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27 February 2009 @ 01:56 pm
The Textile Planet by Sue Lange  
Publisher: Book View Cafe, 2009
Genre: Science Fiction
Sub-genre: Satire
Rating: 3 1/2 pints of blood

Instead of going the usual route and going on about the cover art, well, I'm gonna skip that this time around. Originally a serial multi-media extravaganza on bookviewcafe, The Textile Planet doesn't really have a traditional book cover, so it skips out on the traditional cover snark. I know, you're all saddened to skip over that part, but that's just how the cookie crumbles.

Marla Gershe is the show director of a high profile daily fashion show on the Textile planet. Under increasing pressure from her idiotic bosses, she's constantly stressed out until finally, she reaches the breaking point. Leading a revolt among the workers, she creates chaos in the mill which is only stopped when the police show up to try to control the situation and Marla is accidentally shot.

She wakes up in the hospital with no memory of who she is or how she got there. She's given some rather traumatizing therapy in an effort to force her to remember, and the more she discovers about the events that placed her there, the more it looks like she's been the victim of a sinister plot where humans are nothing more than test subjects. Wanting nothing to do with the plot, the mill, or her therapist, Marla decides her only choice is to run, but the company wants her back at any price, unfinished project that she is. With no time and no resources, she'll have to leave the planet if she wants to find somewhere safe, but the company is determined to find her and drag her back. The lonely end of the galaxy should seem like a safe enough place, but it's perhaps not as lonely as first appearances would suggest.

I've made this sound like a suspenseful, plot-driven book, although it's really not. It has its moments, but the narration keeps very tight to Marla's perspective, so while she's sitting for weeks on a spaceship on her way to another planet, there's clearly not going to be a lot of action going on. Marla herself is the focus, and after everything she's been through, she is deeply screwed up. The bulk of the book follows her not only on her journey to escape the life she's left behind but her journey to find herself. Marla is a lost and lonely puppy right up until the end, where a peculiar trigger sets her in motion. The sequence of events that follows has a really lovely buildup, creates plenty of tension and excitement, and then just sort of... fizzles at the end in an anticlimactic puff rather than the bang I'd been expecting.

The book has a surreal feel to it, due in part to its not entirely reliable narrator. Marla takes a spectator's position through most of the book, drifting through planets and scenarios with an emotionless disconnect, her perception not always echoing the logic of those around her. Her one goal is to hide herself so she never has to return to the Textile planet and its mill, and for the most part she's unwilling (or unable) to form friendships and goals beyond that. Before everyone assumes this is a criticism on my part, I should mention this is in keeping with her deeply screwed up status, and the book itself is not entirely without emotion. There are plenty of lively characters among the secondary crew, people Marla meets along her journey, and a very few manage to slip far enough past her defenses to trigger at least guilt from her.

Written as a satire and by turns funny and oddly depressing, it's easy to recognize our own culture in Lange's world. This is the sort of future most of us will find easy to believe in, and might even recognize ourselves in a few places.

The first eight chapters of The Textile Planet are available to be read for free at bookviewcafe.com in a fun multi-media format, with sound effects, videos, and easter eggs giving bonus background information. The full story is being released in pdf form on March 8.