Guestblogger S is one of those readers who is determined to finish a book he’s started. The read before the one talked about here, Charles Stross’ Glasshouse, was a testament to this. Sean is an optimist. When three-quarters through Glasshouse he was still unsatisfied with the book, he was still determined there would be something redemptive in the end. ‘Course determination didn’t keep him from grumbling every few chapters throughout, nor did it produce a redemptive end.
I was sad that he followed Glasshouse with another frustrating read. But I am glad that he acquiesced and is guesting for me.
Penguin Books, 2004.
(hardback) 336 pages.
As we all learned from watching Lost, you can jump into the middle of a story, but you can’t ever catch up, there is always one more plot point or one more inside joke that you will never get. I picked up the book Edenborn from Nick Sagan a couple weeks ago, having heard interesting reviews of his work as a Science Fiction writer. At present Nick has three novels published and has gotten his feet wet in screenwriting as well.
Around the first of June I had picked up Idlewild and requested Edenborn from our local library. Unfortunately for this review and my own enjoyment I never got past the first page of Idlewild. At the time I was hip deep in George R. R. Martin’s phenomenal Song of Fire and Ice and could not be bothered to jump from medieval fantasy to post-apocalyptic sci-fi. The book went back to the library with little a second thought.
Three weeks ago I received an email letting me know Edenborn was being held for me. I’m looking for a new read so I picked it up along with another couple sci-fi titles and headed home.
The dust jacket [of the edition read] lets the reader know that Edenborn is set in the same world as Idlewild, but there is not a hint beyond that statement that this book is a continuation of a story. Reading the first half of the book feels like you aren’t quite connected, as if you are missing something. Perhaps several chapters have been torn out of the book?
It took Wikipedia to help set my mind at ease. Well as at ease as this book’s middle-of-the-narrative approach allows. Really how hard would it have been to have printed Book 2 of the Black Ep Cycle on the spine?! An article about Nick Sagan informs us that 1) at six years old he recorded a message that is part of the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts 2) he is one of Carl Sagan’s sons 3) Idlewild, Edenborn, and Everfree are a trilogy and 4) he has written for a couple Star Trek franchises.
Edenborn is written as a series of journal entries that narrate through five or six sets of eyes. The picture we get is frequently biased and incomplete due to the nature of first person narrative. Penny talks about how perfect and superior she is to her siblings and cousins, living up to every 14-year old before her, discussing how she is unfairly picked-on and excluded. Only through Haji’s writings do we begin to see how Penny twists the truth of a moment to hold her up and show off, constantly embellishing until events through Penny’s eyes bear little if any resemblance to the events of origin.
This doesn’t kill the book, and I can see using such a device to create a very compelling storyline, as I mentioned I am in love with Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice, which uses just such a device. What the narrative doesn’t do for us is give us a large enough view. The first person falls flat when we are looking at the end of humanity. Paired with the lack of context, it is hard to invest in the characters that Sagan gives us. Some of the larger, more sinister aspects that we learn about are given scarcely more than a paragraph, while we spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with a psychotic and narcissistic tween-ager.
Where we get off track is hard to pinpoint. The book takes its time getting going and then seems to run at a breakneck pace for a period of time. The connections that tie the characters together and eventually create our crisis are marginal and seem to be pulled from thin air. The build up to Penny deciding to not only take on homicide, but in light of the larger story, genocide, seem to come at us as if from no where. I’m speaking specifically about pyromancy, The God of Death, The God of Fire, practical jokes that end in death and an allergy to strawberries.
Overall I am disappointed in this book, but I apparently have George R. R. Martin to blame. If I had not been so enraptured reading his lovely works, I might have made time for Idlewild, which would have given me context and foundation. This context and foundation could then have prepared me for the Romeo and Juliet come Bonnie and Clyde with a dash of True Romance.
As it is, I feel disappointed.