Sunday, May 10, 2020

Better Than Gaiman or Pullman

I've written something strange, deeply personal, highly subjective. I am a scientist studying his own soul, a snake swallowing its own tail.
 - Yule Ian, Scholar

I hated Alix Harrow's Ten Thousand Doors of January for one reason:

It had too many good and quotable lines in it.

If I had bought it in print, the pages would be pock-marked with highlights, uncountable, vast, and smearing, but because I went for digital, I can tell you exactly how many marks I made:
  • forty-three highlighted passages
  • fifteen bookmarks

For a sub-500 page book, that's insane.

I'm also a little salty because of something that's entirely my fault, something I really need to get over quickly because it's just going to keep getting worse as I grow older. Harrow is only a couple of years younger than I am. And that's my fault because I still struggle with completing things, even as I have excelled at starting them.

Take National Poetry Writing Month, for example. I started stronger than I ever have. I got every day in the first week and normally I falter early and have a stuttering start. This year, I made it halfway before I ground to a halt, entirely the fault of my own exhaustion and my refusal to start the day with a poem. I wanted to write something of each day, about each day, and I could not do that until after the day started.

But by the time the day had started, I was too busy and then too exhausted and then sleep was upon me and I was shortly awakening once more.

It's my fault I haven't yet fixed my problem about finishing things that I write. Alix herself mentioned in an interview a large part of the reason TTDoJ is two stories intertwined is that two longish "short stories" were less daunting to write than just the one novel. I can't say I blame her.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is highly reminiscent of Gaiman's Neverwhere, if only Richard were the orphan, and younger, and less skeptical of magic (though the last two points are practically synonymous). The passageway into believing the world Harrow has painted is more accessible than Pullman's Subtle Knife and there is relief found where it is less overburdened with religious overtures.

It is a highly recommended read, but make sure you clear your calendar before you start, because you may not want to put it down. And if it you want a taste before diving into the deep end, I recommend you start with an appetizer of her short "A Witch's Guide To Escape," as I discussed last June (links contained therein).