Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Readings — Icarus Descending

Icarus Descending
by Elizabeth Hand

This book is the third in a trilogy, following Winterlong and Aestival Tide. This fact was not mentioned at all in the back cover copy of the edition I bought. As it happened, I’d read Winterlong, but not Aestival Tide; so it’s maybe not surprising as I read it that it seemed to me that I was missing something.

That said, the book struck me as a fair example of Hand’s work, with characteristic virtues and defects. The prose is very strong, and the character work is effective, though the science-fictional aspects of the tale tends to put them so far beyond the real that they become somewhat difficult to identify with. The plot is not terribly well-machined, but moves with a relentless momentum nevertheless. There’s a bleakness and a decadence, lush imagery and a web of references.

It’s a strong book, but does seem to me to depend upon its predecessors. There’s a lot of plot, and the book takes a bit of a while to get its legs under it and the backstory is presented. Not having read the second book — and, frankly, with a fair amount of time having passed since I read the first one — it’s difficult for me to judge how this book caps off the story. I think it’s very strong, but does have the feel of ending a larger tale than is actually bound between its own two covers.

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