The Past is Red – Catherynne M. Valente

The Past is Red

The Past is Red


Tetley Abednego lives on the only solid surface around - Garbagetown, formed from a great patch of garbage in what used to be the Pacific, but is now just one big world ocean. She's a girl with principles and determination, and when she acts to save Garbagetown's resources from waste, she's willing to pay the price, with a smile on her face.


My average book rating is just about 3.0, and I sometimes wonder how that is, when I feel I’m giving so many books 2 or 2.5 star ratings. The answer is books like this one.

I know little about Catherynne Valente; I liked one of her stories in an anthology once, and have read one or two others. Still, I’ve heard the name often enough that I was interested to pick up this novella. While it’s technically in two parts, they read as an integrated whole.

Tetley Abednego, the protagonist of the book, has a fun, but unusual voice, and I feared I’d tire of it before the end of the book, but I never did (here, the book’s short span may work in its favor). She’s a relentless optimist in a truly trashy world, and – aside from a muddled sequence here or there – a delight to spend time with, even when very bad things are happening to and around her. The central romantic element of the story doesn’t quite work, and the love interest’s back story doesn’t quite make sense, but the story as a whole does work and does make sense, largely due to Tetley’s quirky personality.

Valente has envisioned a depressing world, but her protagonist is so upbeat that you tend to forget about it, in part because – as Valente points out in an afterword – this is the world Tetley knows and accepts. The fact that it’s a world devastated by ‘fuckwits’ (that’s us) doesn’t really bother her.

In short, this is a fun book. Read it. I’ve got some more of Valente’s writing on my TBR shelf, and I’m looking forward to getting it down.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

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