[This is just me trying to make sense of what I read. If you want to know what this book is about you probably won’t get much out of my review. Sorry.]
This is going to be a tough one. I love Scarlett Thomas’ style. The way she can make a narrative run along so smoothly you don’t even notice all the information she’s feeding you; the way she can make pages and pages of conversation so authentic and interesting. She regularly creates characters and scenes that simply speak to me and she always includes some kind of myth or mystical background story in her plot – making something interesting and weird out of something trivial or mundane.
These are the reasons I loved PopCo, The End of Mr Y, and Our Tragic Universe. If you read these last three of her novels you will notice, however, how the magical, the mystical, the philosophical seems to become more and more important. And in some way The Seed Collectors takes this one step further. Our Tragic Universe was about the storyless story, TSC does no longer tell a story in the usual way. I will need to wait and see what the finished printed version of this looks like, but the ARC did not have any chapter titles and no indication as to which point of view was going to come next. It sometimes feels like there is no real structure but snippets of conversation and scenes are simply lined up one after the other without an obvious connection (apart from the relationship of the characters).
I’m not sure I’m making sense here and I still feel a bit confused about what I read but I think this novel is once again an experiment in storytelling.
The theme seems to be the evil of the human ego. The characters each have their vices and bad moments – you get everything from alcoholism to incest to egotism to violence. But this theme also includes that these vices are intrinsically human and all of the characters struggle with the darker parts of their personalities. The thing is – however bleak this may sound – that the dark parts are just that: parts of humanity.
This is not a feel-good-novel! But I think in the end I did like it, even though I was sceptical at first. This is different from Thomas’ former work but I think it actually lines up with the rest of her novels in taking her ideas one step further. I’m looking forward to the printed copy because I can’t shake the feeling that some structure was still missing from the ARC and that it might be the key to understanding this novel a bit better.