Sunday, April 13, 2014
Smoketown by Tenea D. Johnson Smoketown is an unusual book in several ways. It takes place in the not-too-far-distant future and is neither a dystopia nor a story of life of Earth rudely interrupted by some external force. It's a story of one town, not of the entire world. Also, it takes place in Kentucky - a gleaming metropolis of Kentucky; the region isn't deployed for either laughs at the expense of hillbillies or as some primitive bastion of folk wisdom. The novel features several interlocking stories of people who live in a town where birds are banned, owing to a deadly disease that killed many residents decades earlier. Some people have better lives than others, but it's not a dystopia. Like in the real world, some of their obstacles are of their own making, some are random twists of fate, and others are injustices built into the system. Our three point-of-view characters all have things they want to achieve, seemingly unrelated at first. The world-building here is quite impressive; the city was vivid and real to me as I read. The characters were as well, but lately I've been thinking about setting and world-building - and have been disappointed by a few books. I am sure the press that published Smoketown is a fine independent press, but this is a novel that deserved to be picked up and widely distributed by a major publisher. You should read it. It's not a long book, so if it doesn't move you, well, it's not like you just waded through the extant volumes of Game of Thrones or the entire run of BSG. But I think you should.