divisionsandprecisions: (dry)
[personal profile] divisionsandprecisions
Three out of the five nominated authors didn't impress me, but I want to note the other two.

Wesley Chu and The Lives of Tao. Incorporeal alien parasites waging a thousand-year war through human super spies. Woohoo! The writing is so lively, the characters so likeable, the plotting so tight that I couldn't put it down. Makes me think of a bowl of M&Ms, not really good chocolate and not good for me but I will keep eating until the bowl is empty. Too many problems to be a great book, but too much fun to ignore.

Sofia Samatar and A Stranger in Olondria. This novel is like nothing I have ever read. The writing is dense with imagery, more than any poem I have ever read: "Outside the village, in a valley drenched with rain, where the brown donkeys weep with exhaustion, where the flowers melt away and are lost in the heat, my father had his spacious pepper farm." Everything is imbued with a rich mythology: "My mother said the elephant god was jealous and resented our father's splendid house and fertile lands, but I knew that it was whispered in the village that my father had sold his unborn children to the god." One thing that gives the images power is that they are unexpected and unpredictable: About the father's older wife "I only saw her look happy once: when it became clear that Jom my meek, smiling elder brother would never be a man, but would spend his life among the orange trees, imitating the finches." There are a million mundane ways of ending that sentence, but bringing in orange trees and finches makes the writing exciting and beautiful and makes the setting feel immediate and real. And the constant inclusion of spices and flowers in the imagery brings in another sense that is usually only addressed sparingly. Despite feeling almost mythological, the characters feel very real as they search for joy in lives of tragedy.

I know I said didn't think much of Sofia Samatar's story "Selkie Stories Are for Losers" but this novel is brilliant. A lesser author would have made a disastrous glop in an attempt to achieve writing of such vividness and mythic strength. You can read the first few pages at the amazon page for the book and see if it connects with you.


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