Debut novel by a very young author (barely 23 I believe). This was a light and refreshing read even though not much goes on. In fact, in terms of plot...moreDebut novel by a very young author (barely 23 I believe). This was a light and refreshing read even though not much goes on. In fact, in terms of plot, it really resembles the pacing of real life. It's the story of a 30 something at a turning point in his life. He's given up on his job and doesn't quite feel up to joining the ranks of society... that is until his girlfriend throws him out aiming a shotgun at him because he fed the dog (whose name is Jean-Jacques) leftovers instead of proper dog food (yes, some people have issues). It's quite funny and some parts really had me laughing out loud. As young as he is, the author really has a distinctive voice and readers interested in contemporary French literature should really keep an eye out for his next books. (less)
This novella initially caught my attention (apart from the gorgeous cover, credit to Christopher Sivet for that) because of all the awards its won dur...moreThis novella initially caught my attention (apart from the gorgeous cover, credit to Christopher Sivet for that) because of all the awards its won during the past year: Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire 2009 in the short story category, Lundi 2008 and the Prix Julia Verlanger 2008.
Here's a translation of the back cover before I get to my general impressions about this short piece of fiction:
"Some people are so deeply attached to Life and all its many forms and shapes, that they devote their entire existence to its preservation and go as far as sacrificing that of others... Ann Kelvin is going to devote her death."
A possible translation of the title could be the following: "The old Engliswoman and the continent".
When I was younger I nourished this secret dream of becoming a biologist specialized in submarine life. It's also one of the reasons why I enjoy diving so much. There's just something about what's going on down there that intrigues me and triggers my imagination... that and growing up on an island probably had something to do with it.
Knowing that, you can understand the fact that I immediately went into rapture about the story of a dying old woman who has always fought for the preservation of marine life getting the opportunity to have her consciousness downloaded inside a whale. Her life continues as that of a whale on borrowed time; but that's going to be time enough to accomplish her mission.
I can't really tell you more plotwise without spoiling it. It is, after all, a novella. Let me just tell you that being a whale is not quite as easy as it seems. If the ecologist theme is not what you're looking for in your reading, know that plot is tightly constructed (as it should be for a novella) despite the narration which is twofold: Ann's last days before the intervention and her time as a whale. The writing is elegant and simple (special mention for the Star Wars reference! Yay geeks!), alternating between a militant style and a poetic one.
It definitely deserves the awards and various nominations it got. I'm hoping to hear more about this author whose only published short stories so far. Griffe d'Encre's collection of novellas has also caught my eye. Since their catalogue contains a lot of unknown authors, novellas is a nice way to go about discovering them. Plus, the price. I bought this novella at the Salon du Livre for 8 euros. Just to give you an idea hardbacks in France can cost as much as 25 euros. Yep, books are very expensive here. So when you can get some new good quality writing for a fair price, you take it! So, I'm definitely going to keep a close eye on this young publishing house. (less)
This little (just above 700 pages long!) jewel won the Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire back in 2006. It's the most prestigious French award as far as specu...moreThis little (just above 700 pages long!) jewel won the Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire back in 2006. It's the most prestigious French award as far as speculative fiction is concerned. Previous winners include Pierre Bordage, Jean-Pierre Andrevon, Fabrice Colin, Maurice G. Dantec and Francis Berthelot in the French fiction category and Robert Charles Wilson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Graham Joyce, Christopher Priest and Jeffrey Ford in the foreign fiction category.
Alain Damasio is probably one of France's most promising young voices and La Horde du Contrevent is just his second novel. He is most acknowledged in science fiction circles and that's just too bad for mainstream readers, writers and publishers who just don't know what they are missing out on. Still, the most amazing thing is that Damasio hardly reads any science fiction or fantasy at all. What he does read however is a lot of philosophy and that says a lot about science fiction writers being modern day philosophers. But that's a whole other debate, isn't it?
Let me tell you one thing though, whether you are a speculative fiction reader or not, you've *never* read anything like this book. And I do mean NEVER. More than just treating the book as a simple medium to deliver a message, Damasio has conceived this specific work as a book universe. The medium is intimately linked to the message and well, I'm sad to say it, but this remarkable achievement simply makes the book intranslatable. You'd have to rewrite entire parts of the book to make them work in another language. It'd be a tremendous work and you'd never be sure whether or not you'd be betraying the author's original speech.
