Friday, July 25, 2008

Girl in Landscape

Girl in Landscape is the second novel by Jonathan Lethem that I've read. Lethem gained mainstream recognition for his fantastic 1999 novel Motherless Brooklyn, but he'd been writing science fiction for a number of years before that. I actually found Girl in Landscape, written in 1998, to be more akin to the western genre than sci-fi, in that the landscape itself is a primary character.

The book starts a little slowly, with 13-year-old protagonist Pella's family preparing to move from Brooklyn to the planet of the Archbuilders light years away. Once they arrive, the story that unfolds is a character-driven coming-of-age meets pioneers-on-the-frontier. Pella's family and the other settlers from Earth have to co-exist with the indigenous Archbuilders, whose mannerisms, language, even food and shelter are barely understood by the humans. More important to Pella are the personal battles they are facing. Her father is a failed politician trying in vain to regain something of his former glory. Her younger brothers are dealing poorly with their mother's death. She herself is going through puberty. And surrounding them is a supporting cast of Earth's (and the Archbuilders') rejects.

About halfway through this book, I became convinced that Lethem is one of the most brilliant contemporary authors out there. His ability to create characters with incredible depths of emotion through his spare writing style lifts him above the fray of ordinary writers. I am enthusiastically looking forward to reading more.


Cisco said...

Also a big Lethem fan. I thought "The Fortress of Solitude" was strawesome.

Angie said...

Thanks for the tip - I am definitely going to read that one soon!!