the tempering of men, by sarah monette and elizabeth bear

Just finished this and am feeling all schmoopy about it. Even better than its prequel, A Companion to Wolves.

This is one of two collaborations that I think add up to more than the sum of their parts (the other one being Freedom & Necessity, which is pretty much an annual reread.) I inhaled Monette’s books about Felix and Mildmay (indeed I was carrying one of them, with a lurid cover, in the Bernal Heights playground when I was introduced to an English professor who reeled back from it and urged me to: “Read better books.” I should have said: “I’ll get right on that.”) but I find Bear’s kinaesthetic writing – every body always located in space and on a trajectory somewhere – distracting and sometimes difficult to follow. My connectedness to my body improved dramatically in my thirties and forties, thanks to two pregnancies, several 5K runs and some excellent riding instruction, but I still tend towards the brain-in-a-jar end of the embodiment spectrum. I don’t find it very helpful to know how characters are physically positioned with respect to each other and the furniture, and it certainly doesn’t shed any light for me on their interior worlds. Hand me smelling salts and the Henry James!

Here both Monette’s luridness and Bear’s tendency to gesture frenetically rather than show are, well, tempered. See what I did there? These books are excellent on the Love Is Complicated But Let’s Not Be Dicks About It front. They’re less reliable guides to Not Racefailing: it didn’t thrill me that the only named black human character is the enemy. (“But,” defenders will say, “there are also dark-skinned elves!” Yes there are, but elves aten’t real.) At least said enemy was depicted with sympathy and imagination. ANYWAY. With that caveat, this wolf stuff is all the good bits from Pern with far less of the stupid: a fun and sexy read.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.