Monday, April 16, 2007
Girl in Landscape
I referred to this novel by Jonathan Lethem in my recent review of the state of science fiction in literature and particularly in film. Since Robert Heinlein's death, I have been looking for anyone who could sustain Heinlein's ability to project the reader into an imagined future and then to build sympathy with the characters. Lethem has the critical ability to establish empathy essentially with his every character, and few do this as easily as he. I have just completed Amnesia Moon, where Lethem tries on empathy with a clock and a potted plant as (metamorphosed) primary characters – and he makes even that work. Therefore, I found Pella (the 13-year-old protagonist of this novel), her family and friends, and the alien race in particular (not to mention the planetary ecosystem), to be so sympathetic that it was somewhat wrenching to put the novel down (the same was true of Amnesia Moon, though in that case, the characters were not intended to be quite so sympathetic). The last time I felt this way about a book was reading Heinlein (and in this case, Heinlein’s earlier rather than later novels). This is perhaps the only book I have ever read about which I still experience literal pain due to the fact that there was so much more of the story to tell, and it is virtually certain that the sequel (or sequels as I imagined them) will go unwritten. It is thus my plea to Mr. Lethem that he consider a sequel to this novel – though I suspect he has far too many projects boiling in his prolific mind to return to this one….