This is a very difficult book to review. It's a sequel to Anderson's Ultraviolet, which had some nice twists. Though the cover copy suggests that Quicksilver can be read on its own, it spoils every plot twist in Ultraviolet, starting from the very first page. (I also think it would be pretty difficult to follow without having read Ultraviolet first. In fact, I found some plot points difficult to follow because it had been so long since I had read Ultraviolet.)

They're both good books. But if you have any interest in reading either, start with Ultraviolet and don't even read the premise of Quicksilver - literally everything about it is a spoiler for Ultraviolet.

I am going to do two levels of spoiler cuts. The first level will be spoilery for Ultraviolet, the second for Quicksilver.



This is the book about Tori. Since I went through most of Ultraviolet thinking she was dead, this is a rare case where even the name of the protagonist is a spoiler.

Tori and her parents flee and try to make a new life for themselves under assumed identities. Naturally, trouble follows them.

Tori is my favorite thing about the book. She loves machines and has some unusual hang-ups about people, and her voice is very well-done. She's also asexual (which, as is very carefully explained, has nothing to do with her being an alien). That's nicely portrayed up to a point, though it has some Afterschool Special moments, but I had some problems with how that was handled. Unfortunately, they are completely spoilery.

The pace was a little odd. It felt like not much was happening for a stretch, and then there was a very quick flurry of action sequences interspersed with somewhat confusing technical infodumps about what was going on and why. I got the feeling some of my confusion was due to having forgotten some elements from Ultraviolet.





Sebastian Faraday: still a creep.

Tori's solution also occurred to me, but I didn't think Anderson would actually have her heroine cut off her own hand with a buzz saw. I respect that she went there.

The ending baffled me. After all this discussion about Tori being asexual and how her friendship with Milo is just as important as a romantic relationship would be, they kiss in a sexual/romantic way and she enjoys it.

I honestly have no idea what to make of that. Is it meant to indicate that she's not actually asexual, but just hadn't found the right guy before? Or is she still asexual, but can enjoy sexual activities if they're with someone she's emotionally really into? (If so, how is being asexual different from being one of the many, many sexual people who don't have a high sex drive and only enjoy sex if there's also an emotional connection?) Or is she still asexual and is entering into a sexual relationship to please or not lose Milo?

Whatever that was supposed to indicate, I don't think it worked. It undercut the previous statements that friendship is just as important as romance. And, as my baffled paragraph indicates, it yanked me straight out of an emotional connection with the characters and into a tangle of speculation on the finer points of sexual identity and what exactly the author was getting at.

I thiiiink it was meant to indicate that her sexual identity is still fluid, and that that's okay. Which would be fine, except that putting such a big earlier emphasis on "I'm asexual and that's okay!" rather than "I'm uncertain of my sexual orientation; maybe I'm asexual" makes the ending seem to come out of nowhere.



Ultraviolet


Quicksilver

From: [identity profile] serialbabbler.livejournal.com


Ah, it sounds like the author may have fallen into the current blurry definition of Asexuality that is popular on the internets. Demisexuality, grey-sexuality, if you identify as Ace then you are Ace regardless of what you do with your free time, etcetera. I thought that might happen.

On the other hand, some people are essentially asexual, but they still engage in kissing and cuddling without it ever getting any further than that. That is, they enjoy the physical contact, but they have no desire to engage in sex itself. And then some people (people like me, as it happens) find the idea of sharing bodily fluids by way of a kiss kind of revolting. (Ick. Somebody else's spit.) So it's possible Anderson was trying to incorporate the concept that not all Asexual people fall on my end of the spectrum without meaning to imply that the characters are going to enter a fully sexual relationship. Probably focusing on the grey areas is not the best way to introduce Asexuality to people who aren't already familiar with it, though.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


Thanks, that makes sense.

If so, I still think it needed a lot more set-up. I'd earlier gotten the distinct impression that Tori had been pretty grossed out and put off by kissing and cuddling. Going to "but it's okay if it's the right person" confused me because lots of sexual people also find physical contact pleasant with the right person and gross with the wrong person. (Raises hand.)

From: [identity profile] serialbabbler.livejournal.com


Yeah, it sounds like what Anderson actually wrote (probably by accident) was a demisexual character who originally identified as asexual because she hadn't previously been that emotionally close to anyone she might turn out to be sexually attracted to.

There is, of course, much debate about whether demisexuality is really a Thing that needs its own name since only being sexually attracted to people you know and like on an emotional level is probably more common than not being sexually attracted to anyone at all. So one might just consider it... normal. :) Humans are funny.

From: [identity profile] rj-anderson.livejournal.com


At the risk of stifling further discussion, which is always the danger when authors enter these things, Tori is asexual but not aromantic. She makes a conscious, calculated choice to kiss a boy she cares about and considers aesthetically appealing, despite her lack of sexual attraction toward him. (All these details -- his aesthetic appeal, and her calculated reasoning -- are included in the book, BTW: I'm not rationalizing after the fact.)

Tori's description of the kiss, "I didn't mind it at all," is intended quite literally. She doesn't mind it. Which is not the same as loving it, craving it, longing for more, and all the other things that go with sexual attraction. She simply makes the choice to engage in a physical demonstration of affection with a boy she has come to trust and who is not pressuring her to go beyond her comfort zone -- unlike her previous boyfriend who was gropey and slobbery and constantly nagged her for sex. And then she tells him it's an experiment in progress -- meaning that they'll have to wait and see if this kind of compromise between her asexuality and his sexuality is something they can both be happy with, or not.

For whatever it may be worth, the only objections I've heard so far to the kiss at the end of the book have been from non-asexuals who are concerned that Tori's choice negates or contradicts her earlier claim of asexuality. However, all the asexual reviewers (that I've seen so far anyway) have spoken positively about Tori's portrayal and don't have any difficulty with the choice she makes at the end at all.

From: [identity profile] serialbabbler.livejournal.com


Cool. Maybe I'll check it out sometime and see what my take on the character is. :) The plot didn't really sound like my thing, but sometimes I'm surprised by what I like.

From: [identity profile] serialbabbler.livejournal.com


Oh, I should also note that I was pretty much openly Asexual before the internet* so my definitions almost certainly don't conform with those of the younger generation most likely to be reading Quicksilver. In fact, I think the first official version of asexuality that I ever came across was part of the description of Schizoid Personality Disorder. I still have a warm spot in my heart for Schizoid Personality Disorder. (Oh, dear. That's weird, isn't it.) ((snicker))

*Okay, okay, technically there was internet, it's just that hardly anybody had home computers. Hee.
Edited Date: 2013-04-24 10:24 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] serialbabbler.livejournal.com


Okay, having finally read Quicksilver, I'd say Anderson actually did a pretty good job of portraying a young asexual character. I think the kiss at the end does undercut the idea that non-romantic relationships with people of the opposite sex are both possible and as important as romantic relationships, but it doesn't really make me doubt Tori's sexual orientation.
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