4. Mythmaking/Storytelling/Worldbuilding


A lot was said in the novel about the power of words and of stories. In a lot of ways, this is how I approach spirituality myself, without the sense that it is literally true as it is in this novel of magical realism.

This story has a lot to say about telling stories about women with agency, about indigenous people with agency. And it seems to say that telling this story makes it more true and more real in the world of those of us who read it.

I've got to compare this approach to that of our slow read (even though I'm way behind on my reading for that). I find a lot when I scratch beneath the surface of Jemisin's The Broken Earth, but it is hard work. I didn't find a lot beneath the surface of this book, but Moreno-Garcia tied most everything together explicitly. I found the story satisfying, the world that was built, and ultimately the story that was told.

What is your sense of this? Did you like the story? The myths that were pulled together to make this world?


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    This was the anti-Broken Earth! Everything is BUILT. CONSTRUCTED. Laid on FOUNDATIONS! No salmoning. Loved it!

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    I liked it more at the end than the beginning. I think I found the initial set-up a little too facile, though it did work to get the story moving quickly. And (as with Jemisin) the moralistic elements are kind of obvious simplistic, aren't they? However, this was redeemed somewhat toward the end with the revelations of Martin.

    As for the world, I liked it very much. She did a great job of bringing the setting of Mexico alive. The touch was rather light, but that's thoroughly appropriate for this novel. I also really liked the description of the journey into Xibalba.

    Perhaps weaker for me were the secondary characters, but I can't really think of anything to single out as an example. A lot of people (including GoodReads) like to classify this as a YA novel, and I think that's because of the simplistic characters and motivations. In fact, I was convinced that's what it was until about midway through when we get the word Mother****er, which really jarred me.

    Also, the armchair historian in me really liked that fact that she didn't treat Mythical Mexico as a monolith, but recognized that there were different cultures with different gods and beliefs.

    So yeah - lots of cleverness in the setting which was much appreciated.

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    I liked it a lot, and as has been said it was a welcome relief from The Broken Earth. Yes, it was simplistic, in vocabulary and formal rhetoric as well as setting and such like. I'm not sure I would re-read it very often, but this is not because I didn't like nit or couldn't be bothered - it's because I'm not sure I'd find many other layers of depth below the ones I found this time, and that we are exploring now through discussion.

    I get why it would be considered YA - a bit of light romance with no sex, and with all the violence quite stereotyped and (for all its actual brutality) very veiled. The only oddity was the expletive. But I kind of think that these elements were light, because the author wanted to foreground a particular, complex, set of mythological tales and archetypes, which she did very well. Talking of archetypes, I think she did a good job of presenting the gods as such - much of the time there was something very abstract about them, and there was the constant trend to revert to type after a burst of expressing individuality.

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    Have any of you read the Popul Vuh? I did, and the archetypes are like this - abstract and deterministic. The Hero Twins and their parents are gods, not humans. Humans have not yet been created - out of maize, BTW! - and I believe this change is intentional on the author's part, as it fits her plot so well.

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    @clash_bowley said:
    Have any of you read the Popul Vuh?

    I have not, to my detriment, I’m sure. It’s right up my alley, too, and I think I’ll have to rectify this lack.

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    The Times selected Michael Bazzett's new translations as one of the top ten books of poetry for 2017 or 2018, whenever it was released. I was interested in picking it up for myself. The translation I read was more interested in accuracy than poetry.

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    I get the impression that the book was intended for non-Mexicans. The portrayals of Mexico and Mexicans (of whatever ethnicity, and ethnicity and nationalism seem as complex in Mexico as everywhere) were simple, and the little fragments of history seemed rather pat and perhaps obvious to Mexicans. (I discussed a couple of bits with a Mexican friend as I was reading; she thought it was accurate.)

    Yes, it's an insight into Mexico as a complex place. But it's only an introduction. For instance, I was surprised when the action moved out of Yucatan and turned into a tour of seterotypical Mexican locations. I'd have liked to have seen more of the richness of Yucatan.

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    I liked it a lot. It was a good story that gripped me, Mexico gave it an interesting flavour even it didn't go into things deeply (it paired nicely to the Mexican Revolution podcast I'm currently listening to). And I'm completely ignorant of Mayan religion, so that aspect, and the reference to the myths, really drew me in.

    It was good for this outsider. Maybe not deep, but I'm really glad I read it.

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    Personally, I loved it. It was well constructed, historically well grounded, had interesting characters in interesting situations. The writing was not Jack Vance, but it was solid. I thought it excellent!

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