A Superior Spectre is deftly constructed piece of literature. It sits shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the greats. Thematically it is a worthy companion-piece to Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve. Structurally it folds like the origami of Italio Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler, and Jennifer Egan’s The Keep. Stylistically it employs some of the fuzzy voice of China Mieville’s This Census Taker, where the who and when of the narrator becomes blended and circular.
In Ivory, Goldstein has created a place that exists only on its own terms. There is no bridge or overlap; Ivy’s different lives exist side by side. She moves from one to the other with little effort because no effort is necessary. Ivy is able to deal with the chaos that comes with the talent attractive to a muse.
Callie’s character is very insightful and from her perspective in the book, she describes the world with similes and personifications, creating and painting beautiful or terrible images. It shows the world in all its beauty and horror through the words on a page, but seems so much more than that.
The books really triumph, though, in creating a counter-history which fuses the technocratic mastery of the Nevermind agents with a tradition of anti-rationalism, spiritualism and exoticism that runs through the project of western modernity, a swampy seam of conspiracy theories, UFOs, Spiritualism, Theosophy, and pseudo-science.
One of the things that worked really well in Throne of Glass was the change of perspectives of characters. One minute I was reading about Celaena’s perspective of a fight she’s in, and then the next paragraph would swap to Dorian’s view of the fight. This helped the reader engage more deeply with the characters and created a better understanding of the bonds between characters and the way each character is feeling about each other during these moments.
At a deeper level, there are questions raised about the nature of reality that are chillingly relevant considering the fact that last year Elon Musk stated publically that there is a billion to one chance that we’re living in “base reality” (that is, a non-virtual world), and even Neil deGrasse Tyson has argued that there is a high probability that we’re living a computer simulation.
Obviously Robin Gregory is a well-read writer. Not only does she mimic Homer’s “wine dark sea” with the novel’s opening of “dories…and spider crabs flood[ing] the beach like a ghostly pink tide,” but also refers back to great YA series like A Series of Unfortunate Events through her grim imaginativeness. Gritty magical realism is in vogue, if we account for the non-YA St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves by Karen Russell and Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi beside which The Improbable Wonders holds its own.
With this new novel, the cosmopolitan Tidhar turns away from the noir that drove his award-winning Osama, The Violent Century, and A Man Lies Dreaming. Those who appreciated the Dashiell Hammett/Raymond Chandler scrubbed into a pulpy Po-Mo alternative reality resembling a lighthearted Phillip K. Dick will still find that in Central Station through Achimwene—a bookseller in an age when books are antiquated commodities—whose life “had been a Romance, perhaps, of sorts. But now it became a Mystery” when he meets and falls in love with the data/memory vampire (alternately called “strigoi” and “shambleau”) Carmel.
An Android Awakes is an entertaining, sexy, terrifying, and beautiful novel, full of bleakness and fun. While the book is probably not going to suit the prudish or faint-hearted reader looking for an easy read, other readers will enjoy the rich and powerful language, the complex plot lines, and the wacky and inventive landscape that both French and Brown have created in this superb graphical novel.
Troubled Spirits is good, clean fun that delves into the world of modern ghost hunting with two, more than capable, female protagonists that take care of themselves and the big bad in town, on their own, in true Buffy the Vampire Slayer fashion. The way Harmony and Annie and the gang handle the ghosts and themselves is more than enough to make Zak Baggins proud.