Jeannette Ng, “Under The Pendulum Sun” (2017) – A friend of mine who read this book and didn’t like it described it as “claustrophobic.” Amusingly enough, so did one of the quotes from a positive review put on the back of my copy of the book! Well, I agree with both of them. This dark fantasy novel, about a Victorian lady who goes to the realm of the Fae to find her brother, a missionary who went to spread the word of the Lord to the fair folk, does indeed summon the feeling of the walls closing in. The lady, Catherine, has to stay in a creepy old house. Stuff shifts around. No one talks normal. Eventually her brother comes back but he’s cold and probably traumatized. Also, a weird fairy queen takes up residence in the house. It’s ominous!
It’s an interesting concept but also a little bit of a strange call to have this whole fantastic world of fae and restrain most of the action to one creepy house? Moreover, the world of the fae, what they can and cannot do, is so arbitrary it’s often hard to get a grip on the stakes of the narrative. I get that it’s hard to make irrationality, like what the fae represent, consistent while maintaining its essence, but if you can’t figure it out, you should go back to the drawing board rather than writing a novel about the fae. Ng, one of the big liberal social media firebrands of current SFF, also partakes of the idea that the Victorians were so stupidly fanatical they’d try to convert, in this instance, — nonhuman people. — Fanatical, sure, stupid, no- when Victorians threw their lives away, they usually had a reason, and they could be pretty canny about their use of the God stuff, even when they wholeheartedly believed in it. There’s a predictable twist and some weird sex stuff and ultimately it just wasn’t that interesting. I can’t actually remember why I put this book on my list, I’m not normally into goth-y stuff, but I’ll try not to judge the aesthetic as a whole by this lacking representative. **’