Saturday, December 10, 2022

Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt

This is one of those strange books that's mostly realistic and believable and set in our world…but there's one fantastical element.  Usually I find these types of books a little hard to orient myself in.  It's harder to suspense my disbelief than if I were reading high fantasy with dragons or space opera with faster-than-light travel.  But I enjoyed this book enough that I just kind of went with it.

So, for the fantastical element: [SEMI SPOILERS]  Marcelllus the giant Pacific octopus.  Don't get me wrong:  I LOVED him.  I loved his role in the plot.  He was probably my favorite character.  But he was so fantastical that you're going to have to make a decision as a reader:  just sort of roll with it…or beat your head against the wall because how on earth could an octopus learn to READ ENGLISH???  I believe octopuses are highly intelligent, in a way we might not fully comprehend, considering their vastly different "brain" structure.  I could even maybe swallow his very sophisticated narrative if I thought of it as octopus language, not English.  But for him to learn to READ English, where the only possible instruction he's had is listening to people read his placard and other aquarium signs out loud?  And for him to have a vast vocabulary (in English, because he talks about English idioms) that he had to have learned entirely from the aquarium-goers?  It's the most glaringly unrealistic thing about him, but there are others.  However, if you can just roll with it, you'll love Marcellus and feel so sad for him being stuck in that little aquarium and love his relationship with Tova and look forward to his chapters.  So, my advice:   just roll with it.  I obviously did, never getting stuck on the fact that he could READ ENGLISH.

There were some other pretty fantastical coincidences, but I won't spoil them. 

I liked the human characters, even the highly flawed ones.

The writing was good.  Some might consider the pacing a tad slow, but for me it was slow in that pleasant, spending-time-with-people-I-love way.  I enjoyed the plot, though at one point, [SEMI SPOILERS!] when an important something was obvious to us and to the octopus, I didn't quite understand how it didn't occur to other intelligent characters as even a possibility.  They had enough evidence and were obviously thinking about the situation a lot.   

Again, I LOVED the relationship between Tova and Marcellus.  And though I would have liked their ending to be different, I thought it was beautiful.  SPOILER!!!  SPOILER!!!  I only wished she had acted sooner, when she realized how intelligent he was.  END SPOILERS.

Overall, a really enjoyable book.  I spent a lot of time in this review stuck on the unrealistic parts, but they really didn't affect my enjoyment as much as you might think.  And if you can just go with it, you'll really enjoy it too. 

And the cover...lovely.  

Rating:  4 stars.  

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