The book opens like a cracked mirror to our modern society, but it’s not quite a dystopia. The key twist in the book is so good I will resist the urge to signal it, but there are many twists in the book, moving across a terrain which takes on any number of possible futures displayed simultaneously, with humour, precision, and a poetic grace so smooth it’s easy to glide over its surface on a first reading.
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.
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.
The Book of Strange New Things is like no other book I’ve read. It’s exquisite, sad, uplifting and doomed all at the same time. I wish that the ending was different, and know, somehow, that nothing else that would do. This is a book that will remain with me, working its way under my skin like the Oasan atmosphere.
We are all simply cogs in a global machine, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Cog. At first glimpse it is a somewhat ordinary story of revenge, greed and power set against a futuristic backdrop. And yes, at its core, Cog is a classic story of family dysfunction with some James Bond-esque thrills and rather groovy technology thrown in.
Embassytown may start like a fun, inventive good novel, but by the time you reach the 300th or so page, it become clear that this is indeed a great novel. Rich with nuance, meaning, and power that never comprises the overall fictive dream, or even the pure fun of its fictional world, this is a novel to read, re-read, and then re-read again.
These are sci-fi stories, of course, but a number of them have the characteristics of other genres too. The title story, for example, is a classic detective yarn. An alien delegation goes to a convent, a neutral place, in order to negotiate peace with Earth (we are at war).
China does a terrifically moving job of making the two detectives distrust then come to admire each other, in their own way. Brilliant. Generally, an author has his work cut out to describe one unique city so that the reader believes they are there, but here two cities are created in the same spot. Excellent and original.