Traveling in Style: Yoon Ha Lee’s ‘The Book of Locked Doors’

If I were to perform some sort of masochistic analysis of my writing, I am sure I would find far too many scenes where the protagonist is traveling. Coming from something interesting, heading towards something interesting, but pictured sitting in some sort of craft waiting. I think the term ‘bleargh’ describes this well.

Unless you’re Yoon Ha Lee. Go and check out The Book of Locked Doors, published recently by Beyond Ceaseless Skies.

The main character goes through nearly the entire story without interacting with anyone. What’s she up to? Riding the subway.Grabbing lunch. Walking around.

And it’s awesome.

How? Lee uses description masterfully, showing us the details which pass through Vayag’s line of sight and telling us her reaction as a way of delineating her character, building stakes, attaching us emotionally. You know, all that writery stuff.

Sure, there’s plenty of running, chasing, and being talked at by a creepy spirit book, but using travel time to build the world and the main character is a superior use of column space. Next time I want to write about someone taking a cloudskipper up to an orbital, I;ll be sure to go back to this kickin’ story first.

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