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Jack Faust

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  461 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Jack Faust is a breathtaking and masterful new spin on Goethe's story of a scholar who sells his soul to the Devil for the gift of unlimited knowledge.

But unlike the classic Mephistopheles, the seductive demon who approaches Swanwick's Johannes Faust is not the devil as we know him, but rather a representative of a mysterious race that seeks nothing less than the extermin

Hardcover, 337 pages
Published August 31st 1997 by Avon Books (T) (first published December 12th 1971)
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Feb 22, 2008 Werner rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of thought-provoking science fiction
"If there is no God, everything is permitted." --Fyodor Dostoevsky

"'Do what thou wilt' shall be the whole of the law!" --Aleister Crowley

Both of the quoted lines could well serve as epigraphs for this novel (though the author actually used three other quotes), and both summarize the major thrust of its message. Swanwick uses the Faust legend here as a literary conceit for a very dark and pessimistic meditation on the social, moral and spiritual results of modernity. The Goodreads description is
Nov 22, 2014 São rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Swanwick, rendido à personagem, presenteia-nos com um Fausto insatisfeito, que logo de início se questiona sobre o conhecimento que almejara e que de momento nada significa, não o convence. Queima praticamente todos os seus livros, sendo salvo pelo seu fiel discípulo Wagner, é considerado como louco pelos seus conterrâneos e durante um ataque de febre que o deixa completamente inconsciente, ele recebe a ajuda que tanto almejara.

Alguém oferece-lhe uma visão inesquecível sobre o universo
Feb 21, 2016 Cheshirka rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 05, 2010 Alan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Triumphant wills
Recommended to Alan by: Rebecca Blood
Faust said with sudden apprehension, "Yes. Yes, what do you want of me in return?"
"Only that you listen."


A demonic bargain, to be sure—in a sense, the same one I ask of you here. But Faust and Mephistopheles go further, of course, in this updated version of the old tale; what the demon asks Faust to listen to is nothing less than the whole of physical science, given centuries before its more natural advent in our universe. The demon makes it clear that its gifts are made from malice, but Fa
Dec 26, 2009 Amanda rated it really liked it
great so far!-- Wow, i've never read any of Swanwick's books before although i've had The Iron Dragon's Daughter by him for over a year. I have definitely been missing out, this guy is GOOD!
Jack Faust is a rewrite of Goethe's classic tale of a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in order to posess all the knowledge in the world, and beyond.
Ernie Hemingway
Feb 11, 2017 Ernie Hemingway rated it really liked it
Really clever book. I understand why Mr. Swanwick is considered such a good writer. I thoroughly enjoyed this.
Oct 29, 2016 Elaine rated it liked it
I liked the premise and the first half of the book but then it got too weird for me.
Dec 10, 2009 Flying_Monkey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of Faust has ancient roots: the over-reaching anti-hero who offers the core of his being in return for material benefit is present in many folk tales and legends. In its best-known form it is a tragic cautionary tale of mediaeval Christianity: the sacrifice of the soul for wordly power and knowledge. This is how both Marlowe and Goethe presented the message.

During and after the industrial killing frenzy of the Twentieth Century it became difficult to portray evil as 'outside': Thomas M
Sep 18, 2014 Taraskan rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Read his other works instead
Shelves: sf-f
As a longtime Swanwick fan I feel secure calling this one a misstep. The premise, outlined in the first third of the book with specific attention to setting, is brilliant and promising, only to be let down by a languid midsection that suffers from either too much or too little editing. There are characters given 2000 word descriptions which we never hear from again, one after another, few bearing more on the plot than a reason for Jack Faust to be gazing out his window (for example). The ever-so ...more
Nov 29, 2008 Johnny rated it liked it
Jack Faust is a retelling of the “Faust” legend. It is richly evocative of the medieval setting and presents Mephistopheles in the most fascinating way as a supernatural being who appears almost randomly as both disgusting and appropriate creatures—visible to the eyes of Faust only. The use of a first name to personalize the protagonist rather fooled me, particularly since the action of the novel all takes place in an alternate medieval history in Europe. The contemporary name led me to believe ...more
Rebecca (agirlirlblog, bekkilyn)
(2-20-11) This is the third time that I've started this book. I really wasn't in the mood to read it the first two times, so I'm hoping that's the reason I couldn't get into it rather than just finding it uninteresting. We'll see now that I'm more in the mood to read it.

Sometime later in the day: I'm still having difficulty getting pulled into this one. Maybe it's the writing style. I'm only on page 34 though, so will see if anything improves.

(2-21-11) I'm now on page 112 and it's improved a lit
Jan 07, 2009 Dergrossest rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paul Knighton
Nov 27, 2014 Paul Knighton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What can I say...?

Compelling, insightful, artful in pulling you ever on through each development, and breathtaking in its scope - that of describing an alternative timeline where 300-400 years worth of scientific advances were introduced artificially early through Faust and Mephistopheles.

As a result, with the aid of Wikipedia, I have learned something more about the origins of this plot meme.

