Sunday, June 22, 2008
While I was away at Sycamore Hill, the Spring 2008 issue of the SFRA Review arrived, and I'm pleased to report that among the issues reviews, I found one by Ritch Calvin of Vandana Singh's Of Love and Other Monsters. The review occupies almost a full 8 1/2'' by 11'' page, so I can't quote the whole thing, but I'm happy to give you a taste each of the beginning and end:
I'll start a few sentences into the review:
Singh, born and raised in India, was there raised on a diet of both Indian and English myths and stories. She has a PhD in theoretical particle physics and lives in Boston, where she teaches physics and writes fiction. So it is no surprise that Of Love and Other Monsters begins with a metaphor drawn from physics, the soliton, a type of wave or pulse that does not change shape on collision with another soliton.
And here is most of the last three paragraphs:
[W]hen pondering Rahul's liberation or decolonization, Arun imagines the mitochondrion that has become an integrated part of the cell. "If you could offer a mitochondrion its freedom, would it take it?" (73)
Because of Singh's scientific background, the novella is filled with this kind of comparison. Yet despite this, the central premises of the book--telepathy and mind-melding--remain unfounded in scientific or rational principles. But as with so many elements of the novella (sexuality, gender, alienation), that may well be the point. Nevertheless, Of Love and Other Monsters offers a beautiful and compelling tale of alienation and difference, of groundedness and transcendence. Arun possesses this atavistic alien ability (or it possesses him), which may just be another way of perceiving and tapping into the world around him.Because of this ability, he is an alien in his own country Once he moves to the United States, he is an alien there as well. Arun struggles with the question of allegiances, of assimilation, of rootlessness (and rootedness). But as Binodini tells him, "You're not alone [...] At least, not any more than anyone else" (75)
Certianly Singh's novella is not the first to imagine the alien as among us-- see much of the New Wave for that. And Singh is not the first to imagine other conceptualizations of gender or sexuality. New Wave and feminist writers have done that as well. But Singh brings all of these together seamlessly and draws on another storytelling and mythological tradition not often seen in U.S./British science fiction. I have a strong hunch, though, that that will not be the case for long.
Of Love and Other Monsters can be purchased here, among other places.
Another review that has recently appeared is Paul di Filippo's review of Dangerous Space in the July issue of Asimov's SF :
In her much-anticipated debut collection, Dangerous Space (Aqueduct Press, trade paper, $18.00, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0933500-13-3), Kelley Eskridge can sound like Samuel Delany, Theodore Sturgeon, Fritz Leiber, or Joanna Russ, while still maintaining her own unique throaty, modulated voice. A non-trivial accomplishment indeed. These seven stories cover a wide territory stylistically and venue-wise, while all adhering to the same authorial POV that regards the world as a dangerous, delightful place, where extending oneself to others and opening oneself up to experience necessarily entails the possibility of suffering. "Strings" presents a future where music has been robbed of improvisation. "And Salome Danced" gives us an actor with some uncanny supernatural abilities. A "dust-devil" bag lady holds some startling secrets in "City Life." Postmodern swordandsorcery is the motif in "Eye of the Storm," while a cyberpunkish vision appertains to "Somewhere Down the Diamondback Road." Original to this collection, the long title story is a mimetic rendition of the pop musician's life. And finally, "Alien Jane" brings us inside a cruel mental asylum where the title character undergoes a lab-animal existence narrated by a fellow patient who might be her only friend. Eskridge's output accretes only slowly—the oldest story here dates from 1990—but like well-aged wine, these tales decant superbly.
Dangerous Space can be purchased here, among other places.