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Tanith Lee
Firebird, 197 pages

Tanith Lee
Tanith Lee was born in 1947 in London, England. To date she has published almost eighty novels, thirteen short story collections, and well over 250 short stories. Four of her radio plays were broadcast by the BBC, and she wrote two episodes of the BBC TV cult SF series Blake's Seven. She has twice won the World Fantasy Award for short fiction, and was awarded the August Derleth Award in 1980 for her novel Death's Master. Tanith Lee lives with her husband, the writer and artist John Kaiine, on the southeast coast of England.

Tanith Lee Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Black Unicorn
SF Site Review: The Silver Metal Lover

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Kit O'Connell

What is it that bothers me so much about Tanith Lee's new young adult novel Indigara? Is it Jet, the novel's almost totally passive protagonist, whose one self-motivated act in the entire book is to run away from home? Maybe it is Otis, her robotic dog -- a character who could have been fascinating but instead exists solely to move the plot along by deducing things periodically (thus keeping Jet from ever figuring something out for herself)? Perhaps it is Jet's family and the showbiz caricatures that populate this novel, almost none ever rising to three-dimensionality?

After Jet escapes her boring parents and bitchy older sisters, she ends up in the titular otherworld, a cheesy Hollywood-inspired fantasy landscape made up of several failed pilot movies. Some of the novel's best moments come here, where our heroine interacts with some distinctly colorful characters. There is a deliberately campy romance 'scripted' between two characters which has some definite amusement value.

While transported, she is replaced in the real world by a doppelganger made up of all her most negative traits. As Jet tries to return home, her double engages in all kinds of 'comical' mischief such as wrecking a movie set and knocking a movie star's teeth out (though mirror-Otis is technically to blame here). Sadly, the ending of the book, in which the evil twin returns to Indigara to become its ruler, is actually the most intriguing thing that happens; I suspect I'd have been much more entertained if that had been the kernel around which the rest of the plot was built.

Unfortunately, this is a book with serious faults that keep it from feeling like it ever gets off the ground. Most of the time when I read a book, there's a point somewhere in the middle where I glance to the end to see how many pages are left. If it's a good book then I am gauging how much pleasure I have left before I finish. If it's a bad book I'm thinking the opposite -- how many pages are left before I can move on to something better? Indigara was definitely a case of the latter, and that moment came a mere 80 pages into the book's 200.

Probably the most eye-rolling moment in the book occurs when a supporting character reveals that despite colonizing at least three different worlds, a future human still calculates his astrological sign "as if you'd been born on Earth." This weird Earth worship pervades the book without a hint of explanation: eggs are now eaten "Earth side up" and characters insist on referring to the time of day as "earthclocktime," never once abbreviating this mouthful into something shorter. Making changes to the way people talk and act is par for the course when writing about the future, and an author is under no obligation to explain those changes to the reader. However, I think a writer does have an obligation to convince the reader that they know why a change has occurred, even if they never tell us. Here, the author consistently fails to convince.

I've enjoyed Tanith Lee's writing before; her novella "The Isle Is Full of Noises" from the otherwise forgettable anthology Vampire Sextette stands outs in my mind as an unusual and unique vampire story. I know Lee is capable of much better but this book feels like a first draft that was never revised; it doesn't belong on anyone's to-read list, regardless of age.

Copyright © 2008 Kit O'Connell

Kit O'Connell
Kit O'Connell is a writer and bookseller and Voluptuary living in College Station, Texas. His poetry will appear in Aberrant Dreams in 2008. He can be found online at approximately 8,000 words, his homepage, and Words Words Words, the Dream Café weblog.

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