Origamy by Rachel Armstong (book review)

April 2, 2018 | By | Reply More

The art of origamy (sic) weaves space and time, alternative universes and parallel histories in a mind-bending and befuddling fashion that allows the origamy circus-troop family of Mobius to see and experience any point in space and time. From the beginning, where Mobius has lost much of her memory of her own personal history and of her family’s art, the setting and purpose of this pursuit is unclear. Mobius seems to live with a family and in a culture that has escaped from ‘Alice In Wonderland’ and been re-imagined by Hannu Rajaniemi, though it’s actually more fantastically bizarre than you could imagine even with that comparison.

Mobius sets about re-learning her lost vocation with the help of her bohemian mother and inscrutable father, while attempting to track a mysterious child who seems to be spreading a malignant infection across the cosmos. The book, ‘Origany’, by Rachel Armstrong is presented in numerous small chapters, some as small as a paragraph, which take Mobius on this strange journey, leaping from one location and time to the next, observing or interacting with whatever she finds, popping back home to practice her skills and diverting into soliloquies on various aspects of the universe. When I say she pops back home, don’t imagine this is anything at all recognisable as home. This, in fact, is the aspect that I found most disconcerting. While I’m quite happy skipping about to random instances of the universe, it would be nice to have somewhere solid to ground the tale. Be prepared to spend much of the book being unsure what is happening or why.

Rachel Armstrong’s prose is also wonderfully unconventional, mixing high-concept scientific and SFnal ideas with acrobatics, knitting and other tangentially related arts. The origamers’ art is unlike any regular mode of transfre through space or time that you might expect to come across. Their sphere of influence appears to encompass all of space and time, with numerous references to neighbouring galaxies and constellations, while simultaneously including everyday objects and locations that sometimes seem to clash conceptually with the tone of the novel. Rachel Armstrong is evidently not afraid to eschew convention in her pursuit of a truly original novel and produces something startling and memorable.

This is not the kind of book that I found I could whizz through dozens of pages at a time. The structure of short chapters proved to be entirely necessary to keep my brain straight as I read through, allowing a spot of contemplation between each in order to figure out where the plot was going and what was the significance of what I had just read. For the most part, I failed to get a grip on where the plot was heading and eventually decided to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

‘Origamy’ has got a huge amount packed into a relatively short volume and I’m sure will cause a stir among astonished readers. I’m still dumbfounded now.

Gareth D Jones

March 2018

(pub: NewCon Press. 249 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-910935-78-1)

check out website: www.newconpress.com

Category: Books, Scifi

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