Rick Kleffel — who wears many hats, including NPR personality and freelance writer — has posted a long, flattering review of my next novel, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town to his website, The Agony Column.
There are no rules in fiction. You can write about whatever you want. That said, there are many rules with regards to writing. And while you can write about whatever you want in whatever way you so desire, the rules that apply to writing are there for a reason. They make it easier for the writer to communicate with the reader. Now of course rules, where they apply are meant to be broken, and you may do so with impunity, if you know them well enough. Cory Doctorow clearly knows the rules. Cory Doctorow must in fact be a freaking dictionary of the rules, because in ‘Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town’ he breaks them with such breathtaking skill that the enchanted readers of this fine novel will never be the wiser. Doctorow strings together wonderfully witty words into pithy sentences that have no right making as much sense as they do. He brings a powerful but lighthearted magic to a world we very much hope resembles the real world. ‘Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town’ evades every expectation you might reasonably attempt to apply to it with one exception: expect to enjoy this novel immensely.
Best known for cyberpunk and science fiction, in ‘Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town’, Cory Doctorow offers readers something familiar and something fantastic. Alan is a middle-aged man who moves into a new house in a funky, artsy neighborhood in Toronto. Next door, he has a house full of twenty-something art-punks. When Mimi, the Rubens-esque girl he takes fancy to reveals to him that she has wings, he handles the revelation with aplomb. After all, his father is a mountain and his mother is a washing machine. One of his brothers is an island, and another is a living set of three Russian nesting dolls. Two of them have just showed up on his doorstep, afraid that Davey, an unstable brother Alan and his other siblings killed years ago, has returned from the dead to continue terrorizing his family.
Doctorow handles the fantasy here so matter-of-factly, his writing verges on being hard-boiled. Neither he nor his characters dwell on the weirdness that comprises their lives. In fact, for all his fantastic (though not supernatural-seeming) woes, once Alan meets Kurt, the neighborhood technopunk, he joins Kurt in a scheme to set up wireless Internet coverage for most of downtown Toronto. Entrepreneurs, the telephone company, street kids and stranger things still scheme and stalk one another on the not-so-gritty streets of a bohemian college town.