Saturday, July 11, 2020

Invisible Soft Return

Roberta Degnore
Did not finish 7/11/2020, Reviewed 7/11/2020
1 star

This book was painful to read.  It felt like an overblown rumination on reality and existence.  It hardly had a plot.  The point of view often changed between first and third person without warning.  It was also difficult to tell who the main character was talking to at any point, and it was hard to tell who was speaking at any given time.  Every character sounded the same, using the same haughty philosophical language as they pondered reality versus virtual reality.  There was a second story within the story which was somewhat coherent, but I never figured out its relationship to the main story.  I got within fifty pages of the end and simply could not bring myself to finish it.  So if there was any sort of reconciliation between the main story and the secondary story, I didn’t get to it.  For some reason, this book was nominated for a Lambda Literary award for SF/Fantasy/Horror in 2014.  It must have been a slow year, being nominated just because it had some lesbian content.

Between the book description and what I could eke out of the story, the plot is about a woman named Evet who writes virtual simulation programs in a world where everyone is always accessing simulations.  Nobody does anything in reality anymore.  Evet kills her daughter and her cat, or so it seems.  A woman named Bear B. is a police officer who is trying to get a confession out of Evet.  Some sort of sexual energy forms between Bear B. and Evet.  In the second story, a middle ages woman named Sophie is a metalsmith who is a genius in her craft.  She makes incredible things using alloys.  She wants to go to Strasburg to apprentice to a master metalsmith to learn how to make moonlight from metal.  She leaves her family behind, joins a strange unsanctioned convent of women artisans who are jealous of her.  The local priest, realizing her talent, gets her an apprenticeship with a master who is a woman disguised as a man.  But he is using her as a leverage against the nuns. 

In the first story, there is no character development whatsoever.  I had no sense of who Evet and Bear B. were nor any of the secondary characters.  Almost all the text, including the dialogue, was philosophical.  It often had to do with the Sim programming that Evet did.  For example, she would have sex, but her lover became her cat.  It didn’t make sense to me either.  The second story was more traditional in that there was some character development.  Sophie was driven as a metalsmith, despite being a woman in a man’s trade in the middle ages.  She had a twin brother who loved his cat more than her.  The other sisters in the convent were conniving, particularly Agnes, the leader, and Blessed Mary, a woman who is trying to be a saint by concocting miracles.  Yeah, the plot of that story is pretty strange, but I was able to follow it.  There just wasn’t enough of it to keep me going to the end of the book. 

I don’t often give books a one-star rating, but this is my second this year.  This is going to be a stark contrast to the three five-star ratings this book has on GoodReads.  When putting together my LGBTQ+ Speculative Fiction Resource List on Worlds Without End, I used Amazon and GoodReads as review sources for the books I was pulling from the Lambda Literary and Gaylactic Spectrum Awards.  At the time, I didn’t realize that the small number of ratings and reviews should be a red flag.  The one professional review I found noted that some people won’t get this book.  Well, I guess I’m one of those people.    

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