Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sequeltown, The Sequel

The Thirteenth Child was a pleasure, and I'm hoping Across the Great Barrier is just as good.  As a sequel, that's always tough, but the style of storytelling here really lends itself to continuing in the same vein as the first book.  This isn't a story of glorious highs and terrifying lows--it's about living on the American frontier, coming of age as a girl who's always been outshone by her twin, and trying to find what you want when it's always been easy just to slip by.

And also magic.  Wildlife, really.  Magic is everywhere, always used.  On the frontier, magic runs wild and the magical animals make homesteading incredibly dangerous.  And our heroine, Eff, wants to be a naturalist and to study these animals.

I don't know what's going to happen in the story, but explaining what happened in the first book wouldn't tell you much.  Eff grows up, her brother goes to school, they visit the Rationalist settlement, she learns Aphrikan magic.  I'm a sucker for a book about the patterns of life in a well-built fantasy world, and that's what I'm hoping to find in Patricia Wrede's sequel.  I think I've got a good chance.

Unfortunately, I recently threw in the towel on another sequel that I've been struggling with for a while.  The Parable of the Talents, which is Octavia Butler's follow-up to The Parable of the Sower, started out with the spark of hope that concluded the first book and slowly, painfully scattered dirt on it till it was snuffed out.  Sower was grim enough that I would not have expected to be overcome by the grimness of the sequel, but darn if I wasn't.

I'll admit that I actually really want to know how it ends.  I wish I'd been able to stick it out to find out.  But as the precarious little world that the characters have built is dented and shredded, as the outside world gets worse, as the story is framed with comments many years later that describe the emotional fallout of what we're about to read, it just wore away at me until I never wanted to pick it up.

The more I think about it, the more the visceral discomfort was an intellectual strength.  When everything falls apart, that's when anyone's faith is tested, and more so those whose faith states that God is change.  The introduction by Lauren's grown daughter opens a wider window on the harsher aspects of the protagonist's character--her ambition, her cold practicality.  The most useful traits are not always the most endearing ones.

But in the end, I couldn't read it.  It just made me tired, and sad.  That feels more like a weakness in myself than in the book itself, though.

But oh, baby, I'm not done with sequels yet!  While I've got some one-off irons in the fire, I feel like there's a wonderful bounty of great series that I'm swimming in right now.  Huzzah!

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