On picking âMaulâ up from the shop, while waiting for traffic to clear, I took just a peek at the beginning of the story (as a kind of appetizer). The provocative first sentence caught my attention, raised my eyebrows, and I thought to myself, âWell now, self, you'd best close that book until we're home!â The story dared me to look/dared me to look away.
The Sun storyline engaged my attention and empathy more than the Meniscus saga. Certainly as the action progresses we are to suspect a linkage or connection between the two story lines and I enjoyed ferreting out the confluences--my favorite being Sun and her interest in astronomy and the value Meniscus gives to his reward stones as representing planets, moons, and the sun (and in the end Meniscus essentially being the planets, moons, and sun for the whole of existence in the Sun storyline). Meniscus infested with bugs and Maul infested with Bugaboos actually surprised laughter out of me. I was unsure if there was an actual convergence in the end of the story with the death of the wolf within Meniscus' sight and the appearance of the wolf before Sun. I'd like it to be so as it would dovetail so nicely with the chain of events beginning with Bonus' gift of the wolf tooth. I found MUSE and I-MAGE baffling and in the end simply relegated them the role of dues ex machina. As a means of connecting to the two stories, it simply was not clear. The notion of sentience dawning on virus or bugs and communication between the infestation and the host is interesting. As I favored the Sun story line, I was a bit sad to realize that the flavor of her/their conscienceness was (1) a mirage, (2) forced, and (3) a mall setting. Though it sets up some wonderful fashion culture trashing, the idea that a mall would be chosen as a sedating and clarifying VR locale seems suspect. Opening Meniscus' story with a teacher/student interaction as a cover for exposition danced on the edge of being amusing/irritating--not unlike having a character walk to a mirror and describe him/herself. It did seem the folks in the story would at times fall out of character to deliver weighty dialog (inner and outer) in what amounted to the Moral of the Story. In a story already dense with details and invention, this for me was similar to having a sharp sportscoat stop and point out its own threadcount and tailoring. Maul wears it feminist viewpoint with flair. Especially fun were the joyful obliteration of the cosmetics counter and the males competing for breeding status and namebranding. Equating the male castellations to concentration camps reminded me of Walk to the End of the World by Suzy McKee Charnas although here one gender wasn't actually eating the other. Actually, now that I think of it, the whole Meniscus storyline reminded me of '70s feminist sci-fi. And oh how I liked the wink to Gloria Steinem with the bicyclefish story line. I found Sun's lascivious interest in her gun disturbing. I couldn't quite tell if this was meant as a statement on the increasing sexing up of violence in popular culture or a representation of sexual liberty. It was especially confusing as of all the sex in the story, this was the only encounter actually enjoyed by the character. And where, I wondered, were all the happy lesbians in the future ?
Tricia Sullivan clearly has a love of the written word and a twisting turning imagination. In fact, I think T.S. has so many story ideas she must have to keep the extras in her back pockets. The story is dense and perhaps demanded that I read more carefully than I chose to. Despite it's flaws, the novel's sheer exuberant inventiveness won me over and I found Maul an enjoyable and at times rollicking read.