Friday, November 15, 2013
“Never underestimate the power of a good story.”
Good advice...especially when a story can kill you.
For most people, the story of their lives is just that: the accumulation of time, encounters, and actions into a cohesive whole. But for an unfortunate few, that day-to-day existence is affected—perhaps infected is a better word—by memetic incursion: where fairy tale narratives become reality, often with disastrous results.
That's where the ATI Management Bureau steps in, an organization tasked with protecting the world from fairy tales, even while most of their agents are struggling to keep their own fantastic archetypes from taking over their lives. When you're dealing with storybook narratives in the real world, it doesn't matter if you're Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or the Wicked Queen: no one gets a happily ever after.
Guys I am so frakking in love with this book. Buy it. Now. Seriously.
So here's the thing with McGuire and me--I really like her Mira Grant works (the Newsflesh trilogy plus assorted short stories, her new Medical Thriller Duo), but I've never been into her October Daye books and I'm reserving hope for the Incryptid books. Also I'm not a fan of waiting for stuff. Signing up for a Kindle Serial is very much like signing up for a tv show season.
This was about a twist on fairy tales and how they push on reality and that got my attention.
Its not perfect. It had some dragging parts and what felt like unnecessary drama (the whole thing with Demi*), plus some of the story permutations for the fairy tales are much more obscure then others so that can be confusing. For a fairy tale/fable/legend fan this is a treasure trove of lesser known variations to well known stories, as well as a gateway to bringing back the darkness Fairy Tales used to have.
I loved Henry (aka Henrietta Marchen aka Snow White) so very much. I loved that when she decided to avoid her Fairy Tale she went full out to avoid it (though not as far as her sibling...). I loved that birds flinging themselves at her window or flowers growing in her carpet were so ordinary to her that she barely mentioned them.
I loved Sloane (aka the "Wicked Stepsister") who was all sorts of rude and obnoxious, but cared really cared about helping those poors saps caught in the vortex of the Narrative. I loved that one of very few things to truly frighten her wasn't that she could turn wicked at any moment--that she was wicked and she fought tooth and nail to not become evil. That in the end the very thing she was so afraid of being, became the most heroic confession of all.
Henry and Sloane were so well developed as characters that their interactions with the world felt natural. The very few things that didn't feel mostly involved Demi (but I'll get to that later). I never questioned why Henry felt that a "Sleeping Beauty" could be disastrous or why an averted Beauty and the Beast mutating into The Little Mermaid could become dangerous extremely fast. The sense of calm urgency that Henry displayed throughout was far more effective then if she explained in minute detail why it could be a very very bad thing.
Each 'chapter' usually began with whatever memetic incursion (the science-y name for when the Narrative intrudes on reality) will be the focal point for the chapter. These ranged from the Pied Piper to Goldilocks to a truly weird case of Cinderella. After the initial set up the chapter would then flip to Henry's view as the team proceeds to investigate and neutralize the incursion as swiftly as possible.
As the story progressed a larger problem loomed that eventually made itself known in a BIG way (I may have been horrified by the turn that the story took since the character who is pulling the strings was one of my favorites as a child thanks to a Shelly Duvall movie and later Whoopi Goldberg).
Really a lot of the twists that McGuire uses to send red herrings are very clever. When the Big Bad is revealed, its a bit obvious looking back, but at the same time I admired the fact that my assumptions of that character--while true in the loosest of ways--got turned on their head. Its makes a certain kind of horrible sense that the Big Bad would turn the way they did.
I mentioned my displeasure with Demi and really its not the character's fault so much as the role she played. I'm often reminded of the quote from the Children of Dune mini-series in which Paul tells Irulan that she was born to be used by everyone around her. This is the role Demi inhabits. Henry 'activates' her story as a last ditch effort to stave off a worse (or at least at that moment worst) threat, Demi is then tossed head first into a world that terrifies/repulses her, treated like a ticking time bomb (with no clear understanding why), used as a pawn by the Big Bad and then shuffled off to lick her wounds while the rest of the Team attempts to do damage control.
She was, to my mind, the 'bridge' for the reader to relate to someone who is also 'new' to the whole world. She questions, she points out logic holes, she makes daft mistakes. Not because this is her character (I can't think she's really that dim), but more because its a quick way to story tell some situations that would have taken longer to develop. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but it did make me want to strangle the girl.
This will definitely not be for everyone. There's very little sense of 'happily ever after' and more of a 'oh thank god now maybe we can do paperwork' feeling to the story as a whole. It will also make you rather cynical/possibly paranoid if you tend to think that way to begin with. Fans of McGuire should definitely give this a shot. Now that its over you don't have to wait like I did!
Book Review: Indexing
5 Star Review|book reviews|Seanan McGuire|