I was very taken with this novel when I was in high school, and so recently obtained it to see if it was really as good as I recalled. It wasn't.

It opens with one of the most fat-phobic scenes I've ever read, which is saying a lot. The college-age heroine is on a train next to a smelly fat woman, whom, the narrative frequently reminds us, is fat. Yes, fat! Fat fat fat. She's also a sadistic, violent, paranoid, greedy cheat who enjoys watching animals die. And fat. Very fat.

A few pages in, it becomes clear that we're in a dystopian future in which 95% of the population is stoned 75% of the time (actual statistic, not a joke), religion doesn't exist, casual sex and violence abound, and everything sucks in a manner very reminiscent of hysterical magazine articles about how teenagers are going to hell in an online handbasket.

What's most interesting about the book, and what I liked so much in high school, is hugely spoilery despite being revealed fairly early on, as the reveal itself is pretty cool. What I had not recalled was a jaw-dropping scene right at the end which makes it an awesomely depressing book!



It turns out that we're actually in the past, not the future, and Noah is building his ark. I still think this is pretty cool, especially since I love stories where the past turns out to be more technologically advanced than the present.

The heroine, Nikki, hooks up with Sam, Noah's son, who brings her back to his self-righteous family. Sam is black, incidentally. Nikki is white. I thought Cohen was putting all the races on the ark at first, but no, that's it.

This and the other Flood book I've read, L'Engle's Many Waters, struggle with the fact that the entire story makes God seem like a total bastard. Cohen tries to make it OK by portraying the people who don't get on the Ark as evil, complacent, and/or stupid. This does not work very well, though it does make L'Engle's method of saying that God works in mysterious ways look better in comparison.

Both books also feature unicorns, which we know didn't make it on to the Ark. In Cohen's book, there is a unicorn pair, but the female becomes mortally ill and, on the last page, both are euthanized. Yep, unicorn euthanasia! The book would have been an awesomely depressing contender for that alone had I recalled it in time.


Some used copies are available from Amazon: Unicorns in the Rain (An Argo Book)

From: [identity profile] heyoka.livejournal.com


Ohhhh...I think I read this as a teenager, too! And remember thinking it was kind of interesting but ultimately WTF.

From: [identity profile] truepenny.livejournal.com


I think I like the idea of a pre-Deluge dystopia even more than the author intends me to.
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From: [identity profile] kyuuketsukirui.livejournal.com


Huh. That sounds like a really interesting idea.

From: [identity profile] jinian.livejournal.com


I kind of love the unicorn euthanasia.
ext_3152: Cartoon face of badgerbag with her tongue sticking out and little lines of excitedness radiating. (Default)

From: [identity profile] badgerbag.livejournal.com


That sounds so awful but I totally want to read it.

From: [identity profile] gaudior.livejournal.com


I adored that book as a teenager.

Damned if I can remember why, now. I may have liked the prose? Or the depressing? Or the biblical? Probably the biblical... it may have been the first "modernized retelling of an old story" I ran into (though that seems unlikely somehow)...

From: [identity profile] greenapple2004.livejournal.com


Oh my god--this ends with a line something like, "Weep, darling. Weep for the unicorns," doesn't it? I remember loving this, too, but I guess it doesn't stand up to the ages?

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


"Weep for the unicorns, my love. Weep for the unicorns. For as long as we remember them, they are not wholly gone."

I loved it too! The premise is great. The execution is better experienced if the reader is sixteen.
ext_7025: (where's the fruitbat?)

From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com


"Weep for the unicorns, my love. Weep for the unicorns. For as long as we remember them, they are not wholly gone."

I came thisclose to spewing water all over my keyboard. Seriously. The mug was actually touching my lips.

From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com


I wish Many Waters had dealt more with the all-these-people-are-going-to-drown factor. There's that scene where Yalith's unsympathetic sister is in labor, and it goes hours and hours, and she pulls through, and it's a huge deal, and then it never quite gets mentioned that she and the baby would drown. I find it a very fine book overall, but I feel like there was potential for a masterpiece there if it had been willing to dig a little more.

In other news, I have not read Unicorns in the Rain nor am likely to, but man, this is not what I'd expect from the title alone.
ext_12542: My default bat icon (Default)

From: [identity profile] batwrangler.livejournal.com

OMGWTFUE!


Unicorn Euthanasia has the makings of a first-class internet meme. Or the remains. Or something.

From: [identity profile] ellen-fremedon.livejournal.com


...now, if the unicorn euthanasia were on the first page, that's a book I would buy!

Or write.

From: [identity profile] tekalynn.livejournal.com


I was going to say, wasn't it a dystopian past? I remember it took so long for the penny to drop for me the first time.

Yep, the unicorns didn't make it past the Flood. They were vanishingly rare pre-Flood too, IIRC--weren't they the last breeding pair? As if it weren't depressing enough.



From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com


Someone left the unicorns out in the rain...

Er, sorry. That just came to me. I'll send it back.

I tried reading Many Waters for the first time quite recently, after my first re-read of A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door since childhood, but it was failing to engage my interest to such an extent that I abandoned it partway through, which is very unusual for me. I suppose I should try it again. It is unlikely to annoy me as much as A Swiftly Tilting Planet, which I remember (possibly unfairly) as being very woo-woo.

From: [identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com


You are not unfair in your remembering of woo-woo. Altho I loved the book all to pieces when I was 15 and am absolutely unable to reread it now.

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com


I almost feel that way about A Wind in the Door, although I was able to read it. It definitely hasn't aged as well for me as many other books.

From: [identity profile] marzipan-pig.livejournal.com


God is kind of a jerk a lot in the OT - my best understanding is that life was very very very hard for most people and making up a story about someone they could blame it on made the most sense.

I (thankfully) never read this book, which I think I probably would have hated at any age. Madeline L'Engle has been hard for me to go back and re-read as an adult too - a lot of her tensions and resolutions don't sit well with me, though maybe part of how I got to where I am now is some kind of subconscious processing of the ideas she presented?

From: [identity profile] marzipan-pig.livejournal.com


Wait.

Does the unicorn book have a frontspiece that says something like "Imagine a world into which God has not yet been born", or is that another of these religious-retelling-books?

B/c if it's the 'God has not yet been born' one, I HAVE read it.

From: [identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com


Wow, that's cool! I also personally love Planet-of-the-Apes-style stories where you THINK it is a backward unadvanced culture in the past, but we are really in the POST-APOCALYPTIC FUTURE.

Both books also feature unicorns, which we know didn't make it on to the Ark. In Cohen's book, there is a unicorn pair, but the female becomes mortally ill and, on the last page, both are euthanized. Yep, unicorn euthanasia! The book would have been an awesomely depressing contender for that alone had I recalled it in time.

....WHA. JUST. WHA. //cries

From: [identity profile] vom-marlowe.livejournal.com


I loved this book as a teenager. *loved loved loved* I sobbed over the unicorn death.

Now, I'm sitting here giggling.

From: [identity profile] jenfullmoon.livejournal.com


Huh. I always thought it was a near-future book, NOT in our past.

Yeah, the last line is corny, but the premise was intriguing in a thoroughly creepy sort of way, which is why I still remember it. It didn't even need unicorns for me to be freaked. (That was a bit cutesy anyway in itself, claiming unicorns are still around in a dystopia.)

And yeah, both this and Many Waters kinda bypass the "what happens to everyone else" factor. Though I do recall that Ham/Ham both had unpleasant wives or something and they get to survive...and that whole Yalith goes straight to heaven thing in MW was kinda weird.
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