Finally getting back into my reviewing routine. A book I read in the last year was Chlorophyll and Gasoline by S.J. Fleming. I picked this one up during a book fair, so no disclaimer needed.
What attracted me to this book was the premise to begin with. I loved the concept of a plant-humanoid symbiotic being. I mean, people with plants growing in them co-existing in life. How cool is that? Then throw in an android from a much more advanced time that upends life for Willow, the main character. Talk about a clash of cultures on a significant scale. How could I pass this up?
I have to say I love how Fleming was able to create such differences in the characters of Willow and Suzy, the android. Suzy is well developed as a lost soul completely out of place in a world that has regressed (or maybe progressed?) to a much more technologically free way of life. I mean, what is an android supposed to do in a world like that? And Willow is a young woman, she reads to me to be about sixteen to eighteen years old, living a life that chafes at her. These two complement each other well while at the same time neither of them fit into the world as it exists in the book.
I also appreciated how much thought Fleming put into the culture and the world of Chlorophyll and Gasoline. Taboos, traditions, social expectations and more fit together in a way to convey a sense of reality that worked for me within the book.
Now, there were a couple things that I struggled with in this book. First, it needed a copy editor to run through it again. There were enough typos, missing words, and weirdly phrased sentences that I struggled a little at times to stay engaged in the story, which disappointed me because I loved the concept and the story so much.
Another thing that got to me a little was just how angsty Willow was. Maybe that’s part of why she read to me like she was sixteen to eighteen. I understand the author’s intent was to create this image of a girl who does not belong in the world to which she was born. This, in turn, sets her up to be the perfect foil for Suzy, who as an android does not belong in that world. Yet, it felt belabored to me at times. I would have loved to see that pared down a little and see more of Willow’s history and how she interacts with others in her society.
In the end, I feel mixed about this book. I loved the premise and the world building. But I struggled to get through the mechanics of the writing and some of Willow’s dwelling on her lack of cohesion with her world. I do think this book is worth reading, just maybe tempered a little in expectations.