Townhouse Books

Friday, September 22, 2006

Winterlong: Elizabeth Hand

Someone loaned this to me, and I accepted because many years ago I read another Elizabeth Hand book called Waking the Moon and remember vaguely enjoying it.

I did not enjoy, vaguely or otherwise, this one, but whether it's because I've changed or the author changed, I cannot tell. It had a few Oryx and Crake-y moments that sparked my interest, but Elizabeth Hand is no Margaret Atwood and sometimes-weak plots that one might ignore because Atwood's writing is so awesome becomes glaringly apparent when you're stuck with Hand and her thesaurus.

(Also: Loving descriptions of the "long russet tangle of hair spilling down [his] back," a main character with the name Raphael, and Hand's fondness for the word "whorl." It appeared numerous times throughout the book -- she should have used her thesaurus then -- and in one section twice on one page. (He traced the whorls of her breast, and then half a page later looked at the whorls in the wood of the ceiling. Seriously).

The story is something about twins in a near wasteland future. The girl is an empath who takes people dreams and the boy is a prostitute (caste: Paphians) in a complicated world of whorehouses and old museums tended to by Curators (caste: Curators). There's a madman and a prophecy (sort of) and a talking chimpanzee who is an actress (caste: Player) and poison from the sky.

I liked the first section where the sister and the science-fiction-like world is introduced, but the high school goth elements that later dominated the book I could have done without.


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