this Yarn will blow your mind
Posted April 15, 2011on:
Yarn, by Jon Armstrong
Published in 2010
Where I got it: borrowed from a friend
why I read it: I loved Armstrong’s Grey.
How to categorize this? scifi? dystopian? fashionpunk? craftpunk? socio-political satire? I think I’ll go with mindblowing. If you are looking for something unique and original and strangely wonderful, I highly recommend Jon Armstrong. His vision of a future America is as frightening as it is exotic.
Not a sequel to Grey, but taking place in the same world, in Yarn Armstrong brings us back to a futuristic west coast America where cities are vertical, GMO crop corporations are integrated down to the clothing their workers wear and the food they eat, and in the cities, fashion is life. Information and secrets can be embedded in a single thread, and competing fashion houses are known to bring guns to a knife fight. The city of Seattlehama teems with salesWarriors, tourists, sex workers and fashionistas.
In Yarn, Armstong again takes his knack for taking things to the nth degree to the next nth degree. Business is war, and fashion is life. For a salesWarrior, a day without a sale can quite literally mean death, and for the fashionable (and who isn’t?) bad fashion is akin to social suicide. SalesWarriors swarm through the tourists spewing their dramatic slogan filled warTalk, while violently keeping the competition at bay, and jobbers take whatever contracts they can. Conspicuous consumption is the name of the game, and if your jacket is a week old it’s already 6 days out of date. In a world like this, how far will people go to obtain power over business and fashion?
Tane Ceder, famed tailor and maker of men, has worked his way from indentured servant up to tailor to the rich and famous over the years. He knows what it’s like to have nothing, and he also knows what it’s like to fondle threads made from the lives of virgins. When his long time friend and ex-lover Vada comes to him begging for a jacket made of the illegal and illicit fabric known as Xi to aid her suicide, Tane has 24 hours to decide how best help his friend.
Much of Yarn is told through Tane’s flashbacks, as he recounts his escape from the slubs and his early years in Seattlehama. How he was dazzled by the entervators that traveled the vertical city, offering themed entertainment along the way. How as a slubber, he had to take any job he could, even the dangerous ones. His first experiences with recreational Xi, and how he came to meet Vada and become privy to her dangerous secrets.
Armstrong very successfully pulls off the unusual trick of doing the vast majority of his worldbuilding through language and slang. There’s plenty of environmental descriptions, but it’s the way people talk that really sucks you into the world. This is a culture built around fashion and textiles, and their language and slang reflect that. Slightly akin to A Clockwork Orange, It takes a bit to get used to the slang, and my advice is to just go with it. Only the workaholic salesWarriors talk that way, and the sexual overtness is quite hilarious at times.
Aroung the halfway point, the book goes from fun and over the top (in a good way) to dark and dangerous (also in a good way). Tane’s naivety bleeds off, leaving him craving knowledge about Xi, his father, and Vada. You’ll most likely want to read the 2nd half of Yarn in one go, so plan accordingly. Along with all the danger and fashion, comes laugh out loud dark humor and subtle yet thought provoking social commentary that may have you checking the labels in your new shirt.
Armstrong is quickly becoming one of my favorite newly discovered authors, and for good reason. This man’s imagination is just incredible, and his background in fashion and textiles is giving birth to what I hope will become known as fashionpunk/craftpunk. His scifi technologies revolve about textiles, not computers. It’s refreshing and delicious, and I am happily addicted.