This year I’m giving each nominated work for the Hugo and Nebula novel awards their very own entry after I read them.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker was a quiet read. Each time I picked it up, I was surprised to be as far along in the book I was. It would have been, perhaps, a different experience to read it electronically, when I would have had less of a sense of the pages passing.
I read it in fits and starts, around other responsibilities, but I never really wanted to put it down. I enjoyed the way that each of the main characters, the Golem and the Jinni, were introduced. Their individual stories were told, unconnected, only coming together gradually. The sections of the Jinni’s memory that he did not possess were, at first, jarring to read, but the whole of the narrative came together nicely at the end.
I was invested enough in the story to be a bit put out that there was no attempt at a cure for Sophia, other than her traveling to warmer climes. The story is able to touch on the themes of becoming human through the human-formed, non-human Golem and Jinni. That journey is not finished at the end of the novel, but its continuation is implied.
It seems odd that a novel with such outlandish characters strikes me as so very quiet a novel. Quiet is the word, because it is not flashy or splashy. The Jinni’s powers, constrained because of his physical form and the desire for concealment, are displayed and used subtly. The Golem is constrained by moral concerns from using her power in obvious ways as well. Even the villain’s powers are generally subtle, swaying the minds of others and causing internal effects more than anything loud. Wecker brings the fantastic to a close and human level, speaking at a volume that encourages one to lean closer, lest one misses a single word.