Here’s the Gaylactic Spectrum Award 2011 handout with the shortlist and what the judges had to say about the book:
If Charles Dickens had written an alternate reality novel about war, love, sex, death and very strange puppets you would have this year’s Gaylactic Spectrum Award winner, Under the Poppy, an amazing novel by Kathe Koja. The novel offers a rich, evocative alternate reality that is close but not quite our world, an exploration of the demimonde of the theatre and the brothel, and the tale of two lovers, Rupert and Istvan, and their tortured relationship.
Decca and Rupert own The Poppy, a brothel with a reputation for the unique and sometimes bizarre. At the core of the story is a love triangle: Decca loves Rupert but Rupert is deeply in love with Decca’s brother Istvan, a puppeteer whose marionettes know more than a thing or two about decadence. The story is set against the backdrop of war and turmoil in one of the Victorian era’s most sophisticated cities. Rupert and Istvan try to escape from the seedy underworld into high society only to find themselves embroiled in another complicated relationship. Like actors in a play or marionettes, their fate seems to be determined by others who hold the power and strings.
Under the Poppy breaks a lot of rules: point-of-view shifts, convoluted mysterious plots full of violence and decadence, relationships that run the gamut from accepted to beyond forbidden, and witty graphic language. In Koja’s skillful hands, the novel engages the reader from the start, provides a way to taste and smell the world through brilliantly-crafted prose, and presents a heart-wrenching romance. A mature love story that doesn’t flinch from revealing the truth about life in the demi-monde, Under the Poppy is well worth the read