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Yarn Paperback – December 1, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Armstrong's stand-alone prequel to his 2007 debut, Grey, is set in the same superficial, dystopic near-future ruled by fashion and consumerism. Cities like Seattlehama are towering bastions of "sex and shopping" where "saleswarriors" and "salessoldiers" battle for customers. Most people live in the sprawling agricultural areas called slubs. Tane Cedar, one of the world's top fashion designers, is confounded when his former lover Vada, a fugitive revolutionary, inexplicably appears near death in his showroom and asks him to complete the impossible task of finding illegal yarn and making a coat of it in just one day. Tane's quest confronts him with the tyranny and hopelessness of the world outside of the cities while answering his questions about his nightmarish childhood and enigmatic father. Armstrong's stylized tale is a profoundly moving fusion of visionary images and compelling social commentary. (Dec.)
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About the Author

Jon Armstrong is a speculative fiction writer. His first novel, Grey, was published in 2007 and was short-listed for the Philip K Dick Award. That same year, Jon was also nominated for the Campbell Award for Best New SF Writer.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 309 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books (December 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597802107
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597802109
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,087,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jon grew up outside Seattle, State College, PA., and Columbia, Maryland. His parents both have fine art and art education degrees and his childhood an extended art class. His early heroes were Buckminster Fuller and Jack Benny.

In 1986, after finishing a Liberal Arts degree at the University of Pittsburgh, he moved to New York and worked at a Japanese travel agency for several years and later had a short stint with Pan Am before the airline went bankrupt. Subsequently, he became a temp and gradually taught himself graphic design. As a graphic designer, he worked for such companies as United Media, Young & Rubicam, Archie Comics, HBO, and many others.

Jon hosts a bi-weekly mostly interview podcast called, If You're Just Joining Us. While most interviews have been with authors, other guests have included a nutritional anthropologist, a textile scientist, and a classical musician.

He currently lives in Queens, New York with his wonderful wife and child.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
What I loved:

It was the cover-art of this book that *really* grabbed me. I kept going back to where it was displayed at a FOGcon dealer table, and in the end decided to judge the book by its cover.

The world-building was brilliant. I loved the Japanese cast to the whole thing, and using Fashion as the guiding principle of society was intriguing and unique. The descriptions were wonderfully evocative.


There was some kind of mismatch between the plot and the place and pace. I felt the story wanted to be about the plot, but it kept getting overwhelmed by the world-building. The use of language, though inventive and apt, still required more effort than I wanted to make... there was perhaps a little too much of it? Like a brocade that's so densely figured that it detracts from all the other characteristics of the fabric. The continuing talk about the fabrics didn't feel "insider" so much as "swallowed a textile encyclopedia." It was difficult to get involved enough to care; I remained a distant spectator, even though I liked the protagonist.


That said, it also feels like one of those books where once you've understood the world, it's easier going. So I may well decide to read the sequel some time, and may enjoy it more.

This book was *very* visual. I can see movie rights in its future. And maybe a graphic novel if there isn't one already.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love, love love the mind of Jon Armstrong. His GREY was probably my favorite book I read in 2010, and one I discovered completely randomly in a bin at my local library. Why he isn't yet the overlord of his own fashion/literary cult...well, there is time.

Yarn takes place in the same Fashion-fueled dystopia of Grey. Or is that Fascion? The casual melding of totalitarian cruelty and high couture, with no moral distinction, is part of what makes his world so bitterly funny and so compelling.

The sentences this man writes can inspire me for weeks. "I am the corporate fashion slut of my dreams!" is one early example. Retail Warriors speak in "WarTalk" that is like Calvin Klein perfume ad copy as written by Joseph Conrad. There really is nothing quite like Yarn and Grey that I've found, and spending time in Mr. Armstrong's carefully and thoroughly-wrought world is as luxurious as fine cashmere kissing milk-white skin.

A few minor quibbles: Mr. Armstrong appears to be sinking comfortably into a slot known as 'speculative sci fi.' I don't know what that means, only that the parts of the book that sagged for me where the parts where I was most aware of the author trying to fit into a 'genre' (when the book took itself seriously as a sci-fi thriller/mystery mostly). I don't know if that is author or publisher driven, but I'd say go with your gut Mr. Armstrong and write what you want, the stranger the better--risk the messy plot and keep the WarTalk coming. Good writing is good writing, don't focus on the sci fi / fantasy labels, defy and transcend them.

Immediately after reading Yarn, I got Gary Shteyngart's "Super Sad True Love Story" on my kindle. Ironically, another near-future dystopian fiction. My review of that novel can be summed up as: 'meh.
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I knit and sew, and sometimes design clothing for myself, so I admit: I was prepared to condescend to Jon Armstong's book, Yarn. However, I speedily realized my error. Jon has been to design school and is miles ahead of me! I really thought I couldn't finish the book because it was so far over my head.

However, I got a grip on myself, finished reading the story, and enjoyed the amazing storytelling. I will say I personally spent the most time marveling over the machines Jon invented, trying to imagine how they worked.

The detailing in Yarn will blow you away. Forget what you think you know and let Jon lead you into his universe.

You can listen to Jon's first book, Grey, at Podiobooks.com for an introduction to his storytelling ability. Check out his podcast, If You're Just Joining Us, for the interview where Jon talked to the cover artist. It was great.
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