Simply fantastic. Kelly Link has quite simply put the narrative gun to my head and pulled the trigger. Magic Realism can be a perniciously amorphous genre, and it feels at times that Link is playing with the net down, but every time she comes back with a wicked serve that proves she knows what she's doing in stories that manage to be both highly evocative and highly structured. (Note: the etext is missing both the title story and "The Faery Handbag," which is why, having enjoyed my free ebook, I'm off to purchase a hardcopy.)
Doctorow scores once again. As noted by the other reviews here, it's the ideas that Doctorow puts on display, not the characters, and this novel, perhaps more than any previous work, feels a lot like a month-long perusal of BoingBoing compressed into a few days. It very much feels like a "social problem novel" of a century or two ago--imagine Elizabeth Gaskell with an Internet connection and an iphone. While certainly not his most polished work, there are no jarring passages, and the story is pleasingly homogeneous throughout, despite the frequent shifts in location and character focus noted by other reviewers. If anything, the story's a bit depressing if thought of as part of the science fiction genre--there's no grand space opera (not that Doctorow ever promised that), no overwhelming sense of the numinous in the technological, no mind-bending devices. Doctorow's always been a near-future writer (with a few exceptions, ex. True Names) but this is so VERY near as to almost seem in a different class than Eastern Standard Tribe or Magic Kingdom. It's a small novel of small drama--in twenty years, Garrison Keillor Jr. will probably be telling stories like this. Still, well-worth the reading, and despite its dissimilarity to the rest of his oeuvre, Makers is unmistakably a part of the Doctorow canon.
Someone Comes to Town made me feel about science fiction the way One Hundred Years of Solitude made me feel about literature as a whole. This is quite simply one of the best genre-defining/redefining pieces out there, equivalent to the distortions and evolutions practiced by Farmer, Ellison, and Gene Wolfe. A novel of ideas (as all his novels are) this is also a strongly evocative, almost lyrical, psychologically compelling, multi-layered piece of novel-craft. Worth repeated readings.
It's difficult to pick out a particular fault, but this novel just didn't seize my attention as it seems to have done for my fellow reviewers. Perhaps part of my disappoint lies in my (however unfounded) expectation of a Douglas Adams-style laugh-fest, which this isn't--it's a humorous novel, to be sure, but not one that'll have you repeating savory little lines of pithiness to yourself for days afterward. And while allusion is unavoidable in a novel about a cultural icon, it seemed to lean almost entirely on cultural references--a 50s travelogue, as someone below put it, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is a bit of a niche thing.
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