This took me back to my student days in the 80s, buying second hand Viragos and Women’s Press books at the bookstalls on the South Bank. It feels very much in that tradition of feminist sci-fi, and I haven’t read anything like it for a long time.
The main characters are Christine Pizan and Joan of Dirt, and the action divides between Earth and CIEL, so you can see we are in symbolic territory here. These are figures who trail the herstory movement, and feminist iconography in their wake. It’s almost a religious parable, if your religion encompasses a direct connection with the planet as a living thing, pan-sexuality, and the use of the body as a form of artistic self-expression, and it’s all set in the aftermath of the war that literally ends all wars – and just about everything else.
Big themes. The battle between a dehumanising retreat into technology and the great, visceral natural world, between female strength and de-sexed decadence.
Great images. The descriptions of the new bodies the inhabitants of CIEL have developed – more like living i-phones than real people – and the high-tech prison they have made for themselves, are particularly fascinating.
So there’s all this, and a good story, too. In fact, you could probably just read it as a good story, if you weren’t the kind of person who hung around second-hand bookstalls snapping up second-hand feminist literature in your student days.
Oh, this is a good read. I loved it.
It’s a story told backwards, which is a tricky thing to pull off, but e manages it. It mimics real life, as well, in the way that you start off with an opinion about somebody, and then learn a little more, and a little more, and gradually develop an understanding, and with that your opinion changes. It’s a book about identity and the structure itself plays with that. The fraud is perpetrated on you, and gradually uncovered by you. I don’t really want to say any more, because the pleasure is partly in the gradual uncovering of the truth. It’s a great read. Gripping, and intriguing, and clever.
Well, I don’t know if you should call this a novel at all. You might call it a poem. Or a piece of music. It ripples and flows, it turns on itself. It’s beautiful.
I have a tendency to read for plot, and this hardly has a conventional plot at all. There is a story, and it’s an age old story of love and loss, but it’s the way that it’s told that is so engaging. There are themes and motifs that recur – the river, the rope, the bird, the dancing child – as if the writer is creating a new mythology, making new images out of the same set of picture tiles. There’s a sense of place and of culture that is subtle but powerful. Basically, you’ll either love it or just not get it. You should try it, though, because if you do get it, you’ll be discovering something really special.
The Year of the Knife is by G D Penman – who I assumed was going to be a woman, but actually is a bloke with a very impressive beard. It’s a joyful romp – one to pick up in the middle of the night when you’re worried about something, or to read in a waiting room – enough action to engage, but a sense of being in safe hands.
Sully is the protagonist. She’s great. A tough woman doing a man’s job in a man’s world. Its alternative reality time – a version of our world, where magic is real, organised, and built in to the system; the British Empire is alive and well and keeping its boot on the throat of all those pesky foreigners; Europe is cut off because of severe Demon infestation, and sexism is alive and well. Even more alive and well than in our reality. Sully works for the IBI (Imperial, not Federal…) and she has magic in her very bones.
Now, I like a bit of supernatural policing (Rivers of London! John Connolly!!) and I like an alternate reality, but I wasn’t sure if this was going to work. It did coax me in, though, and once there I stuck with it for the ride. Like I said, it’s a romp, there’s some real humour in there, and it has a few jabs at prejudice and racism (always satisfying). There were some moments of violence that I might have found disturbing if we hadn’t been galloping on to the next scene. And I will never look a macaws in quite the same way again.
I’m wondering if he’s left room to make this the start of a series? The ending felt like it had the potential to be the beginning of something new.
I have been considering
kintsugi, and how
we heal ourselves,
we who are no longer whole,
and if we can
I have considered
my scars, not golden,
not thoughtful, but
silver pale, glistening,
hidden from view,
if I can be beautiful
I can never be
mended, not entirely.
I am broken,
mended. I am
I am not
who I was,
and yet I am