One the irrepressibly inventive Jonathan Lethem could weld science fiction and the Western into a mesmerizing novel of exploration and otherness, sexual awakening and loss. At the age of 13 Pella Marsh loses her mother and her home on the scorched husk that is planet Earth. Her sorrowing family emigrates to the Planet of the Archbuilders, whose mysterious inhabitants have names like Lonely Dumptruck and Hiding Kneel—and a civilization that and frightens their human visitors.
On this new world, spikily independent Pella becomes as uneasy envoy between two species. And at the same time is unwilling drawn to a violent loner who embodies all the paranoid machismo of the frontier ethic. Combining the tragic grandeur of John Ford's The Searchers and the sexual tension of Lolita and transporting them to a planet light years, Girl in Landscape is a tour de force.
A surrealistic bildungsroman about a teenage girl unfolds among the ruins and frontier violence of a distant planet in Lethem's latest genre-bending exploration of science, landscape and the metaphysics of love and loss. As the novel opens, Pella Marsh, age 13, sets out from her subterranean home in a post-apocalyptic New York City for a final visit to Coney Island with her two younger brothers and her mother, Caitlin--all sealed in bodysuits to keep out the cancerous sun. Pella's father, Clement, has just been swept out of elective office in New York and has set his sights on the next political frontier: joining the first human settlers on the Planet of the Archbuilders. When Caitlin suddenly succumbs to a brain tumor, Clement whisks the grieving children by space ship to the faraway planet. Once the domain of a super-evolved alien species who used "viruses" to alter their ecosystem before abandoning it, the planet is now a hothouse landscape of ruined towers and refuse inhabited only by skittery, mouselike "household deer" and a few remaining Archbuilders--gentle, druidic creatures with furry, tendrilled, exoskeletal bodies and names like "Gelatinous Stand." Clement's mission, to forge a community that embraces the Archbuilders, puts him on a collision course with Ephram Nugent, a xenophobic homesteader who so closely resembles John Ford's John Wayne that one keeps expecting him to call Clement "Pilgrim." Lethem (As She Climbed Across the Table, 1997, etc.) affectingly chronicles Pella's tumultuous journey through puberty and loss and the knockabout society of children thrown together by their homesteading parents. As a result, this lyrical, often far-fetched meditation on the founding myths of the 21st century remains thoroughly rooted in an emotional world much closer to home. Author tour.
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true grit in space
This is a very interesting story and after seeing the author speak on it you get a broader sense even still of the wild wild space that is perhaps in front of us...I appreciate greatly Lethem mixing old and new as well as his visions of timeless tales in the oddest of settings...