- by Gitabushi
I always have problems with reviews, I think. How do I make the book/movie/TV show sound interesting without giving too much away? Do I talk about the writing style? The characters? What I find unique and/or worthwhile about it?
For me, there is no greater pleasure than having a story unfold for me.
On the other hand, I enjoy enough seeing how something difficult is pulled off that I don’t usually mind spoilers.
In any case, I’m going to try to walk the line here.
Flat-out: I think you should read The Minaverse, by Jill Domschot.
I know Jill through Twitter, through a loose collection of SF&F fans, readers, and gamers. I don’t know her well. She doesn’t owe me money, nor do I owe her money. We aren’t related. We wouldn’t recognize each other if we walked past each other on the street. I get nothing for plugging this book.
She was struggling with a blurb for her book, and I like to help and am usually a pretty good wordsmith, so I helped improve it. To say thanks, she let me read an advanced copy of the book I just helped write the blurb for.
I’m very glad she did, because I really enjoyed this story.
As I started reading the book, I made little mental notes of the feedback I was going to give her: the character that was unlikeable, the times she told us instead of showing us, etc.
But starting almost immediately in Chapter 4, I forgot all that. The story figuratively took off, and none of the criticisms mattered. I lost myself in the book and just enjoyed it.
The Minaverse is a semi-framed story. The protagonist, Stephanie, wants to interview her famous grandfather and turn it into a biography that will provide her some career success. That is the frame for the story of Oso Benat. His narrative starts in Chapter 4, and that’s where I became entranced.
I say it is semi-framed, because Ono’s partner also gets a few chapters for his viewpoint. And by the end, the life story fades away like a desert river moving underground, and Stephanie’s story becomes the main narrative.
And it works.
This book has several strong elements. I like how she really tried to provide a plausible development for human-like androids. She skewers current society with an acerbic wit by showing where some of the trends we see today are leading. She provides some touching insight into love, (mis)communication, ego, ambition, loyalty, and even faith. Her characters are distinct and memorable, and each has their own voice.
The important thing, however, is it fulfills one of the prime themes and duties of good SF&F: it explores what it means to be human, and does it well.
It’s not a perfect book. It breaks some rules. But every time I tried to think about how it could be fixed, I realized that “fixing” it would mean messing with what was actually working. I urged her to publish it as is (and I think she did).
Look, I’ve made it through some slogs before, but this is an easy read. The book pulls you along by the force of its magnetic personalities, the challenges Jill sets up for them, and how they resolve them.
I highly recommend this book. It’s a bargain. I think Jill may be one of the bright new voices of SF&F. Go buy it now.