You’re either the kind of reader who digs books with maps and family trees in the first few pages, or you’re not. Some readers—and this is where my loyalties lie—tend to barrel through books all sharklike, never turning back or stopping. Others prefer to take their time; these are the people who love the luxury of flipping back and forth, consulting the character lists at the front of the book and thumbing over to the glossary in the back as needed.
Sci-fi author and Seattle Times book critic Nisi Shawl’s first novel, Everfair, has a historical map of its titular fictional African nation in the front, alongside a list of “Some Notable Characters.” Shawl practically insists that readers take their time with the story of Everfair. This is a novel that turned me, at least temporarily, into one of those slow and circuitous readers; not only did I keep a thumb permanently parked in the character list for easy reference, but I also found myself reading the book phone in hand, Googling historical context and researching Shawl’s influences on multiple occasions per chapter.
Read the rest of this review in Seattle Weekly’s print edition or online at seattlereviewofbooks.com.
Paul Constant is the co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read daily books coverage like this at seattlereviewofbooks.com.