Thursday, August 11, 2011

SF/F: The Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter by Brent Hayward

I have been consistently impressed by the books I’ve seen from upstart Toronto-based publisher CZP. Their playlist has developed into a sort of dark buffet of things you don’t imagine would get much airplay anywhere else -- at least, not in full novel form. Thoughtful, convoluted works that push at the boundaries of genre and sometimes even literature. I’ll be the first to admit that not all of what I’ve read from them has been terrific, but certainly all of it has been interesting.

You don’t need a crystal ball -- and possibly not even the ability to read -- to know that Brent Hayward’s The Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter will fall into that interesting category. The title alone sets the stage. After all, a book with that title: what could it be about? Several days after reading it, I’m still not entirely sure. And yet, here I am, trying to explain it to you. Here goes nothing.

Four apparently only mildly related threads of story eventually come together (somewhat) in the futuristic mediaeval city of Nowy Solum where some unnamable technological failure has had a profound effect on the day-to-day. “There’s more to a story than events taking place in one location, to one person.” So wisely spake the title’s Fecund, the feminine monster locked away in the bowels of the palace that overshadows Nowy Solum.
Rolling lazily, laterally, the fecund let out a sigh. She half-closed one red-tinged eye. Her cascading body, strung with the weeds of her cell, was clearly swollen. Ready, it seemed, to burst.
The Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter is not a book that will appeal to all readers. Despite the fact that I liked it very much and that so much about author Hayward’s use of language is appealing, I’m still not totally sure I understand the story and what it was meant to mean. A part of me wonders if that, too, is not the point. That you are intended to be left asking questions -- big ones -- and not given answers. Again, not all readers wants to be handled in that way. But for those who do, The Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter is a thoughtful, if not entirely satisfying, read and Hayward has written another book (after his debut: 2008’s Filaria) worthy of asking questions about. ◊

David Middleton is art director of January Magazine as well as editor of the art and culture section.

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