You know something about this book is different as soon as you pick it up and start browsing through its content: the pages start at 700 and decrease all the way down to 0. A limited edition of the book was released with a soundtrack. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to put my hands on it, but the very concept of a book having its own soundtrack is one that I find extremely relevant and original. I read with music and I often associate discs or tracks with specific books or even chapters. Sometimes it happens by accident. For example, it is just happens to be a new CD that I'm listening to while reading a book, but, at others times, the choices can be more deliberate. Anyway, I don't know of any other instances when a publisher has released a book with a soundtrack, so the idea is original enough to be toyed with. I know Mélanie Fazi, another talented young French author and translator, has released on her blog the name of the tracks she was listening to while writing a given piece of fiction but it's nothing quite as elaborate as actually putting together a book soundtrack.
But there's so much more about this book and it's just about time I got around to telling you about the plot, isn't it?
In a devastated world, living to the rhythms of the unbearable winds which rule it, an organization selects, raises and trains children from a very young age so that they will become the next horde. The 34th horde counts 23 members; each has a specific function (tracer, scribe, troubadour, hunter, protector, carer, maker of fire, wood maker, etc.). They have been traveling the world for over 30 years in search of the origin of the wind.
Damasio has created a world in which the wind is omnipresent and its divine character is alluded to several times throughout the book. The narration is not told from a single point of view, each one of the 23 characters gets a go! To succeed in pulling this off without confusing his reader says a lot about the author's talent. Furthermore, each switch of point of view is announced by a sign belonging to a character. So not only do you have to deal with 23 characters but you also have to remember each character's personal symbol... I did it effortlessly and this has nothing to do with any unparalleled memorization capacity of mine because, well, let's face it, what I usually have an unparalleled capacity for is forgetting things. The polyphonic dimension of the book might be what initially puts you off, but trust me, you'll get the hang of it faster than you think and in the end, the polyphony is precisely the book's greatest quality.
23 characters which have been living with one another for over 30 years, who know nothing else besides fighting the wind, going forward no matter what, who don't always get along, who love, hate and don't understand one another, let alone the purpose or utility of their mission which really is a religious one. Damasio weaves a wonderful, touching and suspenseful story about faith, friendship, hardships and science. The mythology and technology he creates around the wind and the way the inhabitants try and often fail to adapt to its raging strength is truly unparalleled.
I very strongly recommend this book to anyone who reads French. This book is a very singular experience all together and it renewed my passion for reading (not that it has gone anywhere, but it's like a habit which requires things to be spiced up once in a while and this book did the trick).(less)
This read was for the 2011 French Female Writers Throughout the Ages reading challenge, 20th century novel.
Cecile leads a hedonistic, frivolous life w...moreThis read was for the 2011 French Female Writers Throughout the Ages reading challenge, 20th century novel.
Cecile leads a hedonistic, frivolous life with her father and his young mistresses. On holiday in the South of France, she is seduced by the sun, the sand and her first lover. But when her father decides to remarry, their carefree existence becomes clouded by tragedy. United by the theme of love, the writings in the "Great Loves" series span over two thousand years and vastly different worlds. Readers will be introduced to love's endlessly fascinating possibilities and extremities: romantic love, platonic love, erotic love, gay love, virginal love, adulterous love, parental love, filial love, nostalgic love, unrequited love, illicit love, not to mention lost love, twisted and obsessional love...
While I haven't totally completed this reading challenge I think Françoise Sagan might just be the greatest discovery that's come out of it! I instantly fell in love with her voice and style which have something airy, casual and nonchalant but are always precise and spot on. There's something effortless that transpires from Bonjour Tristesse, a novel she wrote at the age of 18 and which mainly focuses on the discovery of female sexuality in the fifties.
I read the whole think in one seating on the plane. Granted it's a short novel but I was quite literally glued to the page from start to finish.
Bonjour Tristesse is the story of seventeen year old Cécile who lives with her father, a widower for the past fifteen year and who indulges in women and alcohol. Together, they have fun, attend a number of parties and drink too much. It's now Summer; Cécile has failed her latest exams but isn't really bothered by it (neither seems to be her father). They've rented a villa in the South of France, right on the ocean, lazying in the sun and their nights clubbing. Cécile's father has brought along his mistress of the moment, Elsa. Days go by, and the trio seem happy and content. Cécile meets Cyril, a young man with whom she goes sailing. Their lazy bubble bursts upon the arrival of an old family friend, Anne Carsen.
Anne was a friend of Cécile's mother and when Cécile first came out of boarding school two years before, she spent the first few weeks with Anne who clothed her and made sure the girl knew how to behave in society. Anne is everything Cécile's father is not: balanced, classy, constant and also perhaps condescending at times. While Cécile clearly admires her, she's also a bit scared of her and knows that Anne's arrival marks the end of the Summer, or at least of her holidays.
