Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Length: 304 pages
Release Date: July 16, 2013
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Swapped through Paperbackswap.com
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
I have had this book for a while to read, it’s a collection of short stories by Valente and has some excellent and some good stories in it. I have read most of Valente’s novels and really enjoy her prose-like and sometimes ambiguous writing style.
This book is a collection of thirteen stories. Most of the stories are somewhat science fiction in theme and have a very Japanese feel to them (they deal with Japanese mythology or culture).
There were a few stories I absolutely loved, some I liked, and a couple that were a bit too far out there even for me. Valente’s writing style is absolutely beautiful and sparkling, but it is also something best read in small doses (like eatingn a rich chocolate). You do have to concentrate as you read and really pay attention because some things can be a bit ambiguous and have multiple meanings.
I’ll go through my favorites first. I really enjoyed Ink, Water, Milk that tells the story of scroll and a paintbrush and a woman lonely and alone in Japan. This story starts out as three stories that all tie together in the end. I also loved The Ghosts of Gunkanjima; which gives a little history lesson about Battleship island and tells a story about the wind on the abandoned island…it was absolutely beautiful and melancholy and interesting.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at SpaceTime was probably the most ironic and funny story of the bunch. I enjoyed the way Valente blended creation mythology with scientific terminology in this story….it was very cleverly done. One Breath One Stroke was my absolute favorite of the whole bunch and is about a man who lives in a house where he is human in one half of the house and a paintbrush in the other half. This was just such a bizarre, creative, and magical story that I absolutely loved it…just wonderful imagery throughout.
Fade to White was a well done, yet absolutely hopeless feeling, post-apocalyptic story about two young people who each desperately want opposite places in this futuristic society and neither of them gets what they want. It turned a lot of standard societal perceptions topsy-turvy and was easy to read and engage with.
Now onto the stories I didn’t enjoy as much. Killswitch was an easy read about an ironic sort of video game, but ultimately seemed a bit shallow and unfinished. Story No 6 was about a goddess hiding in films and was very forgettable. Silently and Very Fast, was by far the longest story and the hardest to read of the bunch. I had trouble figuring out what was going on here and really struggled to stay engaged with the story.
All the poetry in between the stories was well done and beautifully written. Of the poems I think my favorite was The Melancholy of Mechagirl; a poem from the perspective of a female robot.
I also really enjoyed the Afterword in which Valente explains the situation she was in when she wrote these stories and her own struggles with being a stranger in a strange land. This is definitely an adult book, most of the stories have at least some reference to sex. Just FYI.
Overall I really enjoyed this collection of science fiction short stories blended with Japanese mythology. It’s a unique blend of sci-fi and mythology and Valente’s writing style is rich, prose-like and beautiful. Like with the majority of anthologies there are some absolutely spectacular stories in here and some not so spectacular ones. If you are new to Valente I would recommend reading her The Girl Who/Fairyland series first, that series has Valente’s beautiful writing style but is a bit more accessible than her more ambiguous works like this one.