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By Rebecca Gransden
Cardboard Wall Empire
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
For what it's worth, I appreciate the ambitiously poetic goals that Rebecca Gransden was aiming for in her experimental novel anemogram; set in an undated future where something is wrong with the world but is never explained, we learn about this alt-future wasteland through the eyes of a precocious little girl, sort of like The Road meets Beasts of the Southern Wilds. The problem, though, is that such minimalistic, character-heavy prose needs to be used with a light touch, and especially with genre novels needs to be paired with a particularly strong plot where either a lot happens or at least there's a rich universe to explore; but while Gransden certainly does a great job with the "adorable girl" part of "adorable girl wanders around the apocalypse," she almost entirely forgets the "apocalypse" part, setting her story in such vague circumstances that we can barely figure out what's going on, and with so little transpiring that the entire book basically boils down to "girl wanders in the woods, girl has conversation about nothing with random stranger, girl wanders in the woods, girl has conversation about nothing with random stranger," etc. I'm all for bold experiments in style and prose, especially within the context of usually tired genres like post-apocalyptic stories; but without at least a token adherence to the basics of good three-act storytelling, what you essentially have is a 200-page prose poem, fine for what it is but certainly not the book I signed up for when reading the dust jacket. It comes with a limited recommendation today, just for those of you most into precious stylistic experimentation within narrative stories that deliberately make little sense.
Out of 10: 7.5, or 9.0 for fans of prose-poetry