by Alyssa Rosenberg
Perhaps I've just stumbled upon them all at once, and perhaps it's just a reflection of me as a reader, but I feel as if I've come across a surprising number of very moving sci-fi and fantasy father-daughter relationships lately. First there was Kick-Ass, which was an utter mess of a movie but captured beautifully the deep comfort of shared thought, the obscene private argot, and sense of striving in a strong, deeply screwed-up, deeply loving father-daughter pair. The relationship between a reluctant right-hand man to a ruined king and his willful daughter in A Game of Thrones isn't quite such a mess. But I love that Ned gets Arya fighting lessons. In a world of restricted gender roles, only a loving father can see beyond them and embrace his daughter's happiness as a higher goal.
And now I'm devouring Justin Cronin's The Passage (in light of the subject matter, crazed semi-vampires who was made the Americas a wasteland, perhaps that's a poor word choice). In a year when I've done a lot of very good reading, it's a knockout, thoughtful about language (some of our heroes use quarrels, not just arrows), fascinating in its geopolitics and vision of a great calamity in ways that remind me simultaneously of the Y graphic novels, Ender's Game, and The Giver. I plan to start reading from the beginning as soon as I'm done so I can figure out all the things I feel about it. But I know for sure that the shattered heart of the story is the first two sections, about a lost man and the girl who becomes his daughter. He is human, divorced, a shell sending men to deaths, of a kind, and inadvertently helping the world to its ruin. She is small, and strange, a hooker's daughter with a mangled stuffed rabbit, and perhaps the world's salvation. But their circumstances are irrelevant for their love for each other. It's a stunning example of what science-fiction and fantasy do best: reach back from the future or forward from the past to seize you by the throat, the gut, and squeeze.