44 Down 8 Left (52 Books, 52 Weeks)

I last read Scott Westerfeld in March, and pretty much had my mind blown with a near-perfect piece of young adult writing. While Fine Prey didn’t fare as well, its weird combination of xenolinguistics and bio-engineered equestrianary did make for an intriguing read.

The world is post-Contact with the Ayan, now our benign serpentine masters, freely sharing their technology and contributing substantial economic growth to the world. Our best and brightest are enrolled in the Aya School, learning their tongue and remapping their minds, to eventually become Ayan themselves. For Ayans are not a genetic race, but a collective by language, much like the Arab states as Westerfeld points out.

Spider is one such student, maybe the best, and destined for great things. She also rides the Fine Hunt, a future amalgam of equestrian exhibition and fox-hunt, but a chance encounter leads her to find out that the Aya and the Hunt are about much more than her darkest, deepest imaginings.

For a book about extraterrestrials, the Ayan are never really physically described by Westerfeld, except as a shadowy presence seemingly manipulating the world by droid proxy. That’s because what makes the Ayan are their language, and language here is first a means of mapping the mind, then a means of communication. Among the Third World politics and high-society maneuverings of the novel lies a central thread of linguistics and philosophy being – not to put too fine a point on it – the answer to life and everything. A little abstract at times, but Fine Prey is absolutely worth the effort reading.

Fine Prey
(ISBN No: 0451456971) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be Douglas Coupland’s Shampoo Planet.


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