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Pavane

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  1,767 ratings  ·  150 reviews
In the year 1588, Queen Elizabeth was assassinated. That single tragedy set off a whole series of events, resulting in the Spanish Armada's defeat of England and subsequent demise of Protestantism. Now it's the 20th century, and the Church of Rome reigns supreme. People live a pastoral existence of guilds and farming, with technology held back to the level of the steam loc ...more
Paperback, 277 pages
Published February 27th 2001 by Del Rey Books (first published 1968)
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Community Reviews

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Mona Temchin
Review of Pavane

Beautifully Written Fantasy Stories which Left Me a Bit Cold



It seems like today's steampunk movement (including writers like China Mieville) owes a lot to Keith Roberts. I was surprised to find out that many steampunkers actually know about "Pavane", since Roberts, a British writer who died in 2000, was hardly a household word.

Roberts' book, "Pavane", published in 1968, is a group of loosely connected sf/fantasy stories/novellas that take place in Britain mostly around 1968 (al
...more
Adam
Queen Elizabeth is assassinated, the Spanish armada invades England, and Catholics rule Europe, keeping sciences at a relative standstill. Set in a 20th century England of this time line ruled by superstition, wild animals, bandits, smugglers, and inquisitions. Technology is frozen at steam trains, telegraphs (semaphore being the main communication device), a mix of medieval and 18th century weaponry, some cars, and simple radios. Rather than dwell on the “what if” of this scenario Roberts divid ...more
Kat  Hooper
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Pavane, by Keith Roberts, is a beautiful collection of six connected stories written in an alternate England where Queen Elizabeth was assassinated and Philip II won the throne of England. The Protestant Reformation never occurred and Europe, as well as the New World, fell under the control of the Pope. Now it’s 1968 and because the Roman Catholic Church has held back technological advances from the people, the English still live in a feudal society comple
...more
Scott D.
How to describe Pavane? Two things are simple to say: first, it's a fix-up novel, or a mosaic. A collection of stories set in the same universe that are brought together and presented as a novel.

Second, it's an alternate history. In 1588, says the prologue, Queen Elizabeth I was assassinated, which set into motion a series of events that prevented the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church (the political, militant Catholic Church) ended up controlling half the world. These stories take plac
...more
John
Seminal alternative history. Consists of several related short stories set in a radically different 20th Century England (and world) under the thumb of the all powerful Roman Catholic Church. The setup was good, as was the first story, but my attention wavered from there. The stories were rather uneven, and in the midst of the interesting allohistorical details, Roberts keeps weaving "the faeries" and "the old ones" into the tales. To an extent, this is understandable given the poor education an ...more
Nancy Oakes
An absolutely stunning book that I read straight through without putting down. Oh well, so the laundry gets done tomorrow. This one I VERY highly recommend, and I know I'll read it again. If you like alternative/alternate history, this is a must-read. The writing is superb.

brief peek:

A Pavane is a dance "something stately and pointless, with all its steps set out. With a beginning and an end..." (247. It was a courtly dance, moving very slow, where the dancers threaded in and out. The notion of
...more
Manny
Some random highlights from this rather fine parallel world novel:

- Semaphore stations can operate in full duplex mode, carrying messages simultaneously in both directions.

- When issuing an ultimatum, it's unwise to stand directly in front of a loaded cannon.

- Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Simon
A group of somewhat vaguely connected stories set in contemporary Dorset, only not as we know it because England is a mere vassel state of Rome (along with the rest of the world). Dominated and repressed by the Catholic church, many freedoms restricted, scientific progress retarded, linguistically and culturally more fragmented, people go on living their everyday lives although some dream of freedom...

With a dense rich prose, alluding to supernatural themes, this reads more like fantasy than SF.
...more
Margaret
Imagine a world in which Queen Elizabeth I was assassinated in 1588, in which the Spanish Armada defeated the English, and in which in the 20th century the Catholic Church controls all of Europe and the New World, suppressing all technology beyond the level of the steam locomotive.

This is the world of Pavane, a book of six more-or-less connected short stories (called "measures", in the dance metaphor of the title) followed by an epilogue, or "coda". Pavane is remarkable not for the carefully wo
...more
Elizabeth
Aug 31, 2013 Elizabeth rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Nicola Griffith
Shelves: fiction-fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Clarice
Pavane is described as a slow processional dance common in Europe during the 16th century, which makes this an appropriate title for Keith Roberts’ alternate history told in a measured, lyrical prose comprised of 6 measures and a coda. All the “Measures’ could probably stand alone as short stories as many reviewers have mentioned, but they are all connected and, like the dance, are much more beautiful and meaningful if experienced together and in order.

