Somewhat belatedly, I should mention that my review of Kaaron Warren’s Walking the Tree has been published by Strange Horizons. When Kaaron Warren is writing, she tells us in an Author’s Notes section at the end of the book, she keeps a notebook of “threads,” ideas she wants to interweave throughout the text. In the Notes section she gives us several pages of such threads. In a small case of congruence, when I read a book for review I do something similar: I jot down the threads I’m seeing, the repeated or emphasized elements in the text that might be interesting to write about. So I thought here, since Warren shared with us some of her threads, I’d share some of mine that didn’t make it into the published review:
Warren as a writer known for horror short fiction, and many themes and images Warren has dealt with in her short fiction are clustered here around the Tree like a bleak Christmas–beach and bones, babies and blood, birds and masks of clay.
Basic premise is also reminiscent of horror films like Friday the 13th: young female camp councilors put on front of respectability, but really are eager for the kids to fall asleep so they can hook up with the men. Like those movies there’s the sporty one, the brainy one, the kind one, etc. Like those movies, one by one they drop out of the story. But here, often in a more positive (or at least neutral) way. Is Warren playing on expectations, of the story type and/or of her own reputation in horror fiction?
Although there is some of the usual horror movie plot logic used: bad things–death or rape or both–happen mainly (only?) when women make errors in judgment, typically due to overconfidence or insecurity.
Also feels a bit like a feminist take on the traditional male post-apocalyptic narrative: typically lone man leading single child or woman, here that image and its implications–generational, educational, species survival/reproductive–have been thoroughly domesticated.
Metatextual elements, the focus on stories. Each Order has a different origin story of the Tree. Most contain a seed of truth, none are wholly true. Also game of “telephone” Lillah and her brother invent. How stories get distorted by the passage of time and distance seems a recurring theme.
Selected past reviews at other venues:
- Christopher Barzak, The Love We Share Without Knowing
- Elizabeth Bear, Chill
- Darin Bradley, Noise
- Avram Davidson, Adventures in Unhistory
- David Louis Edelman, MultiReal
- Theodora Goss, In the Forest of Forgetting
- Brent Hartinger, Dreamquest
- Brent Hayward, Filaria
- David Marusek, Getting to Know You
- J.M. McDermott, Last Dragon
- Patricia McKillip, Od Magic
- Geoff Ryman, Ed., When It Changed: Science Into Fiction
- Delia Sherman and Theodora Goss (eds), Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing
- Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem, The Man on the Ceiling
- Catherynne M. Valente, Palimpsest
- Peter Watts, Blindsight
- Robert Freeman Wexler, The Painting and The City
- Zoran Zivkovic, The Last Book
- Zoran Zivkovic, Seven Touches of Music
- Zoran Zivkovic, Steps Through the Mist