Monday, May 03, 2010

INCARCERON: The Silver Lining In My Little Cloud of (semi) Misery

I am sick. Bleargh. I haven't had a cold in nearly three years and I have forgotten how bloody miserable they are. One of the worst things about being sick? It gives one the tendency to whine. Pathetically. So I will make this post brief lest I be overtaken by the urge to indulge in whining.

One of the silver linings to being sick is that you can justify curling up in bed with a good book. I was lucky enough to find an amazing book and I'd like to share that with you guys.

I’ve talked here before about how much I adore books that crack wide open my ideas of what can be done in fiction, books that defy all the physics of conventional wisdom and craft rules, and do it spectacularly. My most recent find in this category was INCARCERON, by Catherine Fisher.

It took huge risks. Synthesizing a 17th century milieu with highly complex technology could have belly flopped big time, most likely would have in lesser hands. But in this case, it all worked. And as a writer, that spoke to me—of taking great risks, of how my first rule of writing—If it works, it works—is spot on.

The author’s timing was exquisite, her point of view shifts masterful. POV shifts are a huge vulnerability for me as a reader—it is very easy for me to feel jerked around and become easily annoyed when jumping back and switching between two protagonists like that, or become frustrated or to feel distanced or manipulated when there are too many POV shifts. But I felt none of that with this book. The pacing and the rhythm of it worked. I love how her characters were so multilayered and complex. You could never be certain if the bad guys were truly bad or simply had their own agendas we didn’t quite understand yet.

Do yourself a favor and read this book.

Other books that have rocked my writerly world with their risk taking were:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon—when it first came out years and years ago, I was so astonished by the combination of time travel with SUCH historical accuracy and a big more literary feel.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman– I’m sorry, but opening a middle grade novel with a serial killer—and making it work so well that it went on to win the Newberry—was a huge accomplishment, and an important reminder to writers to dare.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling – reminded me that just because a subject has been tackled many times by other writers doesn’t mean someone can’t bring something new and fresh and wholly compelling to the same subject matter.

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey (SO not a kid’s book—be warned!) I loved the synthesis of the sacred and the profane, another book that spoke to all my loves as a reader and reminded the writer in me to take risks.

The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge– Such a bravely different yet wholly satisfying fantasy world, with such complex themes and elaborate world building for a middle grade book.

What books rocked your world as a writer? Made you see new possibilities, cracked your horizons wide open?

If for some reason you are interested in hearing me blather on even more today, I am being interviewed today by a very accomplished eleven year old over at Ellen Oh's blog. She was quite charming and I adored her questions.


Sherrie Petersen said...

I keep hearing good things about this book. I just added it to my growing list :)

Marcelo in the Real World was amazing. If you haven't read it, you should. I borrowed Val's and then had to go buy my own copy. It was that good.

Story Weaver said...

I couldn't figure out which copy of outlander you're taling about. :) Who's the author?

Robin L said...

Thanks for that suggestions, Sherrie! I've heard about that book, but you're the first person I know who's read it.

And d'oh! Thanks Story Weaver. You'd think as an author, I'd remember to put the author's names! Sheesh. It was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

Anonymous said...

The Lost Conspiacy wasn't really like I expected. I prefer Tamora Pierce and Kathryn Lasky.