BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Tailor Cedar Tane is approached by a figure from his past, plunging him into a dangerous adventure in the fashion world.
PROS: A different, fascinating take on the future; a big improvement over Grey.
CONS: Flashbacks caused some problems; Armstrong’s dialogue still bothers me.
BOTTOM LINE: Yarn is an interesting novel that builds upon its predecessor. It’s a fun, strange novel that doesn’t seem to take itself as seriously as it sometimes should, but it’s loaded with such vibrant color that it doesn’t matter most of the time.
Yarn , Jon Armstrong’s follow-up to Grey, where the author’s zany futuristic world of hyper-commercialism takes place, is a novel that excels for its ideas and concepts, more so than the story itself. Tane, a master Tailor who appeared in Armstrong’s prior novel as a minor character, now gets the full glare of the spotlight. This, to me, is a vast improvement over Grey (which was interesting, but it didn’t hold my interest as well as I’d have liked), because it begins to take the world a bit more seriously, looking at some of the greater implications set forth.
Like Grey, this novel has been called a ‘Fashionpunk’ novel, where the future deals with everything that people wear. Armstrong pays a lot of attention to the clothing and all that it entails throughout the book – here, it’s done really well, and going through it, it’s readily apparent that clothing is more to Armstrong and his characters than just clothing: it’s a way of life, and it’s a way to really tell a bit not only about the characters, but also the world that they inhabit, from the grimy, hormone-laden B-Shirts that industry uses to control their workers, to the costumes that people wear when meeting their celebrity heroes.
Interestingly, it also taps into a part of society that makes this book stand out a bit: our complete obsession with popular culture, and how that affects everything. Forget Blade Runner here, this is a world where commercialism has been injected with rocket fuel, with lots of bright colors. Armstrong’s world is hyperactive, strange and interestingly dark at the same time, a dystopia that reminds me a lot of Maxx Barry’s Jennifer Government.
Yarn does take its stumbles: there are points where events move by so quickly, with little explanation between Tane’s flashbacks and the real world: an inherent problem with flashing back, it removes a lot of the suspense from other parts of the story, especially if you know that your main character still has a pulse after the fact. Then there’s the dialogue – while appropriate for some of the characters, it feels off, forced or a bit too silly.
Yarn is a fun read, one that I went through fairly quickly. I appreciated Armstrong’s take on what the future could hold, and like other dystopian novels, it’s all too plausible at points, but I found myself wishing that the world could be a little further toned down, a little more realistic and serious, without removing some of the fun.