the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘intertia

The Unraveling by Benjamin Rosenbaum comes out on June 8th from Erewhon Books. I received an ARC from the publisher.

You know how some books give you #allthefeels?

 

The Unraveling gave me #allthethoughts in the best possible way.

 

At its heart, this novel is a coming of age/stumble into becoming an adult story. But everywhere else, it’s a giant beautiful thought experiment. Lots of science fiction and fantasy are thought experiments, and that’s what makes them so fun! 

 

Fair warning though, getting into The Unraveling might feel like more work than fun.  During the first few chapters I was on the strugglebus – who are all these people? What do all these terms mean? What the heck does doublebodied mean?  For about 80 pages I was just as lost as I was intrigued (not unlike an Iain M. Banks Culture book, now that I think about it). 

 

With zero introduction or infodumping, the narrative starts when the action starts, with a bustling family of many, many parents getting their only child, Fift, ready for the most important event of zir life. What made more sense much later was how nervous some of Fift’s parents were.  #NotASpoiler – Fift does just fine.  Well, at least at first. 

 

In my opinion, the most important things about The Unraveling, the things that kept me reading and kept me thinking, had nothing to do with the plot. This  book had so many ideas and social concepts that I have never seen  before, so many “why not?”’s that I’d not thought of before, so many “what if’s”, so much that was new to me!   Could be none of what’s in this book is new, but I doubt it.

 

What were all those why nots, and what ifs?  Let me tell you all about them! 

 

The BIG THING in The Unraveling is how gender is handled. The two genders are Staid (pronouns: ze, zir, zem) and Vail (pronouns: ve, vir, vem).  For someone who has spent the literal last 40 years seeing she/he in stories, it took me a long time to get used to the pronouns. Ok, but here’s the cool thing – gender in this book has absolutely nothing to do with your plumbing, because why not?  I did not expect it to, but this worked really well for me!

 

Staids are expected to be “the still center” with lives focused around intellectual studies, and Vails are pushed towards physical and emotive pursuits (I am grossly simplifying). Marriages are of  typically of many adults of mixed genders, with the one major rule being that Staids do not share The Long Conversation with Vails, and Vails do not share their mat fights or other aggressively physical activities with Staids. The gender expectations are pretty strict, which was funny and fascinating.

 

Thanks to way-in-the-future-science, people can have whatever biology, plumbing, and body modifications they want whenever they want, customized however they want, allowing anyone to look any way they please, and to be a mother or a father with anyone they want.  (and the science part doesn’t really matter, because this isn’t a story about how the science works. It’s a story about how people work) I thought that was all pretty damn cool, even though it did take me a good 200 pages for my brain to stop asking “yeah, but is this character a boy or a girl?”, because not only didn’t it matter if someone was a boy or a girl, this world doesn’t even have a concept of that. It’s perfectly fine to ask someone if they are a Staid or a Vail, and you’d typically be able to tell by their social behavior, but it would never occur to someone in this world to ask if someone was a boy or a girl, they don’t have the vocabulary for that and they don’t have a concept of that.

 

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.