It’s been a long time since I’ve read a whole book in one sitting. Even if I wanted to, who has the time to do that these days?! Well, with this book I had no choice: I kept reading, and it was 4:34 am by the time I finished. …oops? But I’m sure I won’t be the only one compelled to keep reading and reading this story, and then feel bereft when it’s over.
Hidden Faults is set within Somerville’s vast (truly vast) “Periter” series, which spans centuries and jumps from one continent to another from book to book (and sometimes within books). I love visiting this world, but I don’t think readers will need to have read the others to become immersed in this story. Savvy readers will get right on board with the standard dystopian-like, repressive-manipulative government that the characters are fighting against here. If you have read other stories in this ‘verse, though, then this story will be a welcome addition, and a logical progression in its timeline.
In Hidden Faults we have a world where “paranormals”, the staple group of characters for stories in this ‘verse, are greatly repressed and controlled, as are, incidentally, “deevs”, including homosexuals- which is a timely and all-too-believable reminder that a government inclined to persecute one group within society is very likely to go after many more. As such, Hidden Faults is one of the few Somerville stories to explore homophobia in any real detail. I can’t say I enjoyed that element of the story, as I’ve been spoiled rotten by the unquestioned openness and support in her other stories. But truly did enjoy this book and Somerville’s enviable writing and world-building skills.
This is not a light-hearted read. As with many of Somerville’s main characters, things go from bad to worse for Jodi, and things gets very dark before there’s any sign of light. Among the usual Somerville-staples of rape and abuse, and the twisted complexities of survival and healing, is a discussion of consent and choice. Particularly, on the very meaning and value of “choice” when all of your choices are just as morbid and evil as each other. And indeed, what choices are given to victims of abuse once they are “rescued”? What autonomy do they have, what freedom do they have to shape their own narrative, their own futures?
Yes, it’s a dark story; yet none of the violence or manipulation that Jodi suffers- whether physical, emotional, or physiological- is treated lightly. After reading only a few of Somerville’s works I had complete faith in the reverence she holds for her characters and their journeys. Her respect, admiration, and empathy for survivors is clear in all of her works.
As a final note, this is also a very clever book. Somerville has gone against her usual habit here and restricted the POV to a single character- and what’s more, Jodi is a very compromised narrator. His whole life- his personality, his attitudes and beliefs, even his physical memories and emotions- are being manipulated by those around him. It’s a difficult way to tell a story; difficult to convey to the reader what is real and what is not, and to describe events as Jodi experiences them and still give the reader the information they need to understand the story- indeed, to understand more than Jodi himself does. I look forward to reading this book again to study how Somerville pulls it off. This is clever storytelling, and something I very much aspire to myself.
This is a light, happy, easy read that is sure to put you in a good mood. It’s also one of the few Somerville works which isn’t drenched in darkness and foreboding- and although I happen to like the darkness and foreboding, More Than A Thousand Words definitely made for a nice change.
There’s a lot to enjoy here: the writing is great, the pace is perfect, and the characters are very loveable. Luce is bright, temperamental, entertaining- and loves to wear skirts and nail polish. Steve is sturdy and adorably reliable- and 2000% just fine with whatever his unpredictable, gender-fluid boyfriend chooses to wear (indeed, those long, super-silky skirts are a real turn-on). They work together very well, and are sappy and sugary-sweet, in the best way possible. Which, of course, doesn’t mean they don’t have problems to work through- and it’s thoroughly satisfying to see the two work through them. Ultimately they’re the best kind of support for each other- and this is just the kind of romance I need regular injections of to keep my pessimism at bay.
More Than A Thousand Words can be connected to other Somerville works through Luce’s ‘Talent’- his ability to “see” the immediate pasts of the people he encounters. This is a nice touch for dedicated Somerville fans like myself, though I can’t help but feel that others might find Luce’s talent pointless for the story- or worse, simply a convenient plot-device. In any case, this book can be read without any previous knowledge of Somerville’s other works. The light supernatural element is ultimately a nice, though probably unnecessary, addition to a very enjoyable contemporary romance.
The only negative that really struck me was the opening scenes. I do find this to be the case with a lot of Somerville’s work; she seems to favour the “drop the audience right in the middle of the action” school of thought- make the beginning exciting and action-packed. In some cases, such as with this book, it results in an opening that is more frustratingly-confusing than exciting. Of course since I knew I’d end up loving the story before too long I could just grit my teeth through the first few pages and trust that the writing would settle down soon enough. I do worry that it might be a turn-off for readers browsing the preview chapters, however. My advice would be to keep reading; I’m sure you’ll enjoy this story as much as I did!