Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Maggot Moon
Sally Gardner

I used to say I was a closet case trekkie, but this is my second post about a story with a scifi bent in less than a year. I think I've trekked out of the a Dr. Who sort of way. But that's another story.

Maggot Moon, truth be told, is less science fiction than alternate reality (along the lines of Vaterland). Basic premise - England (or something very near it) has been taken over by an fascist authoritarian regime that wants to put a man on the moon to prove its prowess to the rest of the world. Snag - the moon is too radioactive. Any possible human visitors would fry in orbit. It's a minor technicality for the Motherland. One easily solved with good old-fashioned smoke, mirrors, and Egyptian brutality. However, they don't count on Standish Treadwell (oh, the symbolism in that name!) to stand in their way.

I enjoyed Gardner's mash of alternate reality, conspiracy theories that the United States' moon landing was a hoax, and flawed, painfully human main character. She does an excellent job of building foreboding, of making sure the reader knows this cannot end well without, however, knowing how the story will end. Writing genius.

The chapters were also amazingly short, reminiscent of Kevin Henke's Olive's Ocean. The effect was, for me, choppy. However, both author and main character are dyslexic, and that much white space can be a godsend to a struggling reader. So, my discomfort may actually be a struggling reader's greatest comfort.

The additional illustrations throughout the book of the rat and fly give visual reinforcement to the decadence inherent in the world in which Standish is caught.

The issue that's kept me mulling is Standish's character and his development. I like Standish. He's real. He has real problems. He doesn't seem to have any real personality flaws, however. Yes, Standish has all of these problems - parents have disappeared, dyslexia, different eye colors, outcast of society, grandfather who's been reeducated, evil, brutish teachers - but they aren't personality flaws per se. He struggles with them because the world around him sees them as issues that make him less of a person.  He is basically the good guy fascist systems destroy, not the conflicted protagonist whose personality shortcomings lead to destruction and, out of that, growth, such as Sara Louise in Paterson's Jacob I Have Loved. 

Ah, characters. They come in all shapes and sizes!

For a cornucopia of fall delights, check out Barrie Summy's website.  


Sarah Laurence said...

Fine review! I hadn't realized the author had dyslexia as well, but it makes sense since the character was so believable and the format seemed geared for readers with dyslexia. I reviewed this novel last year and loved it too:

Ellen Booraem said...

Okay, I have to get off the dime and read this book. I've been circling it for months. It sounds like it's right up my alley. Thanks, Stacy!

Barrie said...

I'd be interested in reading a dyslexic protagonist. I'm especially interested in seeing how the author handled foreboding. Thank you, Stacy!

Linda McLaughlin said...

Another thought-provoking read. Adding it to the wish list.