To sum up the following events without giving too much away: Cécile's father grows clearly interested in Anne and his mistress Elsa is no competition for the mature and elegant woman. Elsa moves out, Cécile's father announces his engagement to Anne and the latter starts to meddle in Cécile's life, locking her in her room when she misbehaves and forcing her to study. Cécile then starts elaborating a scheme to rid herself and her father of Anne, manipulating her father, Elsa and Cyril, all to a tragic end. Throughout the novel, Cécile is clearly torn between her feelings for Anne and her longing for the easiness of her old life with her father and his many mistresses.
Several times, she tries to back out but is either too lazy to do so and in too deep to do anything about it.
I fear I may have already given too much away so will stop now. What I can say is that while there is a plot, it's Cécile's voice (the novel's told in the first person) that drove the entire novel. It made it intense intimate and striking. I can see how the novel's theme could have caused quite a scandal in the fifties when it was first published but there's nothing provoking about it as it merely voices what is there and is honest without trying too hard to be ground-breaking and thought-provoking. And it's perhaps for these very reasons that it is.
It's interesting to watch Cécile's growing feelings for Cyril, her inner conflicts and external conflicts with Anne who's really just trying to give her a bit of stability and balance and be the adult Cécile's father can't live up to be. Anne is also a woman, who's clearly fallen for Cécile's father like so many other women before her but hoping that this time, he will be able to commit and stick to his promises.
I think it's one of those novels that can easily be read over and over again at different stages in life and the reader will be sure to discover something new each time. I wonder how I would've perceived it ten years ago and if I would've enjoyed studying it in high school. It's one I highly recommend and I'll be sure to read more of this author in the coming years.(less)
This is a wonderful and delightful YA read, part feminist retelling, part just plain fun. This is what Sherlock Holmes stories might have been if the...moreThis is a wonderful and delightful YA read, part feminist retelling, part just plain fun. This is what Sherlock Holmes stories might have been if the main character had been a fourteen year old girl who has trouble submitting to any kind of authority, especially that imposed by men.
I just wished there were more teenage girls reading this series than there are reading the Twilight series. Somehow, I'm sure this would make the world a better place if they identified with Enola Holmes instead of Bella Swan but enough of that.
Readers familiar with Nancy Springer know that this is not the first time this author has decided to revisit a given myth and give it a more modern and feminist angle. Robin Hood and Arthurian legends have already been dealt with by this author. It's not all that she's done of course, but I believe it takes a lot of gut and talent to pull off any kind of retelling successfully. And this first book in the Enola Holmes series was successfully executed indeed! I'm already eager to devour the others in the series (book 6 is coming out next year).
I don't want to give too much away; simply know that Enola Holmes is the younger teenage sister of the great Sherlock. She barely knows her older brother having lived isolated with her mother for most of her life. Her mother's disapearance drastically changes that and instead of being allowed to participate in the search for her mother, Enola is to be sent to a boarding school in order to learn how to become a "proper lady".
But, Enola aspires to financial independance, a life of adventure, freedom and well, general "inproperness" as far as her time's social conventions are concerned.
This is a light read you will rush through in a matter of hours it's so good!(less)
Meet the European superheroes of the fifties. This is kind of a European Watchmen but it's more than a mere ripoff, it's got enough of its own mytholo...moreMeet the European superheroes of the fifties. This is kind of a European Watchmen but it's more than a mere ripoff, it's got enough of its own mythology and imagery to stand on its own. Can't wait for the rest of the series to come out!(less)
Last Fall (yes, as always, am a bit late), it seemed you couldn't go anywhere without hearing about his short medieval fantasy novel. The author has w...moreLast Fall (yes, as always, am a bit late), it seemed you couldn't go anywhere without hearing about his short medieval fantasy novel. The author has won quite a number of French awards, been invited and interviewed on a great many podcasts and genre-related websites. The book was even mentioned on Locus! This is in and of itself very impressive, it becomes even more when you know that this is a debut novel.
So, of course, I had to read this, and I did along with two fellow bloggers Lelf and Lishbei. We set a date at which we were to have read the book and then we exchanged back and forth.
Chien du Heaume is a very powerful story that bodes well for Justine Niogret's career. It's not perfect but then, there's no such thing as a perfect novel, let alone a perfect debut novel. A taste of her dark poetic prose is well worth it and her dream-like, Gothic setting is bound to enthrall you.
