In book reviews are happy variants of this one sentence: something you have never read. So first of all, you have never read anything like this before. But this time it does not mean the plot, not the characters, not the narrative tricks. Because Sandra Newman has designed a completely new language for this post-apocalyptic novel. Without exaggeration. One that does not look set but quite normal after two paragraphs. So right now: How phenomenally the translator Milena Adam has found a German version for this art slang is quite incredible.
So that everyone understands what's being said, this is the voice of the narrator, the 15-year-old Ice Cream Star: "I hear the fire like snoring sleep." "The noise scares me weak." "Then I'll go on, with a nice tart in my meat." Nervous is nervous. October is Tober, November is Vember, December is Zember.
The life of Ice Cream Star is as existential as when we meet it, when everything is colored between snow white and carbon black. The three parts (plus a smaller one) follow these three months (plus a few days in January) and the rescue expedition she sets out to. Just save her world for a moment. Her brother, her sengle people, a universe of children. Until she is catapulted into a downright historical position as Redeemer, in Patagonia jacket and Adidas shoes. Her name shines for miles. One that children just give to their children.
Author Sandra Newman
With this language in the ear it is clear: it throws you from the first page into a strange-distant cosmos. 80 years have passed since the Apocalypse in North America, the society has disintegrated into groups. Alliances depend on the danger of rape, slavery, war, hunger and kidnapping. The Sengles are the poorest, allied to Lowells and Christlingen. The Nat Mass Army keeps girls as sex slaves, but is a partner if need be. And in the distance live the marauding, dreaded Rou warriors - their skin is "whitish as a misfortune sky". New York, Washington, all that exists, but like a scene from Blade Runner without techno-futurism. Here is hunted beyond the cities with bow and arrow.
Sandra Newman, in her early 50s, the author of some light-footed literary guidebooks ("How NOT to Write a Novel") wanted to write a youth novel with this third fictional work, but of course that is nonsense. To be overturned by this futuristic dialect, this mix of muted rap slang and Shakespeare, is ageless. Yes, the martial adventure that follows would have worked shorter, but my fantasy stories need all the twists they can get. The rest will probably follow in Volume Two.
Young is at least the ensemble: adults do not exist. At 18, 19, 20 come the "posies", when on cough soon black spots and then the end follows. Suddenly, Ice's brother Driver coughs. A moment that sets everything in motion: "a dreadful day". You have just caught a Rou. He is 30. There is a cure for posies, reveals Pasha Rou. Ice Cream Star decides to organize it with the Rous. To keep the death further.
A figure whose skin color does not matter
A life that ends with 20: that's the perspective of the characters. The novel tells of an extreme form of finitude and the attempt to postpone dying.
Thus, norms are questioned: what death is, what life - and what enmity. How much courage it takes to be in solidarity beyond one's own group. How language works. How Christian stories can look like a new Mary and Jesus core, one of the more absurd danglers. And how a kind of cultural appropriation can succeed, without being presumptuous: When a white author writes from a PoC perspective and even gets involved in a war of black against white. Newman points out that nowhere is there any more everyday language innovation than in Afro-American pop culture - and without it, she would not have been able to create a Sengle dialect.
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30.08.2019, 11:42 clock
Ice Cream Star
Matthes & Seitz Berlin
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Above all, Ice Cream Star - like all the others - is a character whose skin color or gender is not the core of their identity. Ice does not bullshit, do not waste a spark on why they do not have a gun as a girl, take over the sergeant position of their brother or go into the fight. "Is not all your job," she says shortly to Driver. So she becomes the regent over 800,000 children, a Mary with Savior job, a bit Artemis, Penthesilea, Antigone.
Looking for young literary heroines? Voilà, a multi-faceted, more fearless than Ice Cream Star, will be hard to find.