Yarn by Jon Armstrong [Book Review]

Armed with just his yarn pulls, scissors, Mini-Air-Juki handheld sewing machine , and his wits …

Yarn is and isn’t your ordinary cyberpunk story. Yarn is about Tane Cedar a master tailor and the story takes place in the world of fashion. My first thoughts were that this is outside my comfort reading zone but the stunning cover art and the blurb’s talk about fashionpunk, saleswarriors and a love story reeled me in and I am very happy it did.

Like in most good stories it involves a woman. In this case an ex-lover who is on the run from the authorities when she comes to Tane late one night. “Where have you been? What happened? What are you wearing?” are his first questions because that is the kind of man he is. She tells him she is dying and asks him of a favor. She wants him to make her a garment of the illegal psychedelic Xi yarn to ease her last hours. He accepts before she disappears again and the rest of the book tells the story of how he goes about tracking down and acquiring the yarn to fulfill her last wish. The author portions out key pieces of Tane’s past from his youth in the slums to yarn-thief to lover to fashion genius that ties in to and explains what is happening in the main story line. That worked very well for me here.

The story contains delightful black humor and Tane Cedar is an interesting character with an inner dignity to him throughout all his ordeals that makes him easy to love. The other characters are more superficial but there are some really interesting ones like Brunne the fashion dictator of Seattlehama, Vada his ex-lover revolutionary and a few more.

The world building is on par with the story and the characters. “Seattlehama: the volcano-powered sex and shopping capital of the world” is the name of a chapter and a good description of the setting. The slums or slubs where Tane grew up are hash places where lives are cheap and workers are recycled to nourish the plants. The fashion scene is as much a place of fighting and warriors as in any cyberpunk story but it also helps setting Tane apart in his focus on the yarn. Greater truths about the world are uncovered as the story progresses.

Yarn is a delightful dark comedy about a dignified master tailor with some serious skills whose world is torn apart one day by an old lover. It lives up to its name; it is indeed a yarn of the best kind, one that captivates you from the first page to the last. This is the first I read by Jon Armstrong and I am mightily impressed. I am really interested to read Grey his debut now. This is a standalone prequel to Grey. Highly recommended.


Title: Yarn
Author: Jon Armstrong
Cover art: Anthony Palumbo
Genre: Fashion Punk
Paperback: 309 pages
Publisher: Night Shade Books (2010)
Copy: Bought it from Amazon
Order from: Amazon US | UK

From the neo-feudalistic slubs, the corn-filled world of Tane’s youth, to his apprenticeship among the deadly saleswarriors of Seattlehama–the sex-and-shopping capital of the world–to the horrors of a polluted Antarctica, Yarn tells a stylish tale of love, deceit, and memory.

Tane Cedar is the master tailor, the supreme outfitter of the wealthy, the beautiful, and the powerful. When an ex-lover, on the run from the authorities, asks him to create a garment from the dangerous and illegal Xi yarn–a psychedelic opiate–to ease her final hours, Tane’s world is torn apart.

Armed with just his yarn pulls, scissors, Mini-Air-Juki handheld sewing machine, and his wits, Tane journeys through the shadowy underworld where he must untangle the deadly mysteries and machinations of decades of deceit.

Following up on his highly acclaimed and Philip K. Dick Award-nominated “fashionpunk” novel Grey, Jon Armstrong explodes back on the scene with Yarn.