Wednesday, 22 June 2011

La hormiga que quiso ser astronauta by Félix J. Palma

La hormiga que quiso ser astronauta [The ant that wanted to be astronaut]
(Only available in Spanish)

The countdown begins. Put aside for a moment the heavy burden of that attachment to the reality that has been so hard to reach and remember when your first love was a siren, your best friend a Jedi Knight and it was snowing in Seville in the summer. When concerns were removed by chemistry-modified eels, and your lovers included a painter who was, literally, your soul mate, and an angel (well, a seraph) exiled from Heaven. When the pizza delivery boy conspired to write your unauthorized biography, and an old rigged recorder could be used to retrieve and make sense of the words spoken during a split. When Death walked the city with a list of victims that, if you were fast enough, you could alter. When ants aspired to reach the stars. Remember? Yes? Now, wake up!

La Hormiga que quiso ser Astronauta was Felix J. Palma's first novel (although not his first book), and I couldn't help but compare it to The Map of Time, which I loved. In a way, much of the things I loved on that book can be found on this one, even if in an earlier version. There is good writing, and twists and turns to the plot. Which means this will be an hard review to write without giving it all away.

And since it is not easy let's start with the basics: I liked this book. Did I love it? I'm still not sure.

What the synopsis promises, the book delivers. Yes, it is as surreal as it seems, to tell the truth, it is waaay more surreal than that at times. There are sirens and Jedi Knights, soul mates and angels (well, a seraph, to be exact). Death walks the streets and even rides the bus.

At first, this book didn't surprise me, and that is to say, it didn't overwhelm me like I was expecting. The writing was good, but I knew that it could be better (I should have reminded myself that this book was written 15 years ago, and that is enough time for an author to perfect the art). I was lost on what was happening, on the episodic fashion of this story. Because, more than a love story, this is a series of love stories.

But I got invested on the main character, on the things that happened to him, on his conquests and lovers. And I started to care about what was happening. Which brings me to the ending. Well, a bit before the ending.

This was the part that I least liked about this book, and the one that I'll probably remember the most. This is when I was almost screaming at the pages, saying "No, no, no, no, please don't go that way, please don't do that.", and this words weren't aimed at the character but at the author. This happened because what I wanted, what I expected to happen, was not what is right, what should happen. And what the author chose was the right thing and that broke my heart.

And that's when the ending came. It's not perfect, it was not what I wanted, but thinking about it, I wouldn't have it any other way. It fits the story just fine, with enough hope and possibilities for the reader to think that everything will be all right, not in the happily-ever-after way, but in the real life all-right-with-its-ups-and-downs way.

And to end this review, I'll leave you with one of my favourite quotes of this book, that is the best way to define it (without spoilers):

"And the thing is that there are women and women and men and men, and it is not enough to just shuffle and pick one card from each deck and believe that the result is a couple."

Rating: 4.5 out of 5