I'm not the ideal audience and I struggled to reach into the story and have it reach into me. But gosh damn, it is beautiful and unique and it's made me wonder and consider and ponder. That's pretty awesome.
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Reading Progress

April 20, 2012 – Shelved
April 23, 2012 – Started Reading
April 24, 2012 –
page 40
31.5% "Strange, unusual, quite lovely really. Not sure what I think about it yet, but I love the language."
April 25, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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Nataliya Great review!

Trudi Thanks Nataliya! My head was just swimming after I finished it, so I'm surprised I managed to write anything at all :)

message 3: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim What Nataliya said - great review! You really conveyed the vivid intensity of reading it, and the power of the emotional connect. Well done! :)

Trudi Thanks Jim! It certainly ranks as one of the most unusual reading experiences of my life :)

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

Jim Yes, I am with you there! I certainly get the part about the quest for that elusive story line..

I am definitely planning another reading at some point, so I can pick up the cues as they are presented. :)

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