Chien du Heaume is the name of her main character. A soldier, Chien [dog:] has no name that she can remember, no family since her father's death when she was still a child. All that she has is an ax, a particular one with snake-like engravings, and that she yields expertly. Chien is not your typical heroine. In fact, there's nothing heroic about her as the prologue soon reveals. She's not evil, but she is on a quest, to reclaim her identity and her name, and she lets nothing get in the way of her quest. No damsel in distress and not some sexy warrior, Chien's path will cross that of Lord Bruec who just might be able to tell her where her ax comes from and therefore where she comes from.
I'd be hard pressed to call this a fantasy novel as there are no elves, hobbits or unicorns in sight. Some fantastical elements do make their way into the narration, but they read more like metaphors. Such is the role of one mysterious knight called The Salamander who IMHO seems to be some sort of mythological figure embodying death in a broad sense; he also marks the end of an era.
Justine Niogret is clearly a specialist of the medieval period, as showed by her glossary at the end of the novel, which details and explains, in the light and humorous tone the author displays in interviews, certain medieval weapons and habits. Chien du Heaume reads more like a historical novel set in medieval times.
I've been told that in one interview, the author claimed to have constructed her novel like a series of short stories. While there is no overall plot, besides Chien's quest for her identity (yet even that seems to recede in the background), I wouldn't regard this as a short story collection centered on the same character. This is clearly a novel, even though intricate and complex plotting are not on topic here. The flow of narration follows the rhythm of everyday life in Bruec's castle: slow, not always peaceful, but far from fast-paced.
Chien du Heaume is a novel all about sensation and how Justine Niogret's poetic prose leaps of the page and translates into ghostly images of a castle lost in the mist, cruel gory battles, knights of another era and a way of life that can only be encountered in history books.
It's not a powerful novel because of the strength of its intrigue, the authenticity of its characters or the richness of its setting (though it does not lack in these categories), its power resides in the way the written word seems to come alive as the pages turn. It's easy to excuse the sometimes clumsy uses of obvious plot devices when the novel displays such literary quality.
Chien du Heaume is probably not for the die-hard fantasy fan. Or rather, it's perfect if you are willing to try something altogether different. It's a breath of fresh air that will linger like a ghost. (less)
I'm not quite sure what drove me to buy this book in particular. When I found out that Le Clézio had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature last y...moreI'm not quite sure what drove me to buy this book in particular. When I found out that Le Clézio had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature last year, I felt that, as a French reader, I needed to have at least read him once. So I browsed my local bookstore's shelves and found this little piece entitled The African (I'm not sure what it's been translated as or even if it's been translated in English at all. I know some of his works have been, but I'm not sure about this particular one.).
I came to this book knowing absolutely nothing about the author's life or works and I was a bit worried that this might turn out into some colonial like type of narration. And boy was I wrong.
This short autobiographical narration deals mainly with the author's father: this authoritarian, withdrawn and solemn father figure who is a stranger in his own country, in his own family, though, as a doctor, he is entirely devoted to his patients. A man who refused to conform to western hypocrisy and formality and decided to practice medecine throughout the world, namely South America and Africa. A character who has been changed by war and all that he's witnessed and that the narrator only meets once he is 8 years old. They meet in a strange land, when the narrator moves with his mother and his brother to Nigeria to join his father.
A short (124 pages!) touching and intriguing story written in a non linear manner and illustrated with pictures taken from the author's own archives. A great introduction to an unknown writer for me and which allowed me to learn about the author's life and to become more familiar with his soft and poetic prose.
Highly recommended book to all those interested in philosophy but who don't know where to start. The author makes a point at being clear and accessibl...moreHighly recommended book to all those interested in philosophy but who don't know where to start. The author makes a point at being clear and accessible. All the difficult and complex concepts are explained and detailed in simple enough language. The book is intended as an introduction to philosophy for the non-initiated. Philosophers and their theories are dealt with in chronological order and each chapter is ended by a "What to read from this author first?" and a "Further reading" section which gives the reader the opportunity to go further. This is definitely the book I needed to get back on track philosophy-wise! (less)
Like most of the Interstices collection (Calmann-Lévy publisher), Lilliputia is a novel difficult to place in one single category. It's as much affili...moreLike most of the Interstices collection (Calmann-Lévy publisher), Lilliputia is a novel difficult to place in one single category. It's as much affiliated to urban fantasy, historical fiction, mythology or the tale genre. According to fans, Lilliputia is Xavier Mauméjean's best work yet. I wouldn't know since, though I'd heard about him for years, it's the first piece of fiction by him that I've read (besides a short story published on Utopod). So far, I must say that I admire his soft and subtle style, his weird sense of humor and the gravity and complexity of the themes he broaches.
