Thursday, February 02, 2017

Dusk or Dawn, Dark or Day

Or rather Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, by Seanan McGuire, which is a lovely title for a ghost story with many lovely aspects but that is, ultimately, Not For Me.

I picked the book up (from Netgalley, for review; thank you, Netgalley!) because of how much I loved Every Heart a Doorway. I knew it was about ghosts--as in, a story about the "lives" of ghosts, from their point of view, which is a hard world to build, in my opinion.  If you're going to show me a vision of the afterlife that looks pretty much exactly like being alive (these are ghosts who live in apartments and have jobs and eat sometimes), I'm already pretty skeptical. There's an element of "moving on," though--you only stay as a ghost if you go before your time--another concept that I'm kind of fuzzy on, but I'm not bad at suspension of disbelief.

Jenna died too soon--when her sister Patty killed herself, Jenna was distraught and died in an accident. Now, years later, Jenna has moved from her small town home to New York City, where she works at a suicide hotline, "earning" her extra time back to get closer to the right time for her death.  So, this is the first confusing thing--ghosts can "steal" time from living people. Now, what I think when I hear this is that the person's life gets shorter--maybe their death date moves up or maybe they get older. But what it actually means is that the ghost takes some of the person's age--the person gets younger, winds back the time that the ghost takes, and the ghost gets older, closer to their death date/moving on.

Ghosts can also give time--get further from their death date, stay on earth longer, and by giving those minutes or hours or years to a human, cause the person to age.  Apparently most ghosts are eager to move on, so they steal time from people in a win-win situation--people get younger, ghosts get older and move on sooner. But a few ghosts want to stay, and they tend to find bad people and give them back time to keep away from their death date.

But Jenna's odder--she has somehow decided that she has to earn the right to move on. So she works at a suicide hotline, and whenever she talks someone into living longer, she logs that time and only then allows herself to take that time from someone. This was really my first sticking point; I really can't figure out why Jenna would put this artificial gate between herself and the thing she wants--to be with her sister Patty. I didn't get a feel for Jenna's relationship with Patty, either, which was supposed to be the driving force of the novel.

The actual story begins when ghosts start to disappear from the city. Jenna and a few allies are the only ones to investigate--her ghost landlady, a local witch, a homeless woman.  They follow the trail which leads them, for some reason, into Jenna's past.

Talking it through, I think this was part of the trouble I had with the story--there were a lot of different pieces that ended up dovetailing for no particular reason. Jenna's personal story and the problem of the missing ghosts are mostly unrelated, except for a lot of ways they're related.  A lot of the plot is driven by coincidence, in the end, which doesn't work as well for me.

What I will say, though, is that Seanan McGuire can write.  The day to day moments of Jenna's life are smooth and lovely to read, and if I didn't understand a lot of the emotional content, the way it's described was not the problem. I didn't love this book, but I absolutely want to read much more by this author.


Aarti said...

I find the premise of this book very confusing on the time front, but I assume when you are actually reading it, it makes more sense vs trying to explain it?

LibraryHungry said...

I definitely got it by a little way into the book. But I never did quite get the choices that some characters made baed on how it worked, though.