December 12th, 2009

Far North: a book for writers to savor



[Top is the UK cover - I wonder why they are different?]

Last night, I finished reading Far North: A Novel, a book writers should read just for its lovely use of language.

It's a dystopian novel. The main character, Makepeace, is the only person left living in a city in the far north (Siberia). While there were certain approaches the author took that I didn't agree with (having a character from the past rather improbably turn up, letting a main character die and referring to it only in passing), all of that was made up for by the simply stunning use of language.

Page 16: "There were a few last signs of human settlement along the riverside - a burned-out cabin, a wooden cross on a grave, some tumbledown walls..." [I admired how the author had the narrator describe them as signs of settlement, when they were really markers of death and absence.]

Page 198: "I lay down to sleep thinking that as much as I missed what was gone, maybe this was the best thing: for the world to lie fallow for a couple hundred years or more, for the rain to wash her clean. We'd become another layer of her history, a little higher in the soil than the Romans and the people who built the pyramids. Yes, Makepeace, I thought, maybe one day your mandible will show up under glass in a museum. Female of European origin. Note the worn incisors and the evidence of mineral deficiency from a poor and unvaried diet. Warlike and savage. And beside it some potsherds."

Page 224 [the narrator is in a long-deserted city, with no food or water, and has broken into what used to be a girl's bedroom]: "In the story of Goldilocks, the little girl sneaks into a bear den, eats the animal's food, and finds a place to sleep. That night I felt I was the story in reverse: a stinking, scarred bear, reeking of blood and gun smoke, turning up in a world of clean sheets and flowers."



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