Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Red Heart Of Jade by Marjorie M. Liu
The grisly murders are just the beginning. Dean Campbell, ex-cop and clairvoyant, is sent to investigate. He is with the Dirk & Steele Detective Agency, that global association of more-than-human men and women. Shapeshifters, psychics and other paranormals, Dean and his peers are devoted to protecting life. But there are those who live to destroy.
In Taipei, he finds the remains of burned-alive men and women, bits of bone and ash, that reveal a pattern far more deadly than any he has foreseen. Someone knows Dean's secret. And they know more—of a power that can change the world, and of a woman who can complete him: Mirabelle Lee, the childhood sweetheart he'd once thought dead. Now, all that remains was blinding light and searing pain, potent passion and a purifying fire. And beneath it all is...The Red Heart of Jade.
It took me four days to read this book. For me, that is a measure of its complexity and weight. So much is happening in this book—right from the start—and I struggled to find a jumping on point.
In Tiger Eye, we learn almost immediately that Hari is a slave cursed to live as such forever. In Shadow Touch, the height of danger is the early capture of its H/H. In both, the reader rides a roller coaster of mystery and magic, up and down, through shocking twists. Both offer somewhat linear paths featuring dreaded—think scary movie music—ascents toward screaming—world drops out from under you—danger. Exquisite world building, with the kind of magic that mystifies results in a few astonishing twists. In these two installments of the Dirk & Steele stories, I had the sensation of accompanying their H/H’s for the ride.
In RHOJ, Liu unravels the story from a tangle of painful knots. Evil appeared in so many corners and forms. And the H/H fight for their lives on nearly every page. I felt like I was standing in the center of the chaos—slowly spinning and all the while wondering WTF is going to happen next. I wasted time trying to find a place to get on for the ride.
The upside to this is that readers experience the same disorienting confusion that Dean and Miri suffer. Readers endure the same powerlessness of not knowing, the same rigid grip of fear. We are exhausted by the fear, sweaty and tired of running.
The downside is that we are sweaty and tired of running both toward and from the unknown.
Either way, it is a powerful reader experience—one evoked by the potency of Liu’s words. Her prose is as extraordinary here as it is in previous works.
Liu’s conclusion to RHOJ does not provide the warm comfort of safety or the cool comfort of a shower and clean sheets. It is a rather abrupt and uneasy acceptance of fate. An acceptance clouded by more unknowns.
It is the most appropriate ending possible, IMO. Instead of being along for the ride so to speak, RHOJ is more like one of those things you shake, a globe filled with little scenes and snow. Reading it is like being at its center while someone shakes the fuck out of it. Turning the last page is like that floating sensation felt when the shaking stops. It is a temporary feeling of peace.