19 Nov

The Promise of the Child by Tom Toner

I will admit, it took me a couple of false starts before I got far enough into this book for the momentum to keep me going. I’m used to reading fast and this was just not something I could read quickly, not because of density or complexity but because of its strangeness, because I had to pause and absorb so much. Beyond the prologue, you are dropped into a world that you need to make sense of, that is far future but feels past, that is post-human in a way that I don’t remember ever seeing before. It may have taken me a while to get started, but once I did I was hooked, in large part because I simply wanted to understand.

The writing really hit on something I love, the addition of small details that add so much to the world you’re experiencing. Like the parasite on the eyeball of the fish early in the story. They’re not beautifully wrought descriptions, nor should they be; they’re simple but visceral elements of the world that help draw you into the experience.

There were things that gave me doubts. It’s a bit sexist and homophobic in ways that I really don’t expect from science fiction anymore, especially stories that capture me the way this did. But to be fair that added to the sense that this is not a modern, technological society; it’s not our past, but it’s something else entirely, like a different branch on the tree. (Which is not to say that it is not technologically advanced, but in ways that we wouldn’t expect nor could we possibly understand, which strikes me as something very right for a novel set at such a distant time.)

When I finished the book I went back and reread the prologue, because upon first read the story seemed to jump somewhere else entirely after that, but upon rereading it all came together in the end.