One thing that I loved about INDIGARA by Tanith Lee is that she managed to write a book with not one setting, but two.  Better yet, one is sci-fi and one is fantasy.  In INDIGARA, the “real world” is a future setting where people populate at least three planets, robotic dogs serve as baby-sitters, and the weather is controlled artificially. The movies they make in futuristic Ollywood are dreadful sounding titles like, Son of Beowulf Unchained, Building Rome in a Day, and (Turquoise’s big break) Fall of Super Troy.  I don’t know about you, but she had me at Son of Beowulf Unchained.

The other setting, INDIGARA, is the delightful compilation of all of the contrived, predictable plots since the beginning of story-telling.  Jet and her robo-dog Otis start their adventures in a dangerous forest.  The native people speak in another language, but luckily, there are subtitles to help her along (which really made me laugh).  The plot?  Brace yourself for this one: A beautiful queen is in love with the handsome leader of her mortal enemy’s clan.  Star-crossed lovers.  It never gets old.

You’d think that all this predictability and cliché would get tiresome, but it doesn’t.  Ms. Lee makes sure that Jet notices each and every oh-no-she-didn’t moment and point them out to the reader.  It has a very tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that worked for me.  I just don’t think that there’s much of anything harder to write than good humor.

As for the characters, here’s another case (Like FEED, but less artful) of an unfamiliar setting made more comfortable by very familiar characters.  Super familiar.  Too familiar.  In fact, all of the major players in INDIGARA are stereotypes.  The main characters are the three sisters: Turquoise, the gorgeous, prima donna eldest; Amber, the jealous middle child (Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!); and Jet, the invisible youngest.  With this book, you can take that stereotype to the nth degree times a billion and you have Ms. Lee’s characters.  Turquoise isn’t just gorgeous and popular–she’s set to become an Ollywood actress.  Amber isn’t just jealous, she’s obsessed.  Jet isn’t just ignored, she’s missing for forty hours before anyone even notices that she’s gone.  And you extend that analysis to just about every other character in the book: the artiste director, the super-hot leading man, and so forth and so on.  Oh, and we can’t forget Jet’s dog.  Otis is robo-Lassie on steroids.

Here’s why it works: Ms. Lee knows what she’s done.  She doesn’t create these character “types” even though, as a writer, she knows better.  She chose to break this writing rule to further the B-movie tone of the book.  Why do I think this?  Because, by the end of the book, we’re seeing glimmers of depth from each of the characters.  They’re break out of the mold and start to act like real people.  It was a pleasant surprise.

So next time, I’m going to analyze the plotting of INDIGARA.  What made me keep turning the page?  Everyone have a great weekend and I’ll try to answer that question on Monday.

The cover art image is used with the permission of the artist, Daniel Dos Santos.  Visit his site for more of his fantastic artwork.

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