Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Weird Fiction”

Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #24: Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente

Target: Catherynne M. Valente’s Palimpsest

Profile: Fantasy, Weird Fiction

I know just enough about H.P. Lovecraft to say four things and get three of them wrong.  It’s not that I don’t like the author, or the genre he helped shape, rather that the critiques of his work are such that a literary dilettante (me) will find them somewhat difficult to get at.  Of his works, I probably enjoyed his “Dreamlands” sequence most of all, and it was those stories that popped into my head while reading Palimpsest, though the resemblance is passing at best.  Valente’s novel is almost painfully postmodern, built out of rambling streams of consciousness and suffused with mysterious and nonsensical imagery.  But it is these modes of writing that best capture dreaming, and the world she describes, while garish and gaudy, draws its inspirations from Lovecraft’s Celephaïs and Baharna.

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Fofo’s blog moved!  Check out the new website – Deconstructive Criticism

Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #11: The City & the City by China Miéville

Target: China Miéville’s The City & the City

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Crime Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Weird Fiction

I don’t really understand how I missed that China Miéville always writes about cities.  Probably because the first book I read of his was Embassytown, which, despite the title, isn’t really about the community of Embassytown.  Every other novel of his is heavily reliant on the social setting of a city and each is colored by the nature of the starring city.  Perdido Street Station is about New Crobuzon, a darker version of our New Yorks and Los Angeles.  The Scar, set in the same world, is defined by the community of liberated slaves and kidnapped victims that populate the floating city of Armada.  In contrast, The City & the City doesn’t explore the title cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma as much as it examines the political and psychological implications of the unique setting of the twin city-states.

Besźel and Ul Qoma occupy the same physical space.  That’s the entire premise of the book.  At some point in the distant past, a prehistoric culture shattered a city into a patchwork of two nations that exist in the same place but are kept apart by psychological pressure and the mysterious forces of Breach.  The book never makes it clear if there is a supernatural force at work behind this separation or if it is just a case of nationalism taken to an obscene extreme, and ultimately it doesn’t matter.  You need to accept the idea that two people walking down the same street can be in different countries based solely on the clothes that they wear and the way that they walk, or the rest of the book isn’t going to be compelling.

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