- Book Review Policy
Monday, December 10, 2018
Nanoreviews: Jade City, Moon of the Crusted Snow, Space Opera
Lee, Fonda. Jade City [Orbit, 2017]
Any commentary on Jade City which does not mention The Godfather is avoiding the the obvious comparison. The thing is that even though the comparison is obvious and easy does not mean that it isn't apt and on point. Jade City is the story of two rival gangster clans vying for control of Janloon, a city of on the island of Kekon. The No Peak and Mountain clans control neighborhoods and collect tribute / protection money from businesses in their districts and are in a perpetual state of armed rivalry with each other for more territory and resources.
Fans of crime and mob fiction will find plenty to love here. The setting of Jade City feels much like a 1970's era city and the novel plays out like The Godfather with Magic. The novel is told much more from the perspective of the No Peak Clan, so the characterization there is much stronger, coming across as both familiar and fresh. To give balance to the narrative, in just a few bold strokes, sentences, and scenes, Fonda Lee absolutely nails down two major characters of the Mountain Clan and breathes greater life into the war between clans.
Jade City is one of the best novels of 2017 and my only regret is that I did not read it earlier so I could have nominated it for all of the awards.
Rice, Waubgeshig. Moon of the Crusted Snow [ECW Press, 2018]
Imagine something goes wrong. The power goes out, phone lines and cell towers are down, an isolated community becomes completely shut off and forced to be self reliant during a hard northern winter. There are bare hints of the wider world and whatever the greater societal problem is has little bearing on the lives of this Native community.
Moon of the Crusted Snow tells the story of a remote Anishinaabe community in northern Canada. Knowing a novel is post apocalyptic sets up certain expectations in the reader and Waubgeshig Rice subverts those. This is a novel of quiet survival, of social pressure and changes in the face of disaster, of community, of maintaining a way of life in the face of what otherwise seems like the impossible. In a sense, Moon of the Crusted Snow reminds me a bit of When the English Fell, David Williams' novel of a collapsing world told from the perspective of an Amish community.
I appreciated the deliberateness of the storytelling, how tight the novel is to limited character perspective. It would be so easy to reveal too much of what the wider global (or even regional) story might be, but Rice holds back and Moon of the Crusted Snow is all the stronger for it.
Valente, Catherynne M. Space Opera [Saga, 2018]
The most common reference point for Space Opera is the legendary Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a novel of galactic absurdity. It was a bold statement the first time I heard it made and it remains a bold statement now that I've read Space Opera. The thing is, it is not an unreasonable claim that Space Opera is today's successor to Douglas Adams' classic. Now, only time will tell is Space Opera holds up in decades to come or if we'll talk about Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes in the same tones that we do Arthur Dent, Marvin, and Zaphod Beeblebrox.
Valente's novel is Eurovision in Space and it is absolutely delightful and once Valente gets Decibel Jones to that Megagalactic Grand Prix, the novel kicks into high gear and maximum absurdity with high entertainment and real emotion. It's one hell of a novel.
POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 2017 & 2018 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.