Waidner grounds their surrealism in the history of England’s bigotry against queer people and immigrants; in the ideas and images of other writers, artists and musicians; and in recognizable sci-fi tropes ... 'What it’s like to exist on someone else’s terms? In someone else’s violent fiction?' If Sterling Karat Gold is a novel-length answer to these queries, it’s also an assertive repudiation of a world in which such questions must exist. That Waidner delivers such moral clarity with nonstop wit and invention makes their novel not just an admirable achievement but a pleasure to read.
A seditious headrush of a book; a fresh and provocative act of resistance to our morally slippery times. It’s endlessly associative, bursting with ribaldry and Tory-baiting satire ... an effervescent, supra-subversive adventure, held together (just) by a tenuous dream logic that is constantly surprising and delicious in its humour ... If the antic energy feels occasionally overheated, Waidner demonstrates they can effortlessly change gear, wrongfooting the reader with the starkly serious ... While Sterling Karat Gold’s imaginative afflatus is as confidently sustained as its predecessor, it adds an extra layer of satirical bite with its shocking ending.
Isabel Waidner’s third novel... takes its cue from Franz Kafka to portray, in sharp-edged prose, institutional violence and non-conformist resistance ... Sterling Karat Gold is not an easy read: it isn’t meant to be. Waidner is subverting conventions on behalf of the marginalized. The result is as impressive in its execution as it is urgent in its themes.
... a novel that defies the laws of literary physics—Waidner seems incapable of not surprising their readers, and the novel, despite its serious themes, seems like it had to be incredibly fun to write. Still, it’s a sobering look at the way underrepresented communities—migrants, nonbinary people—are treated ... This novel is part Franz Kafka, part Hieronymus Bosch, and part Monty Python, but mostly it’s completely sui generis. And it succeeds on every level a novel can.
... a vivid if unwieldy tale ... Though a thread involving Sterling time-traveling with Rodney spins out of control, Sterling’s ideas for their final play make for a satisfying note of revenge. Despite the bumps, this is great fun.