lunes, 10 de septiembre de 2012

Spin the Sky by Katy Stauber (review and giveaway)

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)  

Review Soundtrack: I suggest that you read this review while listening to Calypso by Suzanne Vega (Spotify link, Youtube link)

If I were to tell you that Spin the Sky, Katy Stauber's second novel, is a science-fictional retelling of The Odyssey with some romantic elements and the occasional lecture on the physics of cattle herds on space orbitals, you might think that such a combination is not very interesting and cannot possibly work. But you'd be deadly wrong.

Spin the Sky is a very intelligent novel written by an (obviously) very intelligent person. The characters are likable and fully fleshed. The dialog is natural and, at the same time, sharp and witty. And the prose is delicious, with a wonderful and clever sense of humor.

Fifteen years after the Spacer War, Cesar Vaquero returns to the Ithaca orbital, where his wife Penelope and son Trevor live in a prosperous ranch.  The passages of his coming back home, told in third-person present tense, alternate with flashbacks (in third-person, past tense) and with the stories about his father that Trevor collects from Cesar's friends (in first-person, present tense). This convoluted structure works surprisingly well, giving the readers the information they need to understand the motivations of the characters in the precise moment that they need it. The overall feeling of the novel is that of a (Greek) mosaic in which every fragment fits right into its place.

Evidently, there are many references to The Odyssey on this novel. We have Ithaca, Penelope, a Jonas Ulixes, sirens, cyclops... However, the author always include some twist, so that characters and situations resemble, but are clearly different to, those in the original poem, making Stauber's novel unique and surprising. 

But The Odyssey is far from being the only influence of Spin the Sky. Not only the frequent use of Spanish idioms and the omnipresent Mexican food, but also the sexual tension and the global tone of the novel reminds me of Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) by Laura Esquivel, a personal favorite of mine. Consider, for example, this lovely paragraph:
This area is one of the prettiest parts of the ranch. Cesar's father planted peach trees here and created a private little grove. Cesar's mother loved peaches. This morning, the peach trees are blooming, throwing their sweet scent in the air like confetti.
I'd also dare to say that Spin the Sky has a touch of Stanislaw Lem's The Cyberiad to it. The stories about Cesar Vaquero's feats are nearly unbelievable, closer to fable than to truth, as even Penelope seem to think:
While she assumed most of those stories are just fairy tales or the dreams of oxygen-deprived tinkers, that doesn't mean really bizarre, improbable things can't happen to people or that the stories don't have a grain of truth to them.
Using these seemingly disparate threads, Stauber manages to weave (sorry, I couldn't help including the bad pun, though in fact Penelope does not weave in Spin the Sky) a tight plot, with some space battles and giant weapons thrown in for good measure. The result is, in this case, perfectly seamless.

I'm willing to concede that this novel may not be everybody's cup of tea and if you're looking for a conventional space adventure then you will surely be disappointed, but I had a wonderful time reading it: it made me think, it made me smile, it made me stop reading and admire how deceptively simple its prose is. If you aren't afraid of trying something different, give Spin the Sky a try. You'll be surprised.


I liked Spin the Sky so much that I'll be running a giveaway for a lucky reader to have the chance of enjoying Stauber's awesome work. The rules of the giveaway are as follows:
  • The giveaway is open internationally and to anyone
  • To enter the giveaway, you must comment on this post (or on its Spanish version)
  • The giveaway will close on September 24, 11:59PM CEST. For reasons that will be apparent later this week, the giveaway will be open until October 8, 11:59PM CEST.
  • After the giveaway is closed I will use or a similar service to choose one winner
  • To contact the winner I will need a valid email address or twitter username so be sure to include your contact information in your comments.
  • If after 7 days of contacting the winner she/he has not claimed the prize I will proceed to choose a different winner.
The prize of the giveaway is your choice of:
  • A $15 gift card (so you can buy Spin the Sky and Revolution World in ebook format)
  • A paperback copy of Spin the Sky (provided The Book Depository delivers to your country of residence)
  • A paperback copy of Revolution World (provided The Book Depository delivers to your country of residence
(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en castellano) 

8 comentarios:

  1. Already bought the baen ebook of Spin the Sky! :)

  2. Hope you like it when you read it!

    Do you want to enter the giveaway anyway? Don't tell anybody, but you could use than gift card to buy ebooks other than Spin the Sky...

  3. Very cool. Been eyeing this...

  4. It was a wonderful suprise, in fact :)

  5. Ooh, yes please :) I didn't take a review copy of Spin the Sky because I've got too much already, but it sounds like it would make a good leisure read. Thanks for the giveaway!

  6. Thank you for commenting! And good luck with the giveaway :)

  7. Nice review - found you via SF signal, and didn't know about baenebooks either so thx for that. Enter me into the giveaway please, and keep up with the bi-lingual blogging!

  8. Christian: Thanks! Baenebooks is a great place to get ebooks, especially those published by Night Shade.

    Thanks for commenting and good luck for the giveaway!