This is a murder mystery set in an alternate future in which the Indian Territories have reverted to Indian control via an environmental act of Congress—Congress wanted to preserve the flora and the fauna of the Territories, but they realized without Indians there, it was going to be pretty damn hard. And hey, Indians were still classified as fauna...
It's also extremely snarky, dives into other narratives written by the characters in the book, and, unlike most sfnal works, leaves most of the worldbuilding in the glossary instead of the text. I was lured into reading the book when sanguinity posted snippets from the glossary, which are fascinating.
I keep debating about writing this up or not. Against: I read this when I didn't really have enough brain to appreciate it and I still feel like 80% of it flew right over my head. Against: I currently don't feel like I have enough brain to write about it, particularly since I had to return the book to the library a month or so ago. For: More people should read this and talk about it in smart ways so I can eavesdrop!
Jones uses the set up to talk about the fishbowl effect of having paparazzi/anthropologists surround the border of the Territories, wanting to get their hands and microphones on a Real Live Indian, only of course, there are no Real Live Indians real enough for them. I especially love all the bits about identity and authenticity, how it's complicated and tangled enough inside a group, and even more so when you add on the spectators. I suspect a huge percentage of this went over my head, which I'm fine with, since it's not really a book that should be talking to me or for me.
It feels more like literary fiction than SF to me, largely because of the present-tense voice in the present-day chapters and the way Jones skips from omniscient POV to first-person to a variety of other things in the manifesto snippets. I was going to say it also felt a lot like literary fiction because I feel the worldbuilding isn't as tied into the plot as I'd usually expect with something SF/fantasy. I mean, it is, because obviously the plot would not exist without it, but it also isn't in that the big plot revelations aren't really about the worldbuilding, like they would be in most SF/fantasy that isn't cross genre—I get the same impression from paranormal romances FWIW.
In conclusion: really interesting, and I feel I need to read it about eighteen more times just to figure out the plot.
- sanguinity's review
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