Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Review: Yarn, by Jon Armstrong
Normally when I’m about to review a book I’ll stare at the screen for a moment and reflect on the plot and characters, and what worked for me and what didn’t. Yeah, that’s pretty much impossible with Yarn. Whenever I think about this book my brain gets bombarded with neon colours and techno music. So I guess you could say that the book made a strong impression, but it’s all rather bewildering.
Bewildering is a good word to describe Yarn. Armstrong doesn’t give the reader even a second to get acclimatized to his setting, it’s BAM! GO from page one. The book is set on what I’m pretty sure is Earth, but way way way in the future. Fashion has become the driving force of everything, and huge cities have been built in the pursuit of it. Top fashion designers are rule like monarchs, and followers of differing styles happily murder each other in the streets. Written out like that it sounds a little ridiculous, but Armstrong flings it all at you with in such a frantic, adrenaline fueled way that you find your self just going with it. There’s no time to stop and think, and it results in an impressively immersive reading experience.
Armstrong labels it fashionpunk, and as much as it bugs me to see the suffix ‘punk’ tacked on to everything, it fits. Fashion is as integral to this world as steam engines are to steam punk, or computers to cyberpunk. Actually, I would say that Armstrong embraces it more fully than many authors do in their respective ‘punk’ genres. It’s most obvious in the book’s slang, which is extensive and fashion related. (Fashioning in place of fucking is one that tickled me for some reason). Armstrong offers no help in deciphering what the hell everyone is saying, and it’s not until quite a ways in that you start getting the hang of the vernacular.
The only thing that stops it from being just too much to deal with is the fact that the main character, Tane Ceder, is as much of an outside as we are. He's just as dumbstuck as the reader, so you feel as though you are least not alone in your confusion. It's an effective technique that stopped me from giving up in the book's early chapters. The book jumps between two time periods, the present in which Tane has become a major designer, and the past wherein Tane, who grew up tending corn, comes to the city for the first time.
The plot is interesting, and manages to not get overwhelmed by the frenetic setting. Actually, the plot is pretty complicated as well. I’ve sitting here for a while trying to sum it up and I just can’t. There are all these seemingly disparate threads (ha, threads, see what I did there?) that come together neatly (and awesomely) at the end. There’s the murder Tane witnesses. There’s conspiracy theories and assassination attempts. There’s the mysterious death of Tane’s father, and what the faceless corporation that owns the sinister cornfields he grew up in has to do with it. There’s the hunt for a banned type of wool which works as a powerful drug. There are gang wars between rival fashion houses. And there’s a love interest, of course, and an adventure in an air balloon made of some fantastic material.
Really, there’s a whole lot of everything. Reading this book was like chugging three cans of red bull and going white water rafting while looking through a kaleidoscope.
Truly insane. And also pretty damn brilliant.
This book: I won from The Ranting Dragon