You have to be a certain type of reader in order to enjoy Francesca Lia Block's works. She writes beautifully, I will say that, but her stories require a certain amount of willing suspension of disbelief, an acceptance of the extraordinary, a completely dismissal of rationality and sense...and in that sense, this book did not appeal to me. It is lovely, it is magical, it is abstract and surreal...but the experience of reading Love in the Time of Global Warming just gave me an overwhelming headache. I would say this book is best accompanied with a lot of psychotropic drugs. Maybe a few magical brownies. Or perhaps an entire pan.
I am not a artful reader, which is why I struggle so much with speculative fiction. I do not merely accept things. I need rationality, I need things to make sense. A dreamlike, surreal scene does nothing for me besides making me want to rip out my hair by its roots (and I have been known to do that, it's a wonder I am not entirely bald by now). I need an explanation, I cannot accept things just because the book says so. If you are a reader with a similar mindset, this book is not for you. So many strange things happen in this book that we are just expected to accept, that just happens because of---magic! No. That doesn't cut it for me.
I don't even know what genre this book falls into. It is half-hearted at anything it attempts. It's a half-assed attempt at an apocalyptic novel. It's a nod and a wink at the Odyssey. It is a partial attempt at science fiction that doesn't even try to make sense.
Let's go back to the beginning, to the premise of the book. A grand, apocalyptic event has occurred. The Earth Shaker. It's some earthquake-thing that is left deliberately very, very vague because our heroine, Penelope (Pen) has conveniently lost her memory of the event. Afterwards, she hides out in her home, her father, mother, little brother, all lost to god-knows-where. When her home is threatened by a group of interlopers, a kind stranger within their group (deux ex fucking machina, man, there's so much of it in this fucking book) helps her out by giving her his well-fueled car and a mysterious map with a highlighted path to Las Vegas.
Pen's trip to her eventual destination is a present-day version of Homer's Odyssey. It is so weird. It is so dreamlike. People, places, events appear so completely out of nowhere. Her journey is fraught with strange, nonsensical detours, and Pen's behavior leans towards the verge of TSTL behavior at times. The world as she knows it is destroyed, split in pieces, in ashes! Now would be a great time to visit the Los Angeles County Museum.
I saw crushed cars stacked on top of one another and the street in front of my house split in two, exposing the innards of the earth. Nothing grew and not a soul roamed. The trees had fallen and the ground was barren of any life, the world as far as I could see, deserted.
A most excellent time for a side trip to places she's visited as a child with her beloved mother. Like fucking really, Pen?
Pen runs into some of the strangest people (and creatures ever). They are straight out of the Odyssey---the modern equivalent of them, that is, and they make no goddamn sense! And Pen just ACCEPTS all these strange people, all these strange events without question, I just cannot comprehend it. She meets Hex, a stranger with whom she falls in love and bonds (and gets hopelessly high) over Lotus Juice over at the Culver Hotel.
The doors are all open and people are inside sleeping or hooking up, survivors like us. Broken bottles and clothing litter the hallways. A girl is crunched up into a ball, hugging her knees and whistling, pointing at the blank wall. Another is crushing red flowers so the juice drips into her mouth; some spills down her neck in rivulets.
“I love you,” my new friend says. “What’s your name?”
Did I say things make no sense? Because things make no sense.
They eventually leave, and meet other versions of Odyssey characters, like Circe---who's actually a washed up soap-opera star who fucks young boys for fun. And feeds them cakes.
They encounter Giants. Literal Giants. Who are supposed to be the fucked-up scientific anomaly of a madman.
They gather up still more beautiful young creatures like Ash and Ez, both of whom are gorgeous, both of whom have Tragic Pasts, and both of whom end up accompanying them on their journey. Which still makes no sense.
I have a problem with how the gay characters are used in the book . Let me get one thing straight: I have no problems with transgendered/lesbian/gay/bisexuality of any kind. I support gay marriage, I support equality, and I wish there were more gay characters that are well-represented in literature.
With that said, the characters in this book are not real people. They are archetypes. They are all troubled. They are all special in their own way. They do not act, they do not feel like normal human beings. I get the overwhelming impression that all the characters in this book are there to send a message, and that is all. None of the characters in this book felt like human beings to me. They are artful, they are highly stylized. They are all visually beautifully, stunningly modelesque. They are not real. Which is typical of all of the author's characters from the majority of her books, really.
Take the love interest, Dex:
Hex tells me that back Then, when he was twelve, he started drinking and using, doing whatever it took to get his supply. “Good times.” At thirteen he was a full-blown addict and it got worse when he started DJing five years later because he could get into all the clubs and everyone was always giving him free alcohol and drugs. “I was like this mini–pill machine, downing them with whiskey. Could drink a dude twice my size under the table.”
The side characters have equally implausible stories. They are tragic, Ez and Ash and Dex are meant to send a message, and I feel strongly that gay characters should not just be there for the point of sending a fucking message. They are people. They are not social commentaries.
As I said, you have to be a fan of her writing and her characterization...and I am not, however much I have tried to be.