cover image Houses of Ravicka

Houses of Ravicka

Renee Gladman. Dorothy, a Publishing Project, $16 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-0-9973666-6-2

Gladman inverts 1984 in her inventive fourth novel set in the dystopian future country of Ravicka (after Ana Patrova Crosses a Bridge); it is narrated by a mid-level bureaucrat called the Comptroller, who is referred to as both a man and a woman in the text. Unlike George Orwell’s Winston Smith, the Comptroller has drunk the Kool-Aid, and the familiar way he/she tosses off place names and bureaucratic expressions unique to those living in Ravicka add both drollery and authenticity. The Comptroller is in a Groundhog Day–like loop of trying to find missing houses, including his/her own, then falling asleep, losing blocks of time, and then having to start over. His/her friend Hematois, with whom the Comptroller is staying, proposes gaining deeper perspective by visiting “the crest of cit Saut,” the highest point in the country. The Comptroller is inexplicably confident that he/she can get back to the heart of the mystery and solve it by following Hematois’s suggestion. The solution to the mystery has a meta and theoretical cast that might frustrate some readers, but those in tune with Gladman’s philosophical underpinnings from the get-go (and especially those who have read previous Ravicka books) will be satisfied. (Nov.)