Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Far North

Marcel Theroux

A type of apocalyptic western, follows a loner in Siberia after the end of main world civilization. I heard of it as part of the shortlist for the Clarke Award, and apparently it was the big English literary science fiction contribution from 2009. I found it not nearly as good as Mieville’s The City or a couple others on the Clarke list but it was pretty effective overall, and wouldn't have been a bad winner. What I took from this in the end was how well written the prose was, how engaging the main character was made and how ultimately optimistic the novel was even while staring without illusions in the face of post-apocalyptic squalor. The Quaker elements of the character's background made for an interesting contrast with my recent reading of The Dazzle of the Day, while those themes were developed a lot more thoroughly there. Despite the shallowness of the invented future and some SF elements I'd count this as an effective work in the end, offering an intense yet reflective overview on the capacity for violence as well as kindness, amid a network of slavery and production that had some interesting little details. I’d also compare this to r to Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union but a bit more effective. Less creative but a lot more coherent and believable, and for all that the book seems to lack a little something in the end, it's more effective at carrying through a character and setting journey.

Better than: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon
Worse than: Gradisil by Adam Roberts

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