Daily Archives: January 25th, 2015

A Face like Glass

There is an exquisite agony in expectation.

A few years ago I read Gwyneth Jones’ Bold as Love sequence. I owned all of the books but I read them over almost a year… because it was kind of almost fun to wait, even though I had no need; and because I didn’t want the ride to be over.

Last year I did the same with Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series (which still isn’t finished because I haven’t got around to finding the last two), and Sarah Monette’s Mirador.

UnknownI had Frances Hardinge’s A Face Like Glass sitting on my desk for a full week, waiting to be read. It’s not exactly a year, but the principle is the same: knowing that I had it there waiting to read was incredibly exciting; knowing that as soon as I started reading it would soon be over was excruciating. Because oh my Hardinge is a glorious, glorious author.

And now I’ve read it and it was as I expected – which is to say even better than I expected – but now I am FINISHED and I am BEREFT.

A curmudgeonly cheesemonger is so antisocial he just lives in the tunnels with his cheeses (no ordinary cheese, it should be said, but cheese that can make you see visions and hear songs and maybe spit acid at you. TRUE Cheese). One day he finds a girl in a vat of whey… and her face: well, he makes her wear a mask.

Now, you might be thinking this guy is a bit odd. And he is. But the society he’s turned his back on is that of Caverna; they all live underground. And the other thing that’s different about them is that as babies, they don’t learn facial expressions. At all. Babies, toddlers, even adults if you’ve got the money, have to learn Faces: initially from family, and then from Facesmiths. Yes, this is as weird as it sounds… and it ends up being a really interesting reflection on class issues. Once you’re an adult, it costs a lot to learn new and interesting Faces; so of course, the poor don’t. And can’t. Does that mean they don’t have the emotions that require such a range of emotions?

Indeed, what does it mean to feel an emotion if you can’t express emotion via your features? Hardinge doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, but she makes a compelling, swoon-worthy novel from the issue.

It’s not all cheese and frowns, though. There’s also intrigue, friendship, losing your way, kleptomancy (my new favouritest way of telling the future), True Wine and Cartographers whose words can make you go crazy. There’s recognising your own emotions as well as others’, figuring out who to trust and how to trust yourself, and the willingness to Go With The Crazy.

And then there’s the glory that is Hardinge’s prose. Her words don’t just flow; sometimes they trickle and sometimes they gush but they always worm into your brain and create stunning pictures and magnificent juxtapositions. I’m pretty sure I could read Hardinge’s shopping list and it would be a work of lyrical beauty.

Get it from Fishpond. If you have never read a single Hardinge, read this one… and then read the rest….