May 18, 2003

Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford

book coverI picked this up to reread because I saw it referenced in the comment thread of this post over on Making Light where Teresa was talking about the nifty Rube-Goldberg-esque Honda commercial where all the action is constructed from bits and pieces of a car. You can watch it here with Flash. The discussion of "Cog" (that's what the little movie is called) wandered off into long single shots in films (like the opening sequence in Altman's The Player) and Ford popped in and said "I did once crank a single tracking shot out to 261 pages, but that's another you-know-what," to which Teresa immediately responded, "Drat! Mike, you beat me to it. I was about to observe that the longest single tracking shot I know of is Growing Up Weightless."

In my first review I actually commented on the fact that the book had no chapter breaks, but I missed the fact that it works as a single tracking shot. Actually, that's kind of stretching things a bit: there are some time dissolves and transitions between real and virtual realities, but otherwise the book really does track straight through as if you were following the characters around. And as I pointed out the first time, it just works, it doesn't feel at all like fancy narrative tricks are being played on you.

The book itself is about Matt Ronay, an early-teen son of an official in the government of a Lunar colony. The plot centers around Matt's and his friends' efforts to have some time away from adult supervision. Matt's father's point of view sneaks in from time to time telling another story about the politics and practicalities of life on an airless satellite. In the end, it's one of those rare books that has a wealth of details, but leaves a reasonable amount unexplained in such a way that it lets the reader speculate about what's really going on behind the scenes, and what will happen after the book ends. If I had a list of "favorite" books, this one would be near the top. Sadly out of print, but click the cover for a bunch of copies at scandalously low prices via bookfinder.

Posted by jeffy at May 18, 2003 10:03 PM
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