‘Everything is Geography.’ Ty Kornotz, professor of, yes, geography.
Mud and Glass by Laura E Goodin, an affectionate satire of the academic world, is asludge with villians oozing about in layers even more murky than the Purple Bay Mud Flats. Unwittingly, Dr Celeste Carlucci, while researching the odd behaviour of those flats, becomes the target of everyone who thinks she can help them find the missing Littoral Codex and thus the key to power and glory. Especially power. Their power.
‘Everything is dramatic arts’. Russ Garrick, Proffessor of, unsurprisingly, dramatic arts.
In this zany romp we have media billionaires (ruthless), the Board of Governors (ditto), The Littoral League (ruthlessness rookies), a curiously massive security team (ruthless on payment), librarians (never underestimate librarians), newly minted ninjas, and a resistance movement of geriatric academics. And there is the truly scary Miffy, former self-declared girlfriend of Celeste’s love interest, Russ.
‘Only the really devious ones get tenure with no problems’. Grumpy Dr Garrick. He and the retirees form Brave Celesete’s Band of Octogenarian Fighters.
Tenureless and struggling to survive until payday on toast and marmalade, Celeste is as keen to defend her cache of cookies from her friends as on dodging her multiplying enemies. Besides, how do you dodge them when you don’t know who they are? With Pace as a friend, mind you, perhaps enemies would be safer company.
‘So I dangle someone over a lava pit, once. So what? Is no one ever going to let me forget it?’ Dr Pace (Don’t Call Me Hypatia) Garoux.
Celeste gets shot at, assaulted and dragged along secret tunnels. Will anyone even explain to her what all this is about? It’s a considerable hindrance to lecturing bored students about alluvial flow patterns even though her post-assault battered face does raises her credibility in their estimation. Wait a minute .. Alluvial flows? Could the key lie in … Geography?
I loved Mud and Glass . It is much more than digs at the poverty of the tenureless tribe, and the insistence of every academic that their’s is the only discipline that counts. Laura E Goodin also shoots word-missiles (is not ‘Everything literature’, afterall) at the plot to starve Purple Bay University of funds and to appropiate research for the betterment of billionaires everywhere while keeping the masses in their place. Do we not know of this same and all too successful plot by our own corporation-steered governments? With intellect and altruism their only strengths, persuasion and street theatre their only weapons, and a library to die for their only equipment, can our motley band strike back at the forces of greed and evil? Can you and I?
More books from Laura E Goodwin: After The Bloodwood Staff, and The Dancing Mice and The Giants of Flanders.
PS. After reading Mud And Glass, I feel in a strong position to advise you to not ever order a cup of macadamia-chilli icecream, even if you do want to ‘feel more alive’.