February 02, 2006

Bold as Love, Gwyneth Jones

Oh, wow, this is great. It's completely over-the-top, plot developments are surprises because they've been spelled out in fireworks too big to look at all at once, it's all gloomy and it uses at least three of my least favorite tricks o' SF and I loved it anyway. All the sequels seem to be coming out in the US at once, joy.

The setting is the very-near-future ecological and social collapse of Britain, slow but sure; the characters mythic -- in fact, it's the Matter of Britain, especially if you think of the recently-fashionable setting in the end of the Roman age. Many other frameworks are thrown in, including a Gloriana that nods to history and to A. S. Byatt's The Virgin in the Garden. And yet, the characters aren't schematic. They're improbably talented in unrelated fields, which is one of my pet peeves, and they all hang together in a government-by-gang o' cool friends, which peeves me a lot more, but my disbelief was suspended in the course of the action.

Nor is it principally an action novel; specific scenes are set-pieces of war, riot, seduction, even a murder mystery, but I was most struck by the way Juggernaut events are grinding the characters into their mythic shapes, although they don't want to be ground and are conscious of how they're succumbing. Several sentences were excellently pointed commentaries on how one makes a bad decision in the face of worse ones.

It's obviously the sort of thing a Ken McLeod fan would like, but by the end the future history was also giving me the sense of fun-but-horrifying inevitability that Snow Crash did.

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Posted by clew at 11:27 PM
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