I don’t read many novels but made an exception. If you wish to be immersed, immersive fiction is the ticket.
An equal music focuses on one member of a string quartet, who meets a former lover and becomes re-involved with her. The relations between the members of the quartet, the relations of the musicians with their instruments, and indeed with individual pieces of music, which almost become characters in their own right, interested and engaged me. Unfortunately as the love affair strand of the plot developed, I became considerably less interested, and developed a faint sense that I had been here before. Now was that just me being Difficult?
For a change of pace, I tried a recent gift: Norstrilia. I hadn’t previously read any of Cordwainer Smith’s freewheeling SF inventions and yes, I did enjoy it, but it had one unfortunate element in common with An equal music: as the love affair developed, my enjoyment waned. Give me more of the vasty diseased mutant sheep, I muttered. Tell me about Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons. Love affairs I can get anywhere, penny plain and twopence coloured. Take your protagonists away and let them canoodle somewhere else.
I was amused to find an unexpected link between The blind assassin and Norstrilia. One important strand of the story is a sensationalist SF/fantasy tale complete with blue lizard-men with inflammable shorts, told in episodes by one of the protagonists. These are salted in among the other strands of narrative, coming out at a doorstopping 600+ pages.
Herein lies the trouble with immersive fiction: it immerses you. A few more pages, you think, just before bed. It’s like having a big bag of crisps, too moreish to eat just a few, so you munch your way to the bottom of the packet. Only I’m not sure that eating 1293 salt-and-vinegar straight is very good for you.