Help me remember a young-adult alternate future novel from 1990-ish!
September 13, 2007 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Another "What book was it?!" question. Inside: Alternate futures, "gargoyles", skyscrapers and a reversion to feudal living.

When I was 6 or 7 (So we're talking 1990/91 here), my Mom got a book out of the library for it. I believe it may have skewed more young-adult than kids.

Here's what I remember:
The general premise was that the book seemed to take place in a sort of Medieval setting. But as the pages wore on there were references to skyscrapers and modern items, indicating that it was in the not-so-far future. There were some references to, I think, gargoyles that had either torn the buildings down or policed the skies to make sure they didn't go back up.

The main characters were children, I think they were cared for by a Grandfather.

I believe they were at a carnival at some point, almost certainly at a freakshow.

The author was a woman (I think.) and I think the book garnered some number of awards so it can't be too obscure.

I've been trying to track it down ever since. I never finished it- Hell, I don't even think I got that far in- but it's always been knocking around my memory. Help!
posted by GilloD to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry to not contribute anything, but that sounds like a book I'd really love to read. I'm going to second your question :P
posted by tehloki at 4:36 PM on September 13, 2007

Thirding here. *wince*
posted by bkudria at 4:58 PM on September 13, 2007

Response by poster: Geez guys. Quit getting my hopes up! Anyone know of any other outlets that might be helpful?
posted by GilloD at 5:45 PM on September 13, 2007

Could it be Rats and Gargoyles? The reviews are pretty entertaining and it would be funny if it were this book, because it seems no one can finish it. It's from 1991, written by a woman, and it's got gargoyles and cities and is set during medieval times.
posted by iconomy at 6:31 PM on September 13, 2007

Response by poster: Close. But not it. It was very definitely set in the future, albeit in a semi-regressed society. There were certainly allusions to modern technology and very definitely skyscrapers. I think there was a sense of men being punished for building so high.

I'll check out her other books and report back.
posted by GilloD at 6:41 PM on September 13, 2007

Response by poster: Nope. None of them are the one I'm looking for. They seemed oddly familar, but maybe that's what a nearly two decade long lapse will do to ya. The fact that it was ZOMG THE FUTURE wasn't really the focus of the novel, although I remember it being how my Mom got me to read it.
posted by GilloD at 6:47 PM on September 13, 2007

Darn. Ok, I'll keep looking then. A question for you - why did you put the word gargoyles in quotes? Do you think they're called something else in the book? I ask because I'm using it as one of my search terms. Another question - do you specifically remember the book being a new release when you read it, or could it actually be older than 1990s?
posted by iconomy at 6:52 PM on September 13, 2007

Response by poster: I put in quotes because it as almost certainly a figure in the book, I think they loomed over the society as a reminder of man's hubris. But it could also have been a reference to the airplanes of the past. I'm almost certain that they figure prominently either way.

It could be older, but I think my Mom picked it out on the strength of it's recommendation, it maybe had a sort of buzz around it or she was told about it which makes me think it was new-ish. Also, we had 2 libraries in town. The adult library and the kids library.

The adult library carried a relatively small selection of young adult books and when they got "old" they'd be demoted to the stacks or to the kid's library. So if she snagged it from the adult library, it would have had to have been new-ish. I also seem to remember seeing it again in the adult library not long after I returned it unfinished.

I sent this into the Onion's Ask AV Club, so hopefully, maybe, there'll be some more help out there.
posted by GilloD at 7:03 PM on September 13, 2007

This might help too - a list of (mostly American) major book awards.
posted by iconomy at 7:19 PM on September 13, 2007

Some lists of post-apocalyptic fiction books; might help if any of the titles ring a bell.

One book ID site. I know there is another, devoted mainly to sci-fi/fantasy YA books, which is often recommended here for this kind of question, but for the life of me can't find it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:31 PM on September 13, 2007

I'm not sure that this is the story you're remembering (on preview, it almost certainly isn't), but your description reminded me of Greg Bear's 1982 story "Petra".

(Short story shorter, God died about a hundred years before the start of the story, and as a result reality sort of came unraveled. The narrator is a young gargoyle descended from a human woman and a cathedral statue come to life.)
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:20 PM on September 13, 2007

Response by poster: It's not the Greg Bear story, but it did jog my memory a bit. I believe the denizens of my mystery book lived in the shadow of a God or in the agents of a God. It was opressive, at any rate.
posted by GilloD at 10:23 PM on September 13, 2007

Since there's no ID as yet, I've sent it over to rec.arts.sf.written, the denizens of which are often quite incredible at IDing stories like this. I'll try to update here with questions or, hopefully, answers, but if someone sees a response in the thread don't wait to post it back here. I may have gone to a wedding.
posted by edd at 4:25 AM on September 14, 2007

J.G.Ballard, High Rise.

Almost certainly not the book you're looking for. But possibly of interest to you, tehloki, bkudria, etc.
posted by googly at 5:51 AM on September 14, 2007

Response by poster: Edd-

Thank you! I really appreciate it and I'll keep an eye on the thread.
posted by GilloD at 7:29 AM on September 14, 2007

The book you're looking for is not Elizabeth Hand's Winterlong, either, but that had a lot of the feudal-ish society (though more of a Renaissance Italy in some ways) with the Statue of Liberty poking out of the sand on the beach sort of thing, combined with lots of Shakespeare. Possibly of interest, as googly said.
posted by fidelity at 8:03 AM on September 14, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, not it, but I'll check it out. Fall is the of year when I drop all my literary pretensions, put McSweeney's on the shelf and gorge myself on SciFi for a month or two straight.
posted by GilloD at 8:11 AM on September 14, 2007

Hunting of the Last Dragon has a freak show and is set in Medieval times. Gah. This is making me nuts.
posted by iconomy at 6:54 PM on September 14, 2007

You might try the Loganberry book stumper
People post descriptions of children's books, and many other people try to figure out what they are.
I have found many beloved-but-half-forgotten books this way.
it costs two dollars to post a description, but you can search the archives of 'solved mysteries' for free.
posted by smoakes at 12:34 PM on September 15, 2007

Do you remember anything about the cover?
posted by iconomy at 4:01 PM on September 15, 2007

Response by poster: Heh. It's driving YOU crazy? I don't remember anything about the cover, sorry! I'm going to post on Loganberry in the morning and cross my fingers.
posted by GilloD at 7:14 PM on September 15, 2007

The City, Not Long After sounds cool and sort of similar. 1990, Pat Murphy.

Post back here when you figure it out, yes?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:48 PM on September 15, 2007

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