Oct 112013

maulusmedwebMaul, by Tricia Sullivan

Synopsis: Two story lines. 1 – Rival teen girl gangs battle in a mall in the present day. 2 – In a future where men are nearly extinct, women use desirable ones as sex slaves and ugly ones as virus test subjects. Two such men meet and try to escape.

Book Review: I saw this billed as a cyberpunk novel and was wary, as I grew up on cyberpunk and this was published in 2003 (long after the era of good cyberpunk). Fortunately it is very cyberpunk in its style and attitude! I give it my cyberpunk stamp of approval. :) It is gritty, profane, and violent, while exploring intellectual themes. The plot moves along vigorously, and the characters feel genuine. The teenage girls actually feel like teenagers (which most authors cannot pull off).

That said, the book does have some problems. Sullivan is terrible at physical descriptions. I didn’t realize 10Esha was black until halfway through. It took me a while to understand the castellations are underground, and I never got a clear picture of them. If I wasn’t intimately familiar with malls I’d have no idea what was going on during the mall half of the book, and even so a lot of the action was displaced and fuzzy. However the many strengths of this book outweigh those problems. Recommended.

Book Club Review: This is one of those books that you can’t simply read and put down. You need to discuss it with someone else, because it’s very non-Western in how it approaches intellectual topics. Western works tend to have a thesis, a point that they are trying to make and drive towards. They must say a specific thing, and clearly, or they’ve failed. My main exposure to the antithesis of this is anime, and so this book reminded me strongly of works like Akira or Ghost in the Shell. It has a lot to say, and often takes philosophical tangents and introduces fascinating ideas. However it simply presents them to the reader to think on, rather than wrapping them together and pushing to “and thus my point is X”. It’s disorienting, and it’s a nice change, and it is perfect for book-clubs!

Different readers will take different things from it for this reason. Those in our book club who focused on the violence and politics ended up not liking it as much, as those were overblown, and this random sex stuff kept getting in the way. Those (like me) who viewed this as a treatise on human sexuality and viewed everything else as simply a motor to drive that conversation – intentionally exaggerated in order to explore the sex issue more thoroughly – ended up liking it much more. This in itself makes for good discussion, and only adds to all the other topics the book covers. Even for those who dislike the story inside, the book makes for great conversation. Strongly Recommended.

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