"is a place of whiny indulgence, populated by the emotionally incontinent, the adolescent or the theatrical...The inhabitants are interested in how feelings live, how humans live within them and what emotions feel like to be inside"
"the day darkens, which is less accident of mind or weather but achieved by light-inhibiting screens across which shapes can be projected to become shadows in the shape of raptors or devils when they touch the ground."
The narrator moves through the Settlements, going where needed and describing the places as well as the myriad issues faced by those who need him while also offering his observations on other matters both external and internal, including bits of "mind-chatter." That alone would make for great reading on its own, but of course, there's much, much more, with plot threads that appear and reappear, ultimately forming connections. There's a certain Dr. Krab who has spent time exploring various patterns that lead to a startling conclusion, also channeling strange thoughts, a murder, a strange "fox boy" with orange fur, a book entitled A History of Dice and Counter Games detailing some of the strangest (and macabre) games such as the deadly "Six Gates of the City" and "The Uncertain and the The Beguiled," as well as a rather sinister and creepy golf game. And then there's a chapter from a new Judge Dee book, which, as an aside, I found absolutely brilliant since I love van Gulik's Judge Dee novels. What is the significance of the number 63? And just who is the strange and sinister woman who, impossibly, hasn't aged in twenty years but seems to be everywhere? I haven't even mentioned the dead girl preserved in the "huge specimen jar..."
Plotless and meandering? No way. The Settlements is carefully and cleverly constructed, falling more on the surreal side than probably any of the Broodcomb novels that have come before, while taking a look at what it means to be human, to feel, and to make connections. And speaking of those books that have come before, anyone who's read them will quickly notice the intertextual connections made here, especially in the case of The Night of Turns, which, in reality, I'm actually glad I read before this one. Don't worry -- having knowledge of what happens in any of the other Broodcomb titles isn't a necessity for reading The Settlements.
As was the case with Night of Turns, I found myself completely caught up in the strangeness and the lives of these people as well as the quirky happenings, and The Settlements also affected me on an emotional level. I was beyond sad when this book was over, a little choked up, and left in a sort of daze just going over it again in my head once away from it. Once again readers are warned that "This might not be for you," but by this point I know better.
Absolutely stunning and superb.
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Say what you will, but do it in a nice way.