Friday, November 30, 2007

Going Deep: I Feel Like the Morning Star by Gregory Maguire (Harper & Row, 1997)

Shame we lost this chap to fabulous fantasies.

A "colony" lives underground to hide out from a nuclear war, but as the story emerges it becomes clear that they are reluctant "colonists" and that their projected two year stay has been extended due to a cave in. The tunnels that should have allowed them out, are full of rubble.

The story is centred around three teens, dreamy Sorb, feisty and rebellious Mart and the musician Ella. But it is not about them, but about the way the colony has -- through its very coping mechanisms --drifted into apathy and brutality (physical and psychological). Not for Maguire the standard "the old people want to keep us down" narratives of most of this kind of story. Maguire sets out to explore the ease with which even the angriest and most rebellious are sucked into the system. When the escape does come it is supported by adults, and even by the scared into terror. This is a novel in which everyone really is acting for the best, and the evil comes from the way people convince themselves that resignation to imprisonment and death are the best possible options.

One aspect of the book that renders it particularly effective is that the colonists' past is not our present: the past of the story begins perhaps a hundred years after us, yet issues of history, of race and class tensions are allowed to permeate the book. Maguire takes on arguments about personal, local and civic memory.

As an aside: he handles sex, and teen romance elegantly. It happens, but is affected by the pressures around them, it doesn't masquerade as any sort of solution. There is also no assumption of heterosexuality. Or of whiteness.

Very, very impressed.