I listened to the Audible Audiobook (read b
...more
Chris
It is Anno Domini 1968. Over a hundred years earlier, in 1588, Queen Elizabeth was assassinated. The Spanish Armada’s decisive victory brought most of Europe under the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran rebels in the low countries crushed underfoot. The heavy hand of the church rests over Angle Land, and while its power lies secure in Londinium there is unrest brewing in the countryside—brigands roaming the moors, threat of rebels and heretics, superstitious rumors of faeries a ...more
Rod
I am often surprised in looking back at now-vintage SF in just how...well, strange it can be. Experimental. Literary. Not all at once...not always successful...but writers were pushing at the form and laying the groundwork for folks like Mieville and Stephenson and Gibson. I'd put Keith Roberts in that category. This is a book of loosely connected stories set in an England (and a world) that never experienced the Reformation. Roberts does not feel compelled to tell us EVERYTHING about this world ...more
Andrew Obrigewitsch
A very interesting classes Sci-Fi/Fantasy short story collection all set in an alternate history. I'm not going to go into the plot as others have already done this.

The stories are all loosely connected in one way or another. And I found some to be a lot better than the others, I personally thought the last story was the best of the lot. They are all well written, it's just that one tends to enjoy some stories over others.

A recommended read for all fans of Sci-Fi.
Chris
One of the best known of John Dowland’s collection of airs called Lachrime (‘Tears’) is the heart-rending ‘Flow My Teares’ from his Second Booke of Songs or Ayres of 1600. It is in the form of a pavane, a slow and stately dance of the period, the sections structured here as AABBC (where C is the coda or tailpiece and A and B contrasting melodies). Whether Keith Roberts intended it so or not, it’s possible to use Dowland’s words as a counterpoint to Roberts’ narrative, and that’s what I intend to ...more
Doreen
So that was weird. I first encountered this book in college where, haunting the oddly stocked shelves of the library, I stumbled across the Gollancz version: no blurb, no explanation, just a bright yellow dust jacket with the title, author and the symbol of the Crab people in brick red on the cover. Desperate for any reading material, I checked it out, and after a slow-ish start (because I did not give a shit about trains and I felt that The Lady Margaret chapter went on and on about their handl ...more
Hex
Recently, there had been a trend on Facebook to post ten books that changed your life. Now I feel my list is incomplete. Pavane is one of those books that reward you tenfold for sticking until the end. The slow-paced beginning is very thoughtfully crafted, and wraps everything up in a perfect whole, by the end. Much like an ouroboros. It tells you things you already know, but in such vivid colors that it has to leave you awe-struck. I promise, after reading it, you will never view history in qui ...more
Ryan
Keith Roberts's 1968 novel, Pavane, imagines an alternate 20th century in which England's 16th century split from the Catholic Church had never happened. As a result, all of the Western world is ruled from Rome, whose hierarchy has kept a jealous lid on science and technology. That which is permitted has taken on some pretty baroque forms, such as great steam-powered hauling vehicles and a communication system based on hilltop-mounted semaphors, run by a powerful paramilitary guild.

Such inventio
...more
Latro
This was highly recommended by several important people - latest China Mieville on his list of SF books a Socialist should read.

And... I did not like it at all. This has some spoilers

It starts with an interesting premise - Queen Elizabeth is murdered, this makes for wide scale anti-catholic purges in England, Spain invades England instead of going again to Flanders, conquers it, then all Protestant countries get the same treatment.

And from there we get to a world in which the Pope, for some reas
...more
Paul
This is a series of six short stories set in an alternative England in the 1960's where Elizabeth I had been assassinated and the Spanish had taken over the country. The land is still run in a feudal way, and the Catholic Church has a vice like grip on the country. The six snapshots are set in Dorset, with a few names changed ,but most the same.

There is very little technology in this world, most things are transported using steam wagons, and messages are sent via signal towers, via the guild of
...more
Troy Rodgers
This is an older novel and reads like one, but that's certainly no turn-off. What's a bit jarring is the format and presentation. A Pavane is a style of music, and the format was presented in here in literary form as 6 movements and a coda. The basic idea is that this is an alternate history where Queen Elizabeth I was assassinated, and in the mid-20th century, the Roman Catholic Church is still in supreme dominance as a result of having killed the Reformation. It's a steampunk styled world rule ...more
Dora
A dark, moody, brilliant collection of stories from an alternate England: an oppressed, miserable little province of the Pope-ruled Roman Empire, where the use of electricity and modern medicine is forbidden by the Church, and a feudal society is constantly threatened by famine.

