"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Shininess of 'Shine Shine Shine'

Shine Shine ShineShine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: Part of my difficulty getting into this novel was a bias toward the chapters set in space. That is an area of great interest for me; however, I think author Lydia Netzer does a good job of thematically linking the sci-fi subplot to the main earthbound storyline. Robotic colonization of the Moon notwithstanding, this book is ultimately about exploring a woman’s haunted soul.

Shine Shine Shine is something of an interdisciplinary novel, which is what drew me to it (via the moon mission element). At times this multi-faceted approach enriches the story, at other times it causes the plot to lag and wander. Regardless, there are some great lines. From Chapter 5, here is one that masterfully sums up the protagonist’s journey: “Sunny sat like a rip in one of the landscape paintings on the wall, a little hub of disbelief in the center of a perfectly good hallucination.”

Netzer mines her share of prose gems by infusing housewife fretting with galactic conceit. Here is great example from Chapter 19: “But the wig sat on her head, doing its job, keeping the roof up, keeping the stars up, keeping the planets aligned.”

Still there are times when Shine Shine Shine feels stylistically overindulgent. There is something excessively rehearsed about the prose, like a magician waving a coin one too many times in front of your face before making it disappear already. I sometimes grow tired of intentional use of fragments, of ritual choppiness, of trending stream-of-consciousness so you can score big with otherwise pedestrian cadences. It’s almost as if the novel wants to be a prose poem.

Netzer plays incessantly with chronology as well and throws in a major spoiler or two in case you were thinking of losing interest. Would the novel seem as compelling if it ever took a chance on being straightforward? I don’t know. In any case it is a good novel, at times incredibly good.

As the portrait of a troubled woman and the planet-sized forces pulling at her family, Shine Shine Shine is a worthy piece of fiction. The characters are interesting and believable. The plot is an assortment of conventional developments artfully arranged to amplify effect. For me, the book’s greatest attribute is exploring real-life dynamics against the backdrop of a post-Einstein universe. Netzer displays a keen understanding of how physics and math can generate existential crises every bit as tormenting as the age-old question, “Why does God allow suffering?”

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