Why did I love this book?
Like its classic predecessor, The Cipher, Kathe Koja’s second novel brilliantly navigates artistic and romantic movements between the somatic and the transcendent, the erotic and the morbid, and ultimately between creativity and destruction. The book centers on metal sculptor Tess’s burgeoning relationship with Bibi, a transgressive performance artist whose radical visions aspire to an extreme embodiment of posthuman aesthetics.
Incorporating Tess’s metal sculptures into her performances, Bibi explores increasingly intense modes of expression through self-mutilation, cutting, and scarification, and the book plunges fearlessly into the parallel arcs of an eroding love and an increasingly deadly obsession. Koja’s prose bristles with a violent passion channeled into hyperfocus, deftly bounding between her characters’ intense interiorities and vivid descriptions of environments and embodied experiences.