Yarn is a standalone prequel to Jon Armstrong’s novel Grey, set in a dystopic future where fashion is literally do or die.
A well-woven tale
Yarn begins with a mission. A former lover—“the girl who got away”—stumbles upon the studio steps of the renowned tailor Tane Cedar. She demands a dangerous deed of him: a custom coat crafted from the illegal and addictive Xi yarn. As Tane embarks on a quest to obtain the now-elusive Xi, a parallel story emerges, disclosing how Tane rose from his job as a yarn thief to a successful, top designer. These two threads—past and present—are woven together with masterful skill and twists galore, revealing, to us and to Tane, what he is really made of.
One small qualm I had regarding the presentation is that the present—Tane’s Xi quest—is indicated by italics. As the book progressed and the past and present converged, I grew to understand the choice for such an indication, but large bodies of text presented in italics were hard on the eyes and I was tempted to skip them. Thankfully, the tale is so fast-paced and engaging that I nonetheless devoured every word.
Front row seats to Seattlehama and beyond
The young Tane, a slubber boy who knew nothing but corn and poorly-constructed t-shirts, is thrown into the mad city of Seattlehama. When we accompany Tane on his journey into Seattlehama, we experience the same eye-opening awe, confusion, arousal, and fascination as he does. This is a fully immersive experience complete with striking visuals, culture, and language.
Armstrong invents a new dialect, warTalk, as barked out by saleswarriors. A sampling: “[N]ow that you have seen majesty, you will retreat and live in the lint below your automated knitting contraptions.” “Go or I will release the blind snakes of your gut!” When dueling saleswarriors draw out their sharp knitting needles, it’s 40% amusing, 60% frightening, and 100% original. The only drawback in Armstrong’s razzle-dazzle approach is that some of the twists and turns, while clever, carried less emotional heft than I would have expected. But the punk-suffixed genre prides itself in cool, of which Yarn is the epitome.
Yes, Yarn is cool, but it’s a cool imbued with passion. I loved that fashion rules this world, and that brands not only identify clothing but also people. Each brand inspires allegiance as well as declarations of war upon all other brands. As one character professes, “don’t let anyone ever tell you that fashion is superficial. It’s the only thing that distinguishes humans from the critters.”
Why should you read this book?
Don’t be intimidated if you’re no fashionista; no technical knowledge is required to enjoy Yarn. Read Yarn to witness the genesis of fashionpunk. Read Yarn to know who to thank when you begin seeing a wave of artistic and stylish costumes at conventions. Read Yarn so you won’t kick yourself later.