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Paolo Bacigalupi


Wasteland - Francesca Lia Block You know, I always think I should like Francesca Lia Block, that I do like her, and then I read her stuff and am reminded that, no, she's not particularly my cup of tea. She does a lot of interesting things with her narrative structure and the way she tells her story, but 1) I don't think her flights of structural fancy always help her tell her story better (which in my mind should be a requirement), 2) they often add an offputting distance between the reader and the characters, and 3) I don't think she always has as much control over them as she thinks she does (see also: #1 and #2). When your structure gets in the way of communication, it need tweaking.

Or maybe I'm just not 14 anymore. Maybe I've read too much, become too set in my ways, too judgmental to let her brilliance shine down on me. But if my struggle to figure out what's going on, who's who in her books, doesn't ultimately lead to some sort of revelation or insight into those characters (which, for me, that struggle is just a struggle and not an illumination), then it's kind of pointless. There are moments in this book when it does help, when it creates a mood or helps you understand how a character is dealing with/processing the events in his or her memory, which just makes those moments when it seems like artifice for artifice's sake seem even more pretentious.

Okay, I think I'm also kind of mad at this book because she punked out. She's got this Ooooh After School Special Incest OMG OMG OMG FORBIDDEN NO REALLY And Not In The Romeo And Juliet Sense LOVE thing going on, and then she freakin' punks out and has one of them be sekritly! adopted!

I'm sorry; that's a V.C. Andrews novel, and whatever my feelings about FLB are, I know that she's better than that. She didn't even have West(?) turn out to be Marina's long-lost real brother.

If it was an attempt to make Lex's death even more tragic, in my mind it failed. It's too soap opera-y (too, well, V.C. Andrews) in a book that takes a very soap opera idea and treats it very seriously. It makes what comes before rather hollow. It gives it a whole feel of, "oh, if only they had known!!", rather than looking at what happens when Marina loses the most important person in the world to her, for reasons, good or bad as you choose, that involve her.

Maybe it's an attempt at commentary on the fact that the relationship between them would be deemed wrong because of the way they grew up - i.e. as siblings - rather than their genes - i.e. completely different. That what makes incest incestual is the transgression of a relationship, not of bloodlines. Which is an interesting idea, but if that's what it was, I think the book fails. Instead it's a last-minute d'oh! to which there is no narrative resolution.

I will give the book credit for clearly expressing the idea that, however tragic you choose to see Lex and Marina's relationship in all its levels, a young man's suicide is even more tragic.