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Review: The Ice Owl by Carolyn Ives Gilman

reading, books
Gilman's novella is pretty clearly and obviously based on the Holocaust ("Holocide" in the novel), and how people respond to it - both survivors and not.  The problem with The Ice Owl is that it is not only a thin and clear analogy, but also that it doesn't have anything particularly interesting to say really...

The plot is relatively simple and obvious.  Thorn, our principal character, is a young adult who is (objectively) much older than she is subjectively, due to the lifestyle of her mother - planet-hopping successively and repeatedly.  She's also intended to be a much more mature character than her years, but the novella rather fails to show that, instead deciding to make her childish and petulant.  The cognitive dissonance that ensues is rather problematic.  She is trying to demonstrate her independence and, after her school is burned, finds a Vind teacher (the Vind being the very in-your-face analogues to the Jews) who has a past he won't talk about, linked to the Holocide.  We follow Thorn as she tries to discover what this past is - though the final revelation is a) telegraphed strongly throughout the preceding part of the novella; and b) not really consistent with the (rather inconsistent anyway) character of her Vind teacher.

The problem here seems to be that Gilman wants to tell a message-story, a parable, but doesn't really want to leave anything to the imagination or chance in terms of the reader misinterpreting it; thus we're really beaten over the head time and again by the parallels and analogies of The Ice Owl in a depressingly badly written way.  This feels stunningly sophomoric and, indeed, deeply disappointing, at least to this reader.

EDITED to fix ineptitude - confusion over the identity of the author crept in half-way through the review. Now fixed. Thanks, fadethecat, for catching that! :-)

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
fadethecat
Jul. 8th, 2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
The novella's by Gilman, but you refer to it in the review and tags as being by Kowal. Two novellas by the same title, or am I missing something? Pen name?
libris_leonis
Jul. 8th, 2012 06:52 pm (UTC)
Mistake on my part, actually - excuse me whilst I headwall hard at my ineptitude ;-)
fadethecat
Jul. 8th, 2012 06:59 pm (UTC)
Aw. Mistakes happen! (And it really didn't sound like Kowal's writing style at all.)

I have been really enjoying the latest batch of reviews, though I generally only comment on the ones for books I've read myself.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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