Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review: Marco and the Red Granny by Mur Lafferty

Marco and the Red Granny by Mur Lafferty


Marco and the Red Granny is a science fiction novel featuring an alien race, the Li-Jun, that cannot experience emotion, yet can meld the senses together so you can taste banana creme pie in listening to music, or wear a piece of jewelry and hear and experience the story of Othello. They build synaesthesia into art, making a whole new type of medium for creative culture. Marco is a failing writer and illustrator who receives a patronage frmo a Li-Jun House and moves to Ride Lunar Base on the moon to create new works of art for his patron.

That’s my summary. Here’s one I pulled from

Have you ever tasted a symphony? Listened to a seven course meal?

An alien species brings back the old artist patronage system, and suddenly Sally Ride Lunar Base is transformed into the new artistic center of the universe: “Mollywood.” These aliens can do amazing things with art and the senses, allowing a painting, for example, to stimulate other senses than simply sight.

Marco wanted a coveted patronage, once. But then his girlfriend got one and shuttled off to Mollywood for fame and fortune, and Marco stayed home, waiting for his own patron. His career faltered. His agent dumped him. But then he gets THE call.

But he’s about to find out that an artistic patronage isn’t what it was in the good old days, and that the only friend he’s made, a tiny old woman who’s the star of a blood sports reality series called The Most Dangerous Game, has secrets of her own.


Science fiction has changed drastically as technology has improved. It has become so easy to go further and further away from Earth in sci-fi, to create more and more outlandish technology, since so much has become possible in the last few decades. Lafferty resisted the draw of quantum physics-- in fact, the only really hard physics in evidence is the mention of gateways early in the story, used for travel. It's a glance over the subject, comes and passes so quickly it doesn't matter. It wouldn't matter to someone who lived in a time like that-- the technology is nothing out of the ordinary. Why should it be made so special to the reader? Even in setting, Lafferty doesn't wander too far from Earth. Our protagonist, Marco, doesn't wander any further than the moon. Lafferty has managed to make a science-fiction book that isn't post-apocalyptic, post-nuclear, or a war od the worlds. She barely goes past our own backyard! It proves that you don't need to take the reader too far from their own world to take them into someone else's?


I didn't read Marco and the Red Granny. I listened to it through It was released in seven episodes. I was halfway through the fourth episode before I realized there were no chapter breaks. Everything flowed together so well, the individual episodes so well-separated that it didn't need those breaks. Each episode ended with a cliffhanger or at the end of a train of thought that made me want to hurry up and get the next episode started. Everything glued together in a cohesive whole that made it easy to forget I wasn't actually there.

Devo Spice's narration was spot-on. He made each character come alive with vocal changes. I hated the smarmy Seven of House Blue. I knew (or thought I knew) exactly where the Red Granny was from. I knew Marco's agent was a smoker long before it was ever mentioned. Everything flowed so naturally from Lafferty's written words to Devo Spice's mouth that I didn't feel any awkwardness in writing style. This was masterfully done!

The vocal performance and Lafferty's writing style melded wonderfully. Everything was clear and highly expressive. It was both easily understood and easily enjoyed.

My thoughts

Marco and the Red Granny was entertaining, intriguing, and just an all-around great literary experience. I've seen a few other reviews out there, and there is one thing their opinions and my opinion agree on: it was too short! Honestly, my only serious criticism is that I felt there was so much here that was untapped, so much potential! Even if Lafferty didn't want to expand this particular storyline anymore, there is a ton of wonder in the world she's created that could be fleshed out. I would loved to see a "normal" patronage in this future-verse! On the whole, though, this is well worth the effort to read or listen to. And hey, it doesn't take a lot of time!

Would I Recommend this Book? It’s definitely worth the time to read (or listen to) this novella. It’s intriguing and teases the senses, trying to wrap one’s mind around how the cross-sense art works. If nothing else, it will make you wonder at how we perceive the world. I give Marco and the Red Granny a synaesthetic 4 out of 5 stars.

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