Friday, July 05, 2013

The Dark Unwinding, by Sharon Cameron: a Review

The Dark UnwindingThe Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, ultimately, confused me. Not the plot, it was all set up well and easy enough to follow, with just enough foreshadowing to make the story gel, but not overly insult the reader by leading them by the hand. Well, maybe there was a little bit of hand holding, and really, only one of the twists was remotely surprising, but that's okay. Really, I like a book that doesn't side swipe me, because I feel that's usually the result of lazy writing.
However, I do have a word-choice bone to pick with Cameron. It makes my skin crawl to hear phrases like "tea things" thrown about when there are perfectly good descriptive and common terms. Maybe I'm wrong and tea service was called "tea things" during the 1870s, and I just don't know about it. I admit, this may be the first book I've read that was set in such a time period, to the best of my knowing. However, I doubt it.
I know it's a silly thing for me to complain about, but when reading a period piece, word choice can make or break a book in terms of suspension of disbelief, and for me, that one broke it every time.
Would I read a sequel? Yes. Would I recommend it to my teenage daughter? Probably. Would I herald it as a steampunk triumph? No.Why not? It has all of the elements, mechanized wonders as a plot point, utopian experiments, manners; it really should be. However, those elements truly played a setting role, and were specific only to the immediate locale, while the rest of the world went on completely as history recalls it. That isn't a bad thing, I just don't recommend it if you are looking for a deeply alternate timeline.
I don't believe it was intended as a steampunk novel, to be clear, but any book with a lot of gears on the cover will likely be expected to be so.

I feel like I should be reviewing this book based on feminist and mental health grounds, but alas, I haven't had enough time to fully dissect it all. I do, however, think that a certain amount of sizeism in the first chapter was unnecessary and unfavorably colored my view of the book, all the while recognizing that in a period piece, it is difficult to assign the same gravity to such things as in a modern piece. Was a character repeatedly mocked on account of weight? Yes. Was weight used as a metaphor for stupidity? Yes. Is that ever okay? No. Is it plausible that it may have been the prevailing notion at the time? Yes. Nevertheless, there are other ways to paint a character as impulsive and unintelligent other than calling them fat.

In terms of women's roles, well, the swooning is a little thick.

0 reflections: