Book Look: Folsom



I know I've been noticeably absent from this blog for a little while - between my full time job and attempting to have some sort of social life, I've been trying to create a backlog of content to schedule so my posts don't have to be as sporadic as they have been. Unfortunately, this has led me to be unable to post as much as I'd like to and I'm sorry about that.

But I'm back with a look at a relatively new title!

We all know about my ~minor obsession with Tarryn Fisher's books: their (sometimes brutal) honesty and supreme level of sass speaks to me in every level of my soul. Naturally, when I heard she'd teamed up with a friend to take on a dystopia, of course my heart soared at the prospect. I've never read anything by Willow Aster, but I deeply respect Tarryn and her craft, so I knew she wouldn't do me wrong when it came to something like this.

Image result for folsom fisher & asterAnd, you know, after reading pretty much the entire thing (I haven't flipped through the last few pages just yet because then the kindle copy will just go back to my sister), I don't want to say I was wrong...because I don't know that I was? Here's the thing: the more that came out about this book, the more nervous I was because I had the feeling it would be more "bad porn dystopia" than "dystopia utilizing sexual themes to say something smart about the world around us" and...well, I don't know that I was wrong about that either.

Here's the basic premise: war has wiped out the world's supply of men. While they went off to fight our battles, women stayed home and kept everything running, burying their dead and, ultimately, starting a Hunger Games-esque style of government while using the last twelve(?) men available to us as walking, talking, breathing sperm banks called the End Men. They're used in auctions and are "scheduled appointments" with the childbearing elite to keep the population somewhat alive. Lesbian relationships are very common in this world, since that's pretty much what's available to you, and I think I'd have less issue with it if it didn't feel quite so forced.

I think the media is lacking media where gay relationships are just kind of the norm, where they're not displayed as anything more or less than an average life should be, and I think that's what Fisher and Aster were trying to do here - but it didn't quite come across that way to me. It felt like, "well they'd have to do something since falling in love with men aren't an option, so I guess we'll just make them lesbians or bisexual, more out of necessity than anything." I guess I just thought it felt lazy and I really, really didn't want it to.

Here's what I think this novel is trying to do: I think it's trying to be a modern, flipped-on-its-head Handmaid's Tale. I think these women are trying to put men into a situation where women are commonly placed in dystopias of this nature: now they're the breeders, now they're the ones being reduced down to simply being sperm suppliers, as a means to an end. It's not a common portrayal of men in the media and, you know, I'd usually be all over the idea of that. I was all over the idea of it...until I saw it in action.

When I read the novel, I went in knowing this would be a love story between the leading man and an "unconventional" heroine, I could smell it from the opening lines. And sure enough, these two characters who have no more than maybe an hour together initially end up falling all over each other because of course they do. Our hapless, pregnant heroine takes up the white knight role to try and end this systemic oppression because it's "wrong" and she now magically sees that since she was impregnated by an End Man and caught feelings for him.

Huh.

I guess none of this story really felt complicated for me, there were never any real stakes. The government just kind of ended up feeling like a cheap facade, something that could be knocked over by a strong breeze. The governor in charge of the region came across as a paper thin copy of President Snow: nothing about her ever felt cruel or insidious to me, I guess I never really bought her as the villain. The entire setting just came across as a cheap setting for decently written erotica...kind of like the pizza guy porn, you know?

"Oh, mister pizza delivery man, I can't possibly cover the charge of this pizza, but if you come inside I'll give you ~tip."

I liked what I think the novel was trying to do: set up a nontraditional dystopia where women are the villains and the heroines as a way to challenge our ideals, what we read, and how the media portrays the sexes. This, I've wanted this for so long, and I feel like I was given a cheap, vague copy of the idea with flavors of popular dystopian tropes along the way.

I was disappointed, but I wonder if maybe I set the bar too high in my head? The writing itself is pretty good, it's easy to follow and that's a challenge for a co-written novel. It flows. It's nice. But it didn't make me feel anything and, for a Tarryn Fisher product in my world, that's a crime. I feel cheated. I didn't connect with the characters, I didn't really care about what was happening to them and neither of the authors could really make me care, I don't even know why I'm about to finish it. Maybe it's just because I don't like to leave things unfinished.

Image result for five minutes later

And I'm back.

Well.

That sure did...have an ending. While it wasn't quite the ending I was expecting (which I liked), it just fell flat. Here's the thing about me: even with my favorite authors, I'm not going to sugarcoat my opinion. I respect them too much to do so, and I love literature too much to recommend bad books. I wouldn't classify this as the worst thing I've ever read however, I wouldn't recommend it to a lot of people. Really, I don't know that I would recommend it to anybody because it just feels like a time filler. Sure, if you have nothing else to read and you're going to be trapped on a plane for twelve hours, read this book. It'll be slightly better than sleeping, especially if the airline isn't offering any good movies to watch instead.

I was disappointed.

I probably won't read the next one.

If I do, I promise you guys will be the first to know.

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