Ex Libris Kirkland

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Subtitle (A Tale of Two Worlds)
First Written 2020
Genre Scifi
Origin UK
My Copy library copy
First Read April 15, 2021


Faber's other two books I've read are also about immigrants, now that I think about it. I read Under the Skin four years ago and it seemed also about a set of immigrants who struggle with assimilation (or not). Then in The Book of Strange New Things the lead character is a missionary to an exotic planet, and finds himself increasingly removed from the problems going on back home, as he grapples with figuring out the new culture he's visiting.

Noted on April 24, 2021

At first blush this is a very light, charming little portal fantasy. It's fun, and fast-paced, and funny. And that's surprising given Faber's other scifi I'd read, which is pretty dark. But keep your eyes open and it's pretty clearly in the vein of The Wizard of Oz - both in its overall plot structure (girl goes to capital to Set Right the thing that's wrong), and in the allegorical nature of the episodes.

I'd only heard about Frank Baum's work being a political allegory in school, because the things he's satirizing or allegorizing are so far distant from me that I can't recognize any of them. But at the time it was supposedly very obvious to contemporary readers, and they knew exactly who each group of Munchkins or Scarecrow or whatever was supposed to represent in the 1890s political landscape. Today though, they are just simply characters: goofy witch, funny lion, etc.

D is all about the immigrant experience in the west, and this becomes more clear as you go along: there's the border bureaucrat who seems helpful but might actually just be obfuscating things, the stupid but violent nativists who only eat bland food, the very nice, welcoming religious group who will feed and clothe you for a short time but can't help your larger problems, and there's a blustering, stupid autocrat at the top who uses hate and fear to stay in power and wears a Boris/Trumpian fluffy wig. By the end it gets a little on the nose, and the specificity of it all seems narrowly geared to this particular political moment. I hope, like the Wizard of Oz, these elements won't even be recognizable to readers in a few decades.

Noted on April 24, 2021

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
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