Over the weekend I finally got around to listening to Indexing. It first came out as a Kindle serial, arriving an episode every two weeks. As a serial it was available only in North America so I “read” it as a whole, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal.
Let me preface this by saying that I am entirely biased about this book. I LOVE fairytales, adore the modern adaptations of fairy-tales even more, enjoy the heck out of police/agent shows (CSI, Criminal Minds, NCIS, you name it I’ve probably watched at least some of it), love to listen to Mary Robinette Kowal narrate stuff and so far I haven’t read anything by Seanan McGuire that I haven’t liked (although I have heard a rumor that she paid at least some of her college tuition by writing Harlequin romances which experience tells me I don’t enjoy. Note that I’ve never seen it mentioned by McGuire herself or any confirmed authority, so it may well just be a rumor). Something about her writing just speaks to me muchly. So I was entirely primed to love this book. And love it I did.
Indexing tells the story of Agent Henrietta Marchen and her team of ATI (Aarne-Thompson Index) Management Bureau Agents. Their job is to prevent fairy-tales from coming to their, usually deadly, conclusion and thus keeping the force of Narrative at bay. Henrietta herself is categorized as a possible Snow White and since her mother was a Sleeping Beauty and her father was the doctor who raped her compelled by the Narrative, she actually has blood-red lips and skin as white as snow, with all the creepiness and problems that come with it. The rest of her team include agent Sloane Winters (an interrupted evil stepsister), archivist Jeffrey Davis (a shoemaker from the elf stories) and public relations active Andrew Robinson (an ordinary civilian).
The whole story is a set of twelve novellas, each featuring a case of at least one memetic incursion (fairytale narrative in progress) for the team to solve and/or stop while also furthering the overall plot. Ranging from Sleeping Beauty through The Little Mermaid to Mother Goose. The whole thing is an incredibly beautiful example of choosing to act. Act against your nature, against temptation, choosing to act when it’s easier not to, choosing to make the dangerous decision, choosing to not do evil. Always threatened by looming paperwork.
Because McGuire has actually studied folklore, she is very familiar with a lot of the stories on the ATI, including their variations. The variations that bring both gorgeous reality and provide a lot of the conflict.
Can you tell how hard I’m trying not to spoil the whole book by squeeing about all the things I found wonderful about it? I loved, loved, LOVED it. Which is why you should also totally read it right now. Or let Mary Robinette Kowal read it to you. Because hearing her read the princessy-sections is hilarious.
And just because it’s so awesome it literally made me clap my hands with joy, here’s the Best. Threat. Ever, in the history of threats: “Uh-huh. Did you call them off? Because we really don’t have the time or manpower to deal with the police right now. I know this is piling shit on top of shit, but seriously, if you make me try to talk to some beat cop who doesn’t want to be here, I’m going to scream. And if I scream, the bluebirds will find me.”