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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Jasmin B. Frelih

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To purchase In/Half

Title: In/Half
Author: Jasmin B. Frelih
Genre: Novel
Written: 2013 (Eng. 2018)
Length: 356 pages
Original in: Slovenian
Availability: In/Half - US
In/Half - UK
In/Half - Canada
  • Slovenian title: Na/pol
  • Translated by Jason Blake

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Our Assessment:

B : entertaining variety, but strains a bit at being meaning-full

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 24/9/2018 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "This story of trauma, family, and ambition sustains its ghostly, ethereal tone and will be appreciated by readers looking for a mind-bending puzzle." - Publishers Weekly

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:

       In/Half is set in the near-future, the world having gone through 'the Great Cut' in late 2011 -- a collapse of the electronic interconnectedness, via the internet, that had marked 'the Great Cacophony' of the previous two decades. What differences there are with the present-day world are largely secondary features in In/Half: yes, there's the occasional advanced android, or the more pronounced effects of pollution and climate change, and the geo-political scene has changed considerably (not least with the successor to the collapsed United Nations, the rather more awkward United Interest Groups of People With the Same or at Least Somewhat Similar Values (yes, the UIGOPWTSOALSSV)), but the focus in the novel is very much on the domestic and everyday -- which, while not untouched by the future-changes, remains in many respects familiarly old-fashioned.
       There are three storylines in In/Half, unfolding separately (for most of the novel) in long chapters that the novel rotates through. First there's Evan Z. a creative theater director, invited to post-Tokyo Edo to stage FILLING - A Parable of Things That Used to Be. He seems more concerned with getting his daily fix of the drug mAk -- and trying to avoid one of his actors, the clingy Oksana -- but the production seems in reasonably good shape for the premiere which is only days away. Then there's Kras, one-time Minister of War and patriarch of a large family that has now assembled to celebrate his fiftieth birthday back home in Slovenia's Soča valley. Finally, there's Zoia -- a star poet --, set to perform at the Poetrylitics festival (organized by Max Adorcuse ("the name is an invention" -- it's actually Vaclav Smech)) in Brooklyn.
       There is one notable common element in all three story-lines: each of the main characters finds, without explanation, a plane ticket to Seam ("the military designation for the buffer zones" -- but you only find out which one when you get there). It's an opportunity for escape (or to be (re)united ...) -- but before any of them decides to follow through they have their busy current days to get through. Evan gets a new sponsor (a handler assigned to visiting foreigners), tries to avoid Oksana, goes in desperate search of some mAk, shows a too-superficial familiarity with Japanese literature when invited to dine with the Mishima family, and pisses off the author whose work the play is based on -- among other things. Kras has the whole "Wolf pack" of the Wolf family to deal with on his birthday -- with absent son Mitja managing to stir things up even more from afar. And Zoia has her performance to prepare for -- while ambitious would-be serial killer Ludovico Överchild stalks her and the venue.
       The chapters focused on Kras are packed with family -- several generations (Kras may have assumed the role of patriarch, but he isn't the family-elder; indeed, his father is also still alive) and a very diverse flock that includes a lesbian couple and a mother who adopted a Ugandan child, telling everyone he is infected with AIDS mainly to allow her to keep him to herself. Evan, abroad, doesn't have quite so many people encroaching on him: his two minders both are swept aside, and while Oksana keeps after him she can't tie herself nearly as closely to him as she'd like. Meanwhile, though he's been able to put some distance between himself and it, Evan also looks back to a relationship that almost held him back from his Edo-adventures. Zoia has also distanced herself from her past -- "I haven't dreams about home in ages. For that I am thankful" -- and floats in a very different orbit now.
       Of course, there are connections between the three main characters, and the novel moves towards reconnecting them; life -- lives -- are further upended in its conclusion
       Eventful, In/Half is a busy novel that does the three main story-lines -- family reunion around a birthday; an experimental play-production in a foreign environment; a poetry-performance/reading-happening -- well while also juggling lots of incidental (if also often significant) episodes that tug the stories (and the reader) in quite a few directions. Indeed, the incidental -- say, Evan's puttering through his day-routine -- gets lots of loving attention, and it makes for a reasonably entertaining ride -- though Frelih's efforts to imbue smaller things with a greater import (as suggested by the more portentous form of expression where things could be expressed much more simply) weighs things down a bit much. There's a fair bit of sententious over-writing here, too -- beginning with the opening paragraphs (hell, the novel's opening sentence is: "Desire is a rift"), or sentences such as: "The streets have merged into a single, sweltering dog's tongue" and the like.
       In/Half is best where it's most understated: Frelih does well in keeping the future-vision more or less in the background, tying it into the story without pointing it out too obviously. Similarly, the national ties and issues -- In/Half is a novel of Slovenia, the characters' home, the locale in which they are rooted -- aren't over-emphasized, but rather allowed to surface in the flow of the stories (which still allows everything from Tito to the shadow of the German-speaking world to come up), supported also by the well-handled family-focus (though it is a very extended, and varied, multi-generational lot).
       In/Half strains quite a bit under its ambitions, but it doesn't creak too badly. There are some very entertaining episodes here, very nicely done, without Frelih getting too carried away by the temptations of quirk, but it does try to pack in rather much with its three strong but long very separate storylines.
       Not quite a success, but In/Half is appealing and intriguing enough.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 November 2018

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In/Half: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Slovenian author Jasmin B. Frelih was born in 1986.

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© 2018 the complete review

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