The scene is set very slowly, through several stories each focusing very much on the inner life of a single character. There's a driver of a steam-powered truck dealing with loneliness and grief, a young country boy dream
...more
Avi
This book is the real deal. It contains 6 (and a half) beautifully-written stories, each about a genuine, interesting character living in the present day. However, the present day of the book comes from an alternate history in which all scientific development has been stifled. It ends up looking a lot like the early renaissance, but with the added complexity that comes from 300 years of refining the same ideas.

The stories are not directly related, but they do hold deep connections with one anoth
...more
Tom
Entirely admirable, beautifully written and imagined. The world of the novel comes very much alive. One thing, though. The author makes a rather startling claim about the Catholic Church at the end of the novel (basically, that the Church readily gave up total power when it realized its time was past, and all the technology and wisdom it had been hoarding for so long) which seems utterly implausible, considering the world of the novel that has been so carefully maintained, and also considering t ...more
Bethnoir
Despite an interesting premise, this book was ultimately disappointing. I feel as if the author has painted 6 detailed pictures of his imagined world, but forgotten that books work by having a story which links characters together*. Whilst the individual tales were well written, that was all they were. I also found some of his ideas about women rather distasteful and the violence unpalatable. If this is one of the best examples of alternate history novels, I won't be reading any more.

* if it is
...more
Barth Siemens
As speculative fiction goes, this novel wasn't highly speculative but it was rescued by an epilogue that explained ideas in the book. The hook being that the Church has outlawed electricity and limited power of internal combustion engines -- forgetting that electricity is required to spark the internal combustion. It seems like the author really wanted to write a medievalist fantasy, and was desperate for a twist to differentiate from the other similar fantasies that were being written at that t ...more
Paul
Possibly one of the first Alternate History novels I read and have reread several times since. History fascinates me and so to does the question of "What If?". Set in the 1960s (it was written in '68) but the 60s of a very different Britain. In 1588 the Spanish assassination of Elizabeth I was successful, bringing with it the Armada's conquest of England, and the resurgence of the Catholic Church.

Pavane is a collection of short stories, each a little further along in the history than the last. V
...more
Chris
Apr 28, 2013 Chris rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: President Obama
I read this book when it came out in the late 60s and reread it when I heard it was being honored w a new edition.

I've always remembered the descriptions of travelling by steam engine in the dead of winter -- still very good.
The rest of the story I'd forgotten, and enjoyed it very much the second time around.

It's the first Steampunk novel! Maybe...

That great cover by Leo & Diane Dillon will also be featured on the reissue. I think they did all the covers for the original Ace SF Specials. Leo
...more
Nathaniel
If you're going to try a new genre, you should start with the best. So when I tried alternate history many years ago, I started with the one that seemed the most famous:The Guns of the South. It was a let-down, and I didn't read much alt history after that. As it turns out, however, I'd started with the wrong book.

According to Wikipedia, Pavane is considered by The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction to be regarded as "the finest of all 'alternate histories'." I've only read a few, but I can
...more
Renee Leech
I found this book very difficult to read. Six stories and a "coda" are supposed to give us a complete story, but they don't. There is supposed to be a thread that connects the six stories, but at times it gets lost in the telling. While the stories are interesting in and of themselves, the descriptions of objects and the environment are too verbose, the vocabulary is archaic, and most irritatingly of all, the pronoun references are unclear, since this author has a tendency to refer to inanimate ...more
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Used These Alternate Names: Alistair Bevan , John Kingston , David Stringer

Keith John Kingston Roberts was a British science fiction author. He began publishing with two stories in the September 1964 issue of Science Fantasy magazine, "Anita" (the first of a series of stories featuring a teenage modern witch and her eccentric granny) and "Escapism.

Several of his early stories were written using t
...more
More about Keith Roberts...
Anita Kiteworld The Furies The Chalk Giants Pike and Shot Tactics 1590-1660

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“Becky walked to the sea late in the day, trod barefoot among the tumbled blocks of stone that lined the foreshore, smelling the old harsh smell of salt, hearing the water slap and chuckle while from high above came the endless sinister trickling of the cliffs. Into her consciousness stole, maybe for the first time, the sense of loneliness; an oppression born of the gentle miles of summer water, the tall blackness of the headlands, the fingers of the stone ledges pushing out into the sea.” 3 likes
“The firm of Strange had not been built on softness; what you stole from it, you were welcome to keep.” 2 likes
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