Mar 3, 2012
The Child Garden, by Geoff Ryman
I'm sorry to say that I couldn't get through more than 200 pages of this book, which won the Arther C. Clarke Award and the John W. Campbell Award. While I have profound respect for highly original work, there is a limit to how esoteric and bizarre a story can get before it becomes incomprehensible. The ideas grounding this book, the world in which it is set, is brilliant and fascinating: London is in a tropical zone, cancer has been cured but life expectancy tops out at 35, viruses implanted in every human give them all the knowledge in the world, human skin is purple due to the use of photosynthesis. What confuses the novel is the plot. We are ricocheted backwards and forwards in time, with very little to alert us as to where each episode falls within the narrative. Milena, the protagonist, is a very interesting person, but we are presented her thoughts without the third person omniscient. Additionally, it feels like the author is simply piling weirdness upon weirdness in order to get a rise from the reader. Being attracted to the same sex is called "bad grammar," and Milena has it bad; okay, sure. But having her be sexually attracted to a female genetically engineered bear? Really? Milena, at that point, becomes bizarre enough as to make following her thoughts uncomfortable. It distracts from the bigger picture. Added to all this, the copy editing in this particular version is absolutely awful; there is at least one error per page. In the end, all this adds up to an incredibly difficult read, and since after 200 pages I couldn't be drawn into the story, I decided to stop trying.