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paolo bacigalupi, the windup girl

"When the door opens, they kneel in a wave, all of them performing khrabs of abasement, triple bows to the patron who keeps them housed, the one man in Krung Thep who willingly shoulders the burden of them, who provides a measure of safety from the red machetes of the Malays and the black batons of the white shirts.”

In contrast to Kraken, this is full-on speculative fiction, an extrapolation of environmental and large-scale social collapse, and there are a lot of moving parts to the background. It’s actually very elegant that Bacigalupi orders them by color: the Green Headbands of Malay Islamists, the white shirts of the Thai government officials, the yellow-card ethnic Chinese refugees. He shifts the colors here — the black batons of the white shirts — fittingly for the impurity of each group’s moral status; in much the same way, he weaves through a small allegory of environmental niche and habitat in the way he frames each main characters’ insecurities.

Night Shade Books 04.20.10



December 28, 2010, 6:57pm   Comments

sharpe continued

"But to call the coat bright red was not adequate. It had something in it — blue, maybe — that stained the retina. Nearly everything and everyone had something in it or them that you didn’t notice at first, and if you did eventually notice it you semiconsciously elided or erased the noticing because you needed to conserve your limited energy even though you were beginning to suspect that the erasure cost you more energy that the noticing would have, and the accumulation of erasures made its own hungry mouth to feed, and this added burden made you feel fifty when you were twenty-six, and not a robust and productive fifty but a worn-out, diminished one, as in that guy in that poem who’s just lying there in a hammock on someone else’s farm and sees a butterfly and smells some horse shit and hears a cow moo far off in the distance and then he tells you he’s wasted his life all the while freeloading off someone else’s hard work."

Now, here’s the thing: I could just keep on pulling quotes from this book. Sharpe’s brilliant, can turn a phrase, has the kind of power of observation that one wants in a novelist. The trouble is causation. At the opening of the story, for instance, Karl Floor meets Sylvia Vetch, who convinces him that she’s robbing his house, and he immediately begins to help her, and then he goes with her to her own place. There’s no real nod to logic here, and no attempt made to turn this in to a coherent or understandable sequence of events, beyond showing that Karl is socially inept and crushingly lonely. As a result of this lack of causation, this disconnectedness, You Were Wrong sparkles and glitters but gives very little to hold on to: it’s a mystery that occurs in a world without logic, and because of that it’s difficult to invest in much more than the frequent pyrotechnics of the prose. 



September 10, 2010, 1:42pm   Comments