I wanted to read Ultravioleta by Laura Moriarty because the review I read of it in Rain Taxi some months ago made it sound really good and really different. I like to branch out from time to time and try different. I didn’t know just how different the book was until I bought a copy and started reading it. At first I thought it was rather Gertrude-Stein like but now that I have finished it I change that assessment.
Moriarty is generally a poet. Ultravioleta is science fiction that reads like very abstract poetry. The book was commissioned by Atelos as number 24 in a project of 50 books that each in some way cross traditional genre boundaries and not just poetry and prose. They also include theory and practice, essay, drama, visual, verbal, literary, non-literary, etc. I guess this is what you might call experimental fiction. Maybe I just don’t read this kind of book often enough to “get it,” because I didn’t get it. I felt lost most of the time, grasping for sentences that made sense to me and trying to find a story in something that didn’t seem to have a story.
The premise of the book, thought travel, in which people can gather at a library orbiting the moon Europa, is pretty cool. No one is fixed anywhere in time or space, everyone is always thinking themselves someplace else and somewhen else. At one point two characters even think themselves into the center of Europa and discover a vast sentient lake. Where the actual bodies of any of these people are, but not all are people, some are clones, others are aliens, and at least one is a robot, where their physical bodies are, I had no idea. I think it wasn’t supposed to matter. But I kept wondering how the bodies ate and did the normal business of bodies while the thinking person was elsewhere. I think the book is supposed to be about narrative and creating through narrative, but didn’t come up with that until after I had finished reading and was trying to figure out what I had just read.
The language itself is often beautiful and sometimes a phrase or sentence would fairly hum. But overall, I just don’t understand how to read a book like this. I can’t even say if I liked it or not. I found this review of the book and while I read it I thought, wow, that sounds like a really good book, one I’d like to read. But the book I read didn’t match up to the book in the review. Normally if reviews and my experience don’t match up and the book is by someone like Margaret Atwood I’d just think Maggie was off her game a bit (or more often the reviewer was nutso), and get on with things. But in this case I am left feeling deficient in my abilities to understand as well as not likely to try another book like this one any time soon.
So there you go. Take all that as you will. If you have read this book or read this book and find it brilliant, please talk to me about it and tell me how you managed to understand it. I really would like to know.