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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Rita Indiana

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To purchase Tentacle

Title: Tentacle
Author: Rita Indiana
Genre: Novel
Written: 2015 (Eng. 2018)
Length: 132 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Tentacle - US
La mucama de Omicunlé - US
Tentacle - UK
Tentacle - Canada
Tentakel - Deutschland
La mucama de Omicunlé - España
  • Spanish title: La mucama de Omicunlé
  • Translated by Achy Obejas

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Our Assessment:

B : sharp and dizzying

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 2/1/2019 Suzi Feay
TLS . 19/2/2019 Alexandra Marraccini

  From the Reviews:
  • "Tentacle shapeshifts dizzyingly around three time spans and a loosely connected group of characters, and takes on huge themes, including race and gender, the impact of tourism, apocalyptic events and ecological disaster. (...) Tentacle reads like Kathy Acker with a tighter narrative grip." - Suzi Feay, The Guardian

  • "Tentacle is as strange and beautiful a sea-change as its epigraph from The Tempest suggests. (...) The multiple narrators are all both Prospero and Ariel, variously and at once empowered and enslaved, protean creatures and wizardly orchestrators of changes -- human and para-divine. (...) In its use of interlocking chapters and historical dialogue, Tentacle also recalls David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. (...) Its translator, Achy Obejas, brings the volume to English-language readers with a special bruja-cyborg flare -- at once witchy, almost shamanistically intuitive about the nature of language, and yet precise." - Alexandra Marraccini, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Tentacle begins in 2027, in a Dominican Republic that suffered an environmental catastrophe several years earlier, its strongman president Said Bona in part responsible for an accident among whose consequences was that the entire Caribbean had been turned into: "a dark and putrid stew", one of the 'three disasters' that: "had finished off practically every living thing under the sea".
       The story opens with Acilde, a former rent-boy who is actually a girl but desperate to physically change gender; her only ambition is to save up the fifteen thousand dollars for a course of Rainbow Brite, "an injection making the rounds in alternative science circles that promised a complete sex change without surgery". She's now found employment at Esther Escudero's, a highly-regarded Santera widely thought to be the woman responsible for President Bona's success; she's helicoptered to a session with the president weekly (though, as is later revealed, there's another connection between the country's autocrat and this seer). A centerpiece in Esther's house is an altar, with a replica of a large Greek jar; inside it is an incredibly valuable (since most aquatic life has been wiped out) sea anemone -- valuable enough to easily pay for the Rainbow Brite Acilde is desperate to get .....
       Acilde does get her hands on the anemone, and through it on the Rainbow Brite; the injection works -- but the transformation is also then crowned by the mystical creature, which comes with consequences that Esther already foresaw and hoped for, bifurcating Acilde and connecting the (now-)him with, essentially, a clone who appears in the past, in the 1990s, who takes the name Giorgio Menicucci. The idea is that that Acilde-in-the-past -- maneuvered by a sort of mental remote control by present-day Acilde -- can change the past, preventing the disasters that have lead to the current, horrific situation; Esther recognized Acilde to be the chosen one (for this mission), and even President Bona is in on it.
       Even before Acilde gets there -- to the past -- the story shift to those 1990s, where would-be artist Argenis has been reduced to working as 'Psychic Goya' in a call center. He is a talented artist, nicknamed Goya at art school, but as one professor explained to him: "You have impeccable technique but nothing to say", and his fine craftsmanship is out of place among the work of the other students, who have a much better grasp of the times. Yes, Acilde, too, is in a way in the wrong time -- and finds himself eventually even more so. But he does get an opportunity, to participate in a project set up by a husband-and-wife: Linda Goldman, who was active and interested in ecological preservation, and ... Giorgio Menicucci.
       The chapters that at first seem distinct, regarding time and characters, prove to have considerable overlap, even if the connections are often attenuated and, in various ways, limited. Indiana offers neat pictures of both a dystopian future Dominican Republic (and world) and a slice of the familiar one of recent times -- with a focus on the art and music of the period; she's very good, without overdoing it, on the art- (and art-school) scene, and the background film- and sound-tracks are well-used supporting material. The compact novel crams a great deal in, even as it covers extended periods of time -- not just in the leaps to different ages, but in, for example, Acilde taking (by-then-)his time in working to avert disaster, a whole decade of the future period.
       The writing is sharp and vivid, with Indiana impressively straddling the near-outrageous and the realistic; despite the novel's far-fetched premises and scenarios, Tentacle feels -- especially scene by (admittedly often very different) scene mostly somehow practically plausible. That said, there is a lot heaped into these relatively few pages; the story doesn't quite spin out control, but is very far-flung.
       An intriguing, lively little novel that's challenging -- in form, content, and its many aspirations -- but certainly sufficiently rewarding.

- M.A.Orthofer, 16 June 2019

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Tentacle: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Dominican author Rita Indiana was born in 1977.

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© 2019-2021 the complete review

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