I can’t remember who picked this for the SF/F bookclub, but I’m definitely going to be interested to chat about this one and find out whether they’d read it first, or whether they recommended it because they wanted to read it and it sounded interesting. Because it’s not badly written as such, and the world is pretty interesting, but nonetheless I had problems.
For example, I don’t know what’s gotten into publishers putting glossaries and dramatis personae at the back of books — Tor did it with The Goblin Emperor, so I know it’s not just Solaris — but I read this with only half a clue who and what everyone was. The glossary didn’t actually help much after the fact, to be fair, and it wouldn’t have been easy to turn to in an ebook anyway, but perhaps it would’ve helped. The problem is that the book is basically set in an alternate North America (I think?), but it was absent the kind of clues needed to contextualise that.
I’m still not clear on whether this was alternate history or set in the future or what, and I don’t know enough about North American history to pick up on any clues there were for that sort of thing. It plunges straight into the byplay between the characters — which is actually pretty good, especially the tension between Elim and Sil — and doesn’t give much chance to grasp the broader details.
Which, to be fair, I don’t think you entirely need to know, at least not in the first 10% of the book, when you’re busy establishing character. But there were politics here I didn’t understand, words that were either made up or not English which I had to guess at, etc. While the actual writing was easy enough to follow, I just couldn’t connect the background stuff into anything coherent.
And, since I wasn’t fond of the characters for themselves, this actually ended up being just a stream of words which I didn’t really take on board. If people at the bookclub want to talk about plot and character, I’m rather afraid I’ll be stuck.