- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (29 October 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0349004374
- ISBN-13: 978-0349004372
- Product Dimensions: 18.7 x 2.3 x 20 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,11,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Girl in the Road Paperback – 29 Oct 2015
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It's transfixing to watch Monica Byrne become a major player in sci-fi with her debut novel: so sharp, so focused and so human. Beautifully drawn people in a future that feels so close you can touch it, blended with the lush language and concerns of myth. It builds a bridge from past to future, from East to West. Glorious stuff
A brilliant novel, vivid, intense, and fearless with a kind of savage joy. These journeys - Meena's across the Arabian Sea and Mariama's across Africa - are utterly unforgettable
Sci-fi has long claimed to be the multicultural literature of the future. This is the real thing...Described with verve and conviction...A new sensation, a real achievement
The most inventive tale to come along in years. . . . The writing is often brilliant, as Byrne paints wholly believable pictures of worlds and cultures most Westerners will never know. . . . Engrossing and enjoyable
Spectacular and intriguing. . . . Enthralling on many levels. . . . The incorporation of evolving views of gender . . . propel this novel into the stratosphere of artistic brilliance
[The narrative] captures the sheer surface speed and exhilaration of living in the changing contemporary world. . . . A ceaseless storm of matter and energy
Brims with ambition...Inventive... Fearless ...[A] wild, hallucinatory ride
Monica Byrne's vision of India and Africa as an ever-changing maelstrom of language and culture, technology and sexuality is utterly captivating...An electrifying debut
Stunning...More than a few surprises await Meena and Mariama and the reader as story lines converge in a surprising, gratifying climax
In a world where global power has shifted east and revolution is brewing, a young woman sets out from her home in India on a desperate, profound journey of escape and discovery.See all Product description
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Sometimes literary fiction can suffer from trying to outsmart the reader by trying to be too intellectual, which is often to the detriment of the book. I feel as if this story comes quite close to that particular quirk.
A shame really, because it has some really interesting ideas in it, and I think Byrne has the potential to create something really memorable.
Byrne's ideas about the energy resources and the Trail are really very good. In fact they are the only thing that keeps the often confusing plot afloat.
The Trail is a fascinating idea, perhaps a premise worth returning to in another book. I found the chapters about the alternative energies, the building and use of the Trail, very creative. I was riveted by the actual idea, the practice room and the thought of the Trail being on and in the ocean. Kudos to Byrne for this particular idea.
Switching voices or narrators is quite common and works if it is done well. In this case the voices switch in a way that makes it hard to keep track of which character you're actually listening to or rather reading about.
Then there is the slightly obsessive need to bring sexuality in to every scenario. It might have been some confused and misguided attempt to create the image that sexuality is a flowing natural element in this futuristic setting, but I didn't flow for me at all.
Instead of a world free of bi, trans, gay or hetero restrictions or labels and a 'love the one you're with mentality.' you get a main character with impulse control issues. Her inner dialogue about feeling empowered by the thought of wanting to take someone by force 'like a man would' says a lot about her but nothing about sexuality in her society. The fixation on sex overshadows the experiences on the Trail.
Overall it had a lot of potential and some great ideas, but it ended up being a quagmire of confusion.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.
It follows two different people, one in the “future” and one in the “present,” and each of them are first person female narratives: Meena and Mariama. They are both speaking to people that were meaningful in their lives, which gives their cadence of speech an awkward flow, at times. I know a lot of people aren’t a fan of that kind of narrative, and I can’t say I am huge fan, either, but if it’s executed well it can still be enjoyable. In this case, I think the two voices are very similar, but perhaps that was done by Byrne intentionally to emphasize the manner in which they are interwoven. You may begin to speculate as to how while you’re reading, but about 100 pages from the end, you finally find out exactly how.
This is not an inherently happy story, but it really it is fascinating, if you are the kind of person who enjoys darker books. I know very little about Indian or Ethiopian culture, but reading through this book, I was looking up slang words and food, so it added an interesting, learning-type of element to reading it. I’m dying to try some of the food mentioned in it, namely the Indian sweets that are mentioned a lot with Mariama’s odyssey to Ethiopia as a child.
As a warning to others, this book does contain the following, either explicitly or in passing: violence, lesbian sex scenes, and pedophilia/rape. It also edges on the darker side, so if you’re more into light-hearted novels, this is not likely the book for you.
(SOME SPOILERS BELOW, NONE SIGNIFICANT)
And what does the future hold? Well, there are issues with the weather, which end up being fairly significant. There is political upheaval. People are using plastic surgery to change their race (transracial), as well as their gender (which we are already doing now). And then there is the Trail. Or, as the PC phrase: the Trans-Arabian Linear Generator. The Trail captured my imagination entirely because it is a construct that occurred out of HydraCorp (sounds like something out of a comic book, eh? SHIELD anyone?) that is a sort of buyoant energy trail that goes across a part of the ocean. The Trail imports energy to a plant, via a superconductor made of metallic hydrogen, lighting up homes and doing other things that electricity does for us.
There are people who have traveled across it, but, mysteriously, none have ever been heard of again. Throughout the book, there is some mention of seascapes, and I was curious if they were going to show some of those, but they only showed a small cluster of other people on the Trail.
A lot of futuristic technology is mentioned, like the glotti (interestingly enough, the real glottis is a part of the larynx that houses the vocal cords and the opening between them), and in this story appears to be something that translates almost all languages. Then there’s the mitter, pozit, pod, etc. All of which you come to understand in due time. There are some really creative inventions that are around, many of which I would honestly love to have now.
There is a kind of progressing madness to these characters. In one, the madness is evident pretty early on, and in the other, the madness is simply something that seems to come with age. But I did find each of them interesting because they are fairly rounded character. There is goodness and darkness in each of them, just as there is in every person. And that is something that a lot of novelists fail to capture well, so the rare times I come across characters like that, I am excited.
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