If you are looking for a novel that goes something like Hero has a problem made worse by the villain and they have conflict and stuff happens leading to a climax and mostly everything is resolved in the end, then Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is not for you.
But if you are looking for a different kind of book, strange but enjoyable, then Invisible Cities is worth a try.
The story (if you can call it that) centers on Marco Polo telling Kublai Khan of the cities he has seen on his travels. As the novel progresses, it’s not clear whether Marco Polo actually saw the cities, if he’s making it all up, or whether Kublai Khan believes him or not.
Marco Polo describes fantastic cities, painting a vivid portrait in just a page or two. One sits on stilts, one’s boundaries are ever-shifting boundaries, one is simply pipes and plumbing with no walls or roofs. Another is described as a carpet with twisting patterns which are really a map of the city. Everyone sees it differently, depending on what twists of fate have come into their lives. Following that theme, another city is built on a dream of chasing a woman through a town, another uses the stars as its blueprint.
Another memorable city waged war on fleas and termites, and various species of mutant rats, not suspecting that it was threatened by monsters: sphinxes, griffons, dragons, basilisks and more, all seeking to possess the city. This brought to my mind the image of our own society, obsessed with trivia, ignoring the real issues that threaten our way of life.
This, I think, is the key to the book. Invisible Cities isn’t a quick read, but one to be savored. I admit, there were some passages I read three or four times and still didn’t get. Others were so vivid, like the one quoted above, I could see the crowds in the streets, individuals living their lives, acting and reacting to each other. This is a book that invites you to read between the lines and form your own images.
Calvino’s intent may have been summarized by Marco Polo. “‘I speak and speak,’ Marco says, ‘but the listener retains only the words he is expecting…It is not the voice that commands the story, it is the ear.’”
Fairies and Fantasies
I was little put off by the title, as it didn’t really spur my interest in the book. Don’t let that stop you. Fairies & Fantasy (The Lands of Elohan) is a fun tale of Emira, who never felt like she fit in anywhere. Her parents tell her stories of fairies and magic, and she longs to find a fairy ring to take her to a different world. When she grows up, she finds her way through a portal to the land of Elohan and the start of a great adventure.
The author wove Christian themes into Fairies and Fantasy in such a way they added some depth to the story. This is an entertaining, clean read that I enjoyed so much I bought the second in the series.
Shades of Milk and Honey
Author Mary Robinette Kowal set Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories) in early 1800s England and created a winning story. In her world, among the accomplishments ladies (and some gentlemen) pursue is magic, which they call glamour.
This Jane Austen-style romance was a delight to read, and captures the tone of the period better than any other Austen-inspired books I’ve read.
A few months ago I read Wool, and was waiting for the second in the series to be released. I’m not sure how I missed it, but Shift – Omnibus Edition (Silo Saga) (Volume 2) was published a few months ago. I quickly read it, in anticipation of Dust’s release just last weekend.
All I can say is I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Dust (Silo Saga) (Volume 3) explains a few issues that critics of Wool pointed out, and is a satisfying end to the series.
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