starlady: Cindi Mayweather running through Metropolis (i believe in the archandroid)
[personal profile] starlady
To: Readers, friends, the world

From: Electra

Re: Hairston, Andrea. Mindscape. Seattle, WA: Aqueduct Press, 2006.

Question: What is this book about? Is it any good?

Observations: I read Mindscape because Andrea Hairston was one of the Guests of Honor at WisCon 36 last month. Fried in the gate at Detroit on my 6am redeye connection, I could tell when I started reading it that I would like it, but that it was too complex for me to attempt at that point. I was essentially right.

Mindscape is great, though for a while I wasn't really sure that I fully understood what was going on, and in some ways I'm still not sure what hit me. The book tells the story of the efforts of a varied cast of characters to uphold and enforce the Inter-Zonal Treaty that one of the characters, Celestina, gave her life to cement, more than a century after the Barrier ripped the world as we know it and rearranged everything. Elleni Xa Celest, Celestina's protegee, and her friends and enemies, have to decide what story they're telling, and how much they're willing to pay.

This is a great, rollicking novel, with truly imaginative concepts and fantastical concepts and a lot of trenchant commentary on issues of history and class and race and many more things, as well as some endearing characters who are very believably flawed. There's a lot going on, with a lot of things I didn't fully understand and lots of things that weren't fully explained, and all in all it was pretty amazing.

Notes: This is, in a way that I suspect many people would not want to really acknowledge, a truly American science fiction (science fantasy?) novel, and probably one of the few that I have read. Though there is a lot of Afro-futurism in here, there is also a lot of specifically American history, particularly the history of U.S.-Indian relations - born-again Sioux Ghost Dancers are central to the plot, and the final scenes take place at Wounded Knee. Furthermore, movies and a lot of Hollywood permeate the characters' lives and worldviews, as well as the fact that many of them are involved in movies as directors or actors or unwilling Extras. I liked the way that some of the characters were explicit about the fact that they didn't want to be co-opted into mainstream narratives, and probably my favorite character overall was Lawanda Kitt, a loud and proud ethnic throwback who shakes up the corrupt and rotting zone of Los Santos without fully realizing her own power, even though we only get her viewpoint in transmissions to various people. I didn't like Elleni quite so much, but by the end I understood her - indeed, one of the awesome things about this book is just how many awesome female characters there are.

Recommend: Read this book. You'll like it, I bet. If you have, what did you think? Let me hear you.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-16 00:01 (UTC)
owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
From: [personal profile] owlectomy
Thanks for this review! I recently finished Redwood and Wildfire and I liked it a lot, and I've been wondering what else I should read by Hairston.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-17 01:33 (UTC)
owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
From: [personal profile] owlectomy
It's great. I liked it for many of the same reasons you liked Mindscape -- it does very well at combining rollicking storytelling with a lot of issues of class and race and sexuality, and it's a vivid evocation of Georgia and Chicago in the early 20th century that captures both the oppression the characters experience and also the joy and beauty of living.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-16 00:17 (UTC)
jesse_the_k: Hands open print book with right side hollowed out to hole iPod (Alt format reader)
From: [personal profile] jesse_the_k
Thanks for the push. I both enjoyed and puzzled over Redwood & Wildfire, and it sounds like Mindscape has more of what I liked and less of what confused me.

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