Crewel  - Gennifer Albin

'The tech is safer now ... It can change how a person acts and thinks.' I tell him about what Cormac said about isolating problem areas in the strand and splicing new material into an individual's thread.
I vividly remember the awe I felt when I was watching 'The Matrix' for the first time. Although it puzzled my mind with questions like 'How can virtual procreatic activity result in a real baby? Do the machines manufacture an embryo when a couple living in the Matrix stops using condoms?' or 'How do the human bodies produce more energy than the upkeep of the huge living apparatus swallows?' I was easily lulled into believing it might be possible and I was only missing a clue. It all sounded so convincing that I had the uncomfortable urge to double-check my own reality against the frightening idea of it being nothing more than a clever illusion.

Reading 'Crewel' was nothing like that. I was feeling something close to awe - but only for myself, because I managed to stay on board past the 70% mark of my Kindle.

Also is 'believable' a term that I would never, ever associate with this woven-world setting. In fact until approximately 36% I had convinced that I was dealing with a fantasy novel set in a fantastic totalitarian world unlike our own. The notion that 'Crewel' could take place on post-apocalyptic Earth never crossed my mind and comes to the formerly ignorant heroine as a surprise revelation, too.

But not only the heroine, the whole population of 'Arras' is unrealistically docile, content and easy to control - without being held in check by threats (the rulers have ridiculously easy means to change people's minds same as they have means to adapt their appearance or their environment: Removing, replacing or repairing threads on a loom is just a matter of seconds for a capable and virtuous weaveress after all). The information that someone living in the neighborhood has to report in for being rewoven is processed among the citizens with slight unease, but does not cause boosts of fear or resentment; same as being claimed by the government to become a glamorous but secluded and never-to-be-seen-again spinster, who weaves reality and features in the yellow press, equals being selected to participate in a beauty or talent TV show today: The 'lucky' person does not really know what participation entails, but it will make her famous - so what?

And thus I have mentioned my two most annoying aspects of the story (I will not talk about the unlikable characters, the overflow of mean girls or the love-quadruple in this review. Things like that are definitely of matter of taste. I am concentrating on the lack of logic and believability here.): The spinsters' and the creweler's way of weaving the world as a layer on top of the real, but catastrophically destroyed world on a couple of looms and the spinsters' paradoxic position between having to remain pure, untainted women, who are idolized for their gift of creating the whole world with their hands like a virgin Mary would be for creating a foetus without male input, on the one hand, and serving as seductive geishas to the needs of leery senators at administrative functions on the other:

Weaving the world on a loom: A loom, as I am able to imagine it, is - however large an industrial one gets to be - a device that produces something two-dimensional. Usually threads go in two directions and can consist of multiple fine fibres. Really intricately woven or not - in contrast to cloth reality as we know it is a three-dimensional thing. In 'Crewel' there are rooms and rooms full of looms, large and small, wooden and metallic, and each of it supposedly holds something big and complex like a whole city. A handful of connected strands can represent (or rather be) a school-building and ripping a single thread with a sharp object before it grows thin and unravels naturally can mean ending someone's life. How all the cloths of those unconnected looms form one seamless country, how people are able to walk around although their position is fixed firmly between two other threads, how specially gifted heroine Adelice is able to see and manipulate the threads of time and matter without a loom when she is part of the world - and suddenly the walls of a room consist of more 'wool' than a whole district -, how the Coventry itself has to be a cloth on a loom that contains other looms, how people are able to grow grain on field that has been created by the Creweler, who plans how many ponds to put where in order to feed the population with fish, and how zooming in at a loom is possible, when nothing sounding remotely digital is mentioned, does not get addressed at all during the first three quarters of the story I more or less patiently endured. At one point the Creweler reveals some crucial information concerning the planet's past, its physical matter and some clever inventor who found a way to shape it, but she did not solve the urgent, logical dilemma described above.

Women, spinsters, sexuality and creativity: Almost right from go there is a kind of inconsistency in the position and the behavior expected from women that made it obvious to me that the author wanted the reader to notice something is off in the gender department, something that might have been different or even better at some point in the times proceeding the plot. Still, to me things were that unbelievably strange, that I had to shake my head in disbelieve instead of employing it in contemplation: Young males and females live completely separate lives. There are even districts for couples with female offspring and districts for families who have born boys. Each girl has to stay pure until she becomes a spinster or is matched to her future husband. In spite of that the art of brightly colored, seductive facial make-up and attire is deemed to be extremely important to acquire. Adelice's mother, for instance, who has a husband and absolutely no say in who she wants to be with, spends some time in front of her mirror reach morning because an atttractively painted face pleases her boss. Gifted girls are a commodity. They are unceremoneously fetched from their homes and put through a process that assesses the strength of their abilities. Although refusing would not be an option anyhow they are pampered by personal assistants and make-up artists, showered with beautiful clothes, good food and media attention. And even though the common opinion is that only virgin women can do the weaving or the creweling necessary for survival, Arrras' senators traditionally order very young spinsters to accompany them to official banquets and state functions as arm candy and as bed warmers, too. Apart from my irritation concerning how women have managed to stay the bottom feeders in a society that completely depends on their special work Creweler Lorciel's answer at 67%: Women are easy to control., I wondered why the rulers did not think of setting aside especially attractive girls to form a caste of pleasure givers and assign a supposed importance to those working in the sexual sector, instead of 'wasting' their country's future creators, guarantors of nourishment and housing, on their personal gratification and risking the population's wrath. In addition our little creweling star, who describes herself as shy, goes from being ignorant, timid and naive to behaving brazen, saucy and confident in rocket time. Such a character twist is not a beautiful thing to behold.

At the point at which I stopped reading signs of rebellious activity have started to manifest; and I suppose not far ahead there will be a big gender-related bang; My guess is both purity and gender do not matter at all to do the weaving and a revelation of someone evil purposefully drawing the 'strings' tight to keep everybody in line. But that will definitely be too late for me. The train that would have had the power of turning me into a believer has left the station long ago.

So. Please weave a better setting next time, Ms. Albin. And do make the basic concept water-tight. If not, I am not willing to try on one of your hip, dystopian garments again.