We could all exist inside a video game, right? Because isn't it
about everything being everything, the macrocosm filled with microcosms
inside other microcosms? Melanchthon is the all-powerful, mechanically
sentient dragon. The Goddess is the Black Stone inside the Spiral
Castle . But the Goddess is also your mother non-chalantly flicking
a mite named Melanchthon off your collar.
Everything is anything.
Forget about the logic, however illogical, of how it all
works. You will never know. Nobody knows. Elf-lords think they
know. They rule without restraint or boundaries, feared because
of their knowledge. For knowledge is power. “Understand that everything
is made out of the same component parts,” the Fata Jouissante incarnation
difference between a tree and a troll is one of organization only” (Avon
, BCE, ISBN 0688131743, c.1994, p.380). Then pruning a tree and cutting
off the arms and legs and genitals of a troll is the same action.
Knowing just as easily leads to vile behavior and cynicism.
And venom turns everything to parody. Insensitivity leads
to disconnection from all distinguishment.
Jane has a childhood like a Dickens character.
Jane's high school might as well be Bates High, where King's Carrie
College is Catcher in the Rye, or Less Than
or any other coming-of-age depressing novel you've ever read.
Post-graduation is all the roman noir and film noir stewed
together into a black tar and gargled.
Afterwards is being a salesclerk in the mall and taking
night classes at the local CC.
But don't fall prey to the satire. It's directed to the genre, not
this or that world. That is the taste, the smell, the feel of skin
bruising under your fingers. Ejaculation. Menstruation. Sensation.
This is the texture of it all bristling through whatever conceptualization
you assign to it. Everything sees everything and changes it by seeing
it. The mechanism is not your templar; magic is not the only metaphysics.
Everything-is-everything is veiled, hidden, lurking, prosaic.
It's everything curious, isn't it? Concentrate on the action, the
reaction, the use. It is not about hierarchies, conventions, duties,
quests. It's about the swamp and the lizards and the razor grass.
You have to know that to get out, and getting out is all that's
worthwhile doing until you realize you never get out, just change
the scenery. Then it becomes acceptance and resignation.
Sound dour? It doesn't have to be.
The impression leaving is that this book is possibly flawed
by spending too much time trying to satirize the genre of fantasy
literature and not
enough time establishing a more coherent flooring for the plot. I
am not objecting to seemingly-unsupported ponderances, mysterious
and unexplained sociology/biology/mythology, purposely-veiled antics
and motivations, or the demands of the author to read between the
lines or investigate scenes for meaning. I like that in a novel.
I like an author who does not insult the intelligence of his readers.
I don't even mind a difficult or not very likable protagonist, as
I find Jane to be. This novel is either brilliant or mundane. It's
probably both, since it seems to allow for the varied perceptions
of the reader as an integral part of its familiarity. Anotherwords,
there's room for interpretation and evidence that one course is not
superior to the other. I may be wrong on this—Swanwick strikes me
as a pretty forceful driver with very direct ideas about things.
Very few books need to be read again and again.