This book, you guys. This book. I can’t remember the last time a book grabbed me this hard.
When I started reading Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson, I thought “This seems like a pretty good book.” A day or two later, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The characters were lodged in my mind. I wanted to know more about the world. I was curious what would happen next. And I didn’t want it to end.
On the surface, Lucky Peach (as I’m going to call it for short) is a book about the future and time travel. It takes a look at a world ravaged by ecological disaster and plague, and wonders how people would rebuild.
But there’s a lot more going on. It’s easy to find parallels to our own world, with an older generation that has some strong opinions about how the younger generation is doing things, and a younger generation that just wants to be given a chance.
What does happen, when people are still working into their 80s, 90s, maybe even past 100, and there’s not enough work and money to go around? How far would a young person go to get a coveted job? When you see the lengths that young Kiki is willing to go to get the approval of Minh and be allowed to be part of the time travel mission, you may have to put the book down for a moment and have some feels.
It’s hard for me to exactly pin point why this book worked so well for me. I think it’s largely because the characters are crafted with such nuance, they felt like real people and I was incredibly invested in what happened to them. They weren’t just believable, they were likable. Not in a “too good to be true” sort of way, either. They have their flaws, and their conflicts with each other, and it makes them just so much more rich and well-developed.
Minh was incredibly refreshing to me. She’s older — in her 90s? She’s Asian. She lost her legs to illness in her youth and had them replaced with six octopus-like limbs. She’s very matter-of-fact about her prosthesis.
It’s pretty clear that Minh is essentially married to her work, and the book doesn’t make a big deal out of it. No one shames her about it, she never stops and thinks “What might have been.” She’s allowed to be a woman who has dedicated her life to the very important work of rebuilding rivers.
The cross-generational (non-romantic, non-familial) relationship between Minh and Kiki is a beautiful thing. Both are passionate about what they’re doing, and they end up butting heads over it, and watching their relationship grow and change wasperhaps the best part of the book.
Lucky Peach is a weird length. It’s like 220 something pages? I expected it to feel like a novella, but it read more like a full-length novel. Is this a novelette? Are such distinctions increasingly meaningless? I managed to stretch it out over the course of 5 days of reading, I think.
But the real indication of how much this book shook me? I didn’t read another piece of fiction for SIX DAYS. I just couldn’t bear the thought of giving myself to another set of characters in another world. I had to read non-fiction for almost a week to get over this book hangover. I honestly don’t think that has ever happened to me. I constantly have a novel going, or if I need a breather, I go for an anthology and let the short fiction tide me over.
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach did something to me. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but I’m glad it happened.
Pros: Female scientists getting shit done, female friendship, just so good I can’t even.
Cons: May give you an excess of feels and ruin you for other fiction.
Conclusion: Don’t miss this one.
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