Many characters are well drawn and Swanwick's wordcraft is definitely worth the read - even of character
Hope Smash
Aug 17, 2015 Hope Smash rated it really liked it
This book is a departure from what I would normally read. I like sci-fi/fantasy, but this story had a much darker outlook. It was a little hard to get into, the first chapter was very technical, but the pace picked up after that. I liked the take on Mephistophiles, it was an interesting spin on the character, and he occasionally offered some comic relief. I also very much liked Margarete/Gretchen. She was a strong and well written character. She seems a bit wishy-washy at first glance, but as th ...more
Jeff Rowe
Sep 23, 2013 Jeff Rowe rated it really liked it
Shelves: steam
Well, that was dark and depressing. That's why I gave it an extra star! Sort of a steampunk version of the Faustian legend. Who doesn't love a good pact-with-Mephistopheles story? I was hooked in the beginning when Faust says to Mephistopheles something like, "What makes you think all this knowledge will destroy humans? Maybe they'll use it to improve their lives?" The answer, "They could. But do you think they will?" Just posing that question alone pretty much tells you what's going to happen. ...more
An interesting mix of alternate history and Faustus. There are more than a few salient points that feel very contemporary. One thing that was particularly of interest is the ways in which characters could be misogynistic without the book being so. Margarete was able to reclaim her agency and even express that while she'd done things at the behest of others (and in a situation in which the balance of power wasn't always in her favor), she had a choice in all matters. The complexity of Margarete i ...more
Mar 25, 2012 Gary rated it really liked it
Clever reimagining of the Faustus legend. It begins evocative of the Middle Ages and concludes by being provocative of our own. Social psychologists have long been fascinated with the phenomenon of how well-intentioned, perhaps even personally virtuous individuals can be drawn to participate in the most awful things. The social science research often proves inadequate--explanations may only best come through the vehicle of story and metaphor. Here's the book's theme, expressed through the though ...more
May 16, 2012 Amanda rated it really liked it
This book is a retelling of the Faust story with a sort of Sci-fi/Fantasy twist. It seems Nihilistic at first at the end, with seemingly little hope that the human race can overcome the folly that leads to Faust's actions and their consequences. Hope is found, though if you follow the character of Margaret and the action she eventually takes. I would love to teach this book to my future English students in addition to or instead of Marlow's or Goethe's versions. Over all, pretty solid writing. S ...more
Whitney Altine
Jul 31, 2013 Whitney Altine rated it really liked it
A good interpretation for the modern audience.

The titular character is, as always, a man who deals with the devil in return for knowledge. In this case, the devil in question is a being not out of Christian teachings but of alien nature; his interest in humanity is never truly explained except that a being of perfect knowledge and eternal life is bound to get bored without pets to play with. Using his connection to the secrets of the universe, Faust changes the path of modern human history and,
Bruno Silva
Aug 02, 2011 Bruno Silva rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Explora de forma interessante a sede de conhecimento infindo pelo qual Fausto vende a alma a Mefistófeles, mas ao qual os homens não conseguem corresponder de forma tão rápida (cada descoberta acaba por ter o seu tempo).
A relação dele com Gretchen é algo interessante mas no final o livro perde-se em devaneios e fica sem grande interesse.MEDIANO
May 30, 2011 Erin rated it it was ok
Sometimes I think this book was written by a dark twisted genius. I remember when I read this feeling overwhelmed and repulsed because the world view was so dark but so interesting. Still, today, I have occasional flashbacks. The same holds true about Swanwick's book The Iron Dragon's Daughter. But, because I still have that taste in my mouth like food gone bad, I give it two stars.
Jan 28, 2014 Raeyn rated it it was ok
I think that this is one of those books that I am going to have to re-read to appreciate the full import of. The pacing felt awkward in parts, and perhaps my lack of familiarity with the original Faustian tales also contributed to my incomplete satisfaction. But I will read it again, because I suspect I will enjoy it more the second time through.
Linda Novak
Aug 21, 2016 Linda Novak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An odd sad book

I had to keep reading to see what happened next. It's an allegory that leaves you feeling empty and sad. The lovely use of language is a joy. It is a heavy reminder of the mean world we live in.
Florin Pitea
May 12, 2013 Florin Pitea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What if Faust had triggered the Industrial Revolution? For a detailed review of this alternate history, please visit my blog:
Jun 06, 2011 scarlettraces rated it liked it
just failed to engage. i remember not liking it much the first time round as well, but then i'd just read the iron dragon's daughter, and the comparison was rather too harsh.
Jul 02, 2008 Jsmoker rated it really liked it
Very interesting book. Makes you think a lot about humanity. Very vivid and lude, though so the light hearted beware. This book put the book Faust (the original) on my list of books to read.
Sep 27, 2016 Steven rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

Skips around, not making a logical conclusion. Put on your most Imaginitive hat, u out will need it to read this book.
Feb 07, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it
Very very Crowleyian - even going so far as to include "Do What Thou Wilt Shall be the Whole of the Law". I really liked it.
Jul 14, 2011 Emma rated it did not like it
Honestly, I feel I wasted my time reading this book.
Interesting premise, but it didn't turn out as good as I had expected.
Emmy Jackson
Feb 08, 2014 Emmy Jackson rated it really liked it
Ah, tragedies. The best ones are like slow-motion trainwrecks, compelling and infuriating and, in the end, supremely bleak. This is one of those.
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