Sunday, November 28, 2010

Being Light (Helen Smith)

Overall: 3.9
  • Plot: 3/5
  • Originality: 5/5
  • Language: 3.5/5
  • Believability: 4/5
Being Light by Helen Smith

When Roy Travers doesn’t come home his wife begins to suspect he has been abducted by aliens, and she enlists the help of a private detective to find him. But Roy was not taken by aliens. The truth is far stranger.
Genre: General Fiction
Purchase Links:
Kindle US | UK | DE
Paperback US | UK | DE
Other Links:
author website



In Being Light, we continue with the adventures of Alison, Taron, and Mrs. Fitzgerald from Alison Wonderland, adding in a host of new characters who are somehow intricately linked to one another through circuses, elephants, and familial ties.

In a style distinctly her own, Smith tells her story through scenes, shifting between several points of views before tying the incidents together neatly by connecting the seemingly isolated dots. In this case, upwards of eight characters are involved in a story that centers not only on a missing man, but also upon animal rights, environmentalism, the definition of emotions, and attempted communication with aliens. As with Alison Wonderland, she maintains that tongue-in-cheek tone that lends dry humor to the nonsensical musings and actions of the players in this existentialist-style performance.

With the initial take-off of the man in the inflatable house, the basis for the title seemed quite clear. In the end, however, it turns out that "being light" means much more than flying away in a child's playground; rather, it involves the struggle to let go faced by each of the characters in their various situations. The depth of the application is a stronger means of drawing together these seemingly unconnected people than the physical links of blood or employment or sex. In short, this philosophical bent allows this complex comedy to work, though I was still tempted at times to start diagramming the cast in order to remember who each member was.

In spite of its status as a sequel, Being Light does not draw too heavily from its predecessor, focusing instead on the story at hand. The small references did make me smile, but on the whole, I enjoyed the fact that the novel was self-contained, as it allowed for a rich literary experience without having to go back over all that happened in a previous work. The climax, or finale, rather, left me feeling much as I did after a recent viewing of Monty Python and the Holy Grail: amused, bemused, and a trifle curious because of its open-ended nature.

Overall, Smith shows a comfortable command of language, adjusting the pacing of her paragraphs with ease. The verbiage is complex without being overbearing, the dialogue witty despite a propensity towards absurdity. There were a handful of instances where a semicolon would have been more appropriate than the comma that was actually used, however, and there were several lines where it was difficult to tell what exactly the speaker was getting at. Then again, perhaps this is more of a testament to my own inattention or inability to follow the thoughts of people who are quite a ways off from the beaten path.

This book may be inappropriate for those who prefer a steady stream of action from a single point of view. There, I said it. For those who enjoy stretching their minds a bit further and piecing complex story arcs together, however, Being Light promises a pleasurable romp through the darkly humorous dealings of Smith's creations.

(Review copy provided by the author)

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