Book Uno is a new feature at Jawas Read, Too! More specifically, it’s a game. If you know the rules of Uno the card game in which players must match either colors or the face value of cards one at a time in an attempt to get rid of their entire hand, you know the basic rules for Book Uno. Just in case, let me give you a quick explanation.
Player 1 reads a book and picks a item (type of character, setting, genre, relationship, etc…) from that book which will be the theme (or criteria) for Player 2 to use in choosing the next book in the game. Player 2 chooses a book that matches the theme chosen by Player 1 and reviews it. Players choose themes for each other, not specific books.
For example: I might read a book that has a male protagonist and decide I want the next player to review a book that also has a male protagonist. As long as the book is Speculative Fiction and features a male protagonist, it’s a fair play for that move.
It’s a chance for participants to knock out a book they might already own since the challenge is to meet general requirements rather than detailed ones.
Last month TJ from Dreams and Speculation kicked off the first Book Uno play with Karin Lowachee’s Warchild. It went so well, I couldn’t be happier! But of course, the game must go on. What theme did she pick for me?
Her theme for me was a book that was written by an author with a last name starting with the letter “L.” Easy enough, right? I thought so, too. Narrowing down my choices was more difficult than I realized. There are just too many good authors, but I had to choose one. Green has been in my possession for a few months now; Jay Lake is an author I’ve heard many positive things about and decided to go for it. I have mixed feelings about my choice, but you’ll have to read the rest of the review to find out why.
A young girl is sold into a slavery of high society where she’s forced to endure cruel punishments for picking the wrong piece of fruit or speaking when not spoken to. Always in defiance of her new home and resentful of the change, this girl is subject to the masochistic tendencies of her instructors. Their demands prove to be too much and she’s driven by the encouragement and training of her Dancing Mistress to be the arbitrator of her own life, but it won’t be easy. More than likely, it will be bloody.
That is what I thought I was going to get. I was wrong. Green is one of those books I had a tough time reading. And in all honesty, I didn’t finish it. Let me explain. At first, it was vaguely reminiscent of Memoirs of a Geisha. A young girl is sold off by her own family and expected to train rigorously to become an extraordinary courtesan. The courses are exhausting and draining, the expectations are high, the women are vicious. The similarities were intriguing, if coincidental, as far as I was concerned since they ended as soon as I noticed them. This isn’t saying I expected a storyline that shadowed Arthur Golden’s book, but finding where the two complimented each other was the silver lining in what was continually turning into a confusing story of divergent plot lines better suited to individual novels rather than one.
I found myself unsure whether I was bothered more by the extreme measures Green’s Mistresses would take to punish her or the backward society (to my modern Earth sensibilities) that not only allowed, but expected obedience as the “greatest everyday virtue any woman can possess” (p. 43). This led me to believe Green’s triumph would be breaking free of her bonds, finding independence, and perhaps closure about her father’s decision. Even if this was the main point of the book (and without finishing it, I can’t be sure, but am almost positive it is only a step in some direction, the means to an end rather than the end in itself), it did not feel strong enough to support the poetics of such a fate.
Instead, the conspiracy behind her training is anti-climatic and rushed. Only a few pages separate Green discovering the truth and what she does with it. She’s very quick to act in compliance with her strange mentors and abandon Copper Downs entirely. What follows is an entirely different book that increasingly explores her sexuality. I found myself rolling my eyes in contemplation of how pointless it all seemed. Lake essentially puts a group of young girls together in a room and decides sexual exploration amongst themselves is the natural progression of their relationships and the book rather than an explanation of the events that happened in Copper Downs. If the religious sect that she joins is foreshadowing for further events, it lacked the emphasis her sex life had. Green’s previous life seems, at this point, completely abandoned and worst of all: irrelevant. The two plots separate even more when Green’s growing preoccupation with carnal pleasure ventures into bondage, sadism, and masochism. It was at this point I put the novel down and decided I could not continue.
There is little left to convince me such a large section of the narrative does anything more than devolve a compelling, if drawn out story, about a young girl growing into her own to successive instances of her sexual adventures. If this novel had been advertised as such—the sexual exploits of a young teen—I wouldn’t feel so mislead. I also wouldn’t have picked this book up since the subject matter is unappealing. I remain confused and put off by the misrepresentation of this book as a Fantasy novel concerned with a wicked conspiracy and an unwilling victim who learns to fight for herself and the strange city she’s come to call home. Unfortunately, the first third of the book was not enough to encourage me to read past the second third (roughly 100 pages each).
I won’t go into too much detail on the two mythic origin stories Green comes across in her studies. Both seemed a confused amalgamation of rape, abstract incest, and the strange relationship between Desire (as a female) and Time (as a male). Lake could have drawn on existing origin myths to help create these—not having finished the book, I cannot say whether they foreshadow anything other than Green’s own unquenchable lust. I would like to think he might have been influenced by other origin stories (whatever they may be, I am unfamiliar with them) and will refrain from judging the stories themselves, but rather use them to explain components of a much larger trend that kept bothering me as I continued to read. Whatever else Green became involved in, it became incidental to the larger focus on sex.
I also did not like the implication that menstruation makes women impatient. To quote from the book:
”Though some of the patience so carefully beaten into me by Mistress Tirelle had left me with my monthly flows…” (p. 192)
In short, I could not finish this book and do not feel comfortable recommending this novel to anyone else unless they understand that the jacket copy describes only the first part of the book and leaves little warning about the inconsistent and bizarre evolution of the plot afterward. Green’s personal life is too at odds with any larger thematic plot concerns and overwhelms what could have been a more cohesive story.
Release Date: June 9, 2009
Reviewed Format: hardcover
If you want to see what theme I pick for the next player in the game and who they will be, stay tuned for the September edition of Book Uno!
Book Uno is a new, regular feature on JRT. It’s a collaborative effort between Erika and other book bloggers to promote all types of Speculative Fiction books. Until she works out the kinks, game play is by invitation only.