Monday, February 19, 2007

Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town - Cory Doctorow

I read this cover to cover. Got terrible involved in it. I can tell you what happens, but I can't tell you what it's about.

What happens is a couple of guys start up free wireless for the community/the son of a mountain and a washing machine has some serious family issues, and deals with them. Somewhere between those two plot lines is what this book is about, and I haven't quite pinned it down yet.

It is something, my gut has decided, to do with freedom. Not necessarily freedom of speech, with all the politics the phrase is loaded with. Possibly just the freedom to be what and who you are, which is something you can only decide for yourself.

Which of course can only be done after you've finished your family feud in a violent and bloody manner, but oh well.

But that doesn't seem quite satisfactory, and I think I'll have to muddle this book over some more before I come to a conclusion that I am happy with.

It is about peculiar people. They're called 'monsters' at various points in the narrative, but that's just a word to mean 'other'. They're not human in the biological sense of the word, but they have minds and hearts that seem perfect capable of fucking things up like the rest of us. They are not, or feel they are not, free to say what they think.

Mimi, part-time heroin of the story, sporting a very fetching set of functional bat wings, is perhaps the most sympathetic of this motely cast. Her thought process and her emotional reactions are nothing but raw human, and her wings a physical manifestation of that wall we all carry within us. That which renders us incapable of expressing ourselves to others, that which disconnects us from the world around us. Her moment of battered house wife syndrome cut me, and her decision to run elevated me. I've read too many family violence reports where that last decision never happens.

Adam, Alan, Andy, the main protagonist, is an odd bird. Human, and passing for human, and going so human he's popped out the otherside into oddness. His carefully moulded house, full of the trophies that signify what it is to be human, the book he never writes, his endless fascination with other people...and his family.

The war between his brothers fuels the larger part of the story, and I admit I haven't sorted it out in my head yet. There was a twist at the end that I didn't see, and while it didn't throw me, it hasn't settled comfortably either. Families are strange creatures. Strange, strange creatures. I think it might be better if I accepted, without attempting to understand. Somethings aren't meant to be understood; family is one of them.

(Especially given the conversation I just had with my brother.)

It's also a really nice book to hold. I nabbed the hardcover at worldcon, and it's just a nice size, with nice heft, and nice paper, and a really nice cover. Ahh. Purdy.

A strange book that curls and meanders and drinks too much coffee and geeks out and gets brutal and bloody. A book that you will have to chew over and take what you choose from it, because it won't tell you want to think.

Verdict: Challenging, bizarrely so. Dangerous for trains.

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