USA. Early 20th century. Taken away from his natal Europe, Elcana is forced to join the amusement park Dreamland. He is to live in the town of Lilliputia where hundreds of other little men and women like him have already been rounded up. The men who kidnapped Elcana have been travelling the world in search of these little people, carefully selecting those that are not dwarves but true Lilliputians with proportions similar to adults'. As soon as the park opens, American families rush in to spy and go oh and ah on Elcana and his fellow Lilliputians. During opening hours, the Lilliputians' lives are carefully orchestrated so as to fulfill Americans' need for entertainment. Considered as little more than freaks, the Lilliputians have no choice but to endure the humiliation and abasement of their situation. They are waiting for a saviour. Is Elcana the fire fighter, the bearer of fire, to be this liberator?
Xavier Mauméjean who is very fond of philosophy and mythology offers us an interesting and smart retelling of the Greek myth of Prometheus who stole fire from the Gods and brought it to humanity. His punishment consisted in having his liver eaten by an eagle every single day for the rest of eternity as it regrowed over night. One better understands, the novel's main character, Elcana's liver issues throughout the book.
But the historical background is just as important as the mythical elements. Mauméjean sets his narration in the early days of modern America, at a time when the country strives for progress, industrialization, money and entertainment. The grotesque aspect of the novel, impersonated by the voyeurism of Americans, is not without reminding us of Tod Browning's Freaks (1932).
The many references, more or less easy to spot, greatly participate in giving the novel its complexity, nuances, layers and richness... and they also make it all the more difficult to categorize it. In the end, it's all up to the reader: urban fantasy? historical fiction with a mythological twist? Whatever you choose, you can't deny that it's a wonderful stylistic and literary achievement.
I think it's a nice place to start reading Mauméjean. For all its depth and complexity, the novel's greatest success rests perhaps in its capacity to adapt to its reader. If you know nothing about Greek mythology, early American 20th century or Tod Browning, you will still enjoy this novel. Chances are, it's even going to make you curious.
Lilliputia is a highly recommended weird, accessible and rich read. (less)
This read was for the 2011 French Female Writers Throughout the Ages reading challenge, 17th century novel.
It's always with great pleasure that I take...moreThis read was for the 2011 French Female Writers Throughout the Ages reading challenge, 17th century novel.
It's always with great pleasure that I take these reading journeys in the past and meet these women writers that were then perceived as eccentric, mad and severely lacking virtue when all they were trying to do was live with the freedom that was only bestowed upon men.
It reminded me of my work on the fascinatingly enigmatic Margaret Cavendish and of how much I admire these women and the way they fought against the establishment no matter the cost. I certainly envy them their strength and how they were fearless in the face of alienation.
Marie-Catherine de Villedieu, born Marie-Catherine Desjardins (1640-1683), was a professional writer, one of the first French female writers to claim so. She wrote novels, plays and letters and was a pioneer in more than one aspect as Mémoires was the first fictional autobiography of its kind.
Villedieu is a pen name taken from a lover who promised to marry her before withdrawing his promise. Although, their relationship later resumed, no marriage ever took place. In fact, the young man ended up marrying someone else before dying in battle. Marie-Catherine took his name after his death. While this was quite a bold decision, what is even more surprising is that the young man's family accepted that she did so based on the multiple promises the young man had made when he was alive.
Madame de Villedieu as she is now referred to, was not notably beautiful but she seems to have benefited from a lot of freedom from a very young age. This probably encouraged her fiery temper. She was lucky enough to have a lot of connections with the world of literature and arts and became quite famous for a poem entitled Jouissance (which can be translated as "climax" or "orgasm") when she was just 18. The poem was destined to the lover who never married her and the existence of the poem was not so shocking as the fact that it had been written by a woman. As it was often the case, it seems that her bad reputation had more to do with her free spirit and her liberty of speech than anything else.
Mémoires was published between 1671 and 1674 anonymously. I'm not quite sure why given her reputation and the fact that the book contains nothing particularly scandalous, Madame de Villedieu bothered with trying to hide the fact that she had written it. The book's success was immediate and durable though it was eventually forgotten. Like so many women writers, Madame de Villedieu greatly influenced the evolution of the novel but as she didn't follow the regular norm of conduct, her legacy was unfortunately set aside.
As previously mentioned, Mémoires is a fictional autobiography, a "roman-mémoires", the first of its kind in French literature (as far as I'm aware of anyway... which should probably not count for much...). Mémoires can be easily dated as Madame de Villedieu quotes battles, cultural and many historical events. A lot of historical figures and famous people of the time also make appearances in her tales. Yet, I wouldn't regard Mémoires as a piece of historical fiction per say. It's more an account of what life was at the time: clandestine weddings, cross-dressing, life in convents, