What a delight it is to share my review of Mud and Glass by Laura E. Goodin!
About Mud and Glass
Life is fairly workaday for Dr Celeste Carlucci, a professor at Krasnia’s finest university, until her best friend and colleague Pace involves Celeste in her research.
Before long, Celeste is being shot at from a hovering helicopter, attacked on a moonlit mountain path, and followed by shadowy minions – on the trail of the Littoral Codex, an ancient and indecipherable book.
The race is on to figure out its secrets. On one side are Celeste and her colleagues, armed with nothing but enthusiasm, brilliant minds, and the principles of geography. Against them are the repressive university governors and their jackbooted campus security guards; the rich and power-hungry Praxicopolis family; and a renegade group of researchers, the Littoral League.
Will this ragtag bunch outwit their foes before it’s too late?
As the cover suggests, Mud and Glass is a quirky adventure story brimming with both action and comedy. Goodin takes her readers straight into the action as her protagonist, geography academic Celeste, helps her two colleagues recover a strange and awfully heavy box. From there, Celeste is thrust into a world of intrigue. She is not sure who she can trust as she encounters an array of characters and groups all with vested interests in the Littoral Codex. The plot pivots on the desire of these various disparate groups to lay their hands on the glass filters that will enable them to decipher this strange book. The race is most definitely on!
Mud and Glass is on one level a fantasy novel, in that the protagonist finds herself, somewhat reluctantly, on a quest in an imaginary world not quite but awfully similar to our own. Fantasy or fanciful – it really doesn’t matter, as ultimately Mud and Glass is a work of satire. Perhaps the novel belongs beside Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it is certainly reminiscent of both Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and AS Byatt’s Possession, in terms of the themes and ideas that motivate the plot. Yet Goodin’s novel is nothing like those two much heavier works of fiction. Mud and Glass is at once riveting and lighthearted, and at times a romantic read.
Goodin’s plotting is excellent, as is her characterisation, many of the minor characters vividly and convincingly portrayed. The pace is fast, the story enormously entertaining. I especially love the way Goodin portrays Celeste as an impoverished, half-starved and perpetually ravenous academic craving tenure. Mud and Glass is probably not a book to be read if you are feeling hungry, unless you have a ready supply of sustenance!
A light read Mud and Glass is, but it is not without depth. Quite the contrary, I found the novel insightful and thought-provoking. Through the lens of her protagonist, Goodin provides a powerful allegory for all the ‘have-nots’ the world over, pitting their wits against the corporate ‘haves’ who hold all the power. In Mud and Glass this latter group is represented by the university governors, but above all by the Praxicopolis dynasty. Now there is a word worth unpacking!
Unpretentious, punchy and upbeat, and filled with wit, Mud and Glass is an absorbing and compelling read, truly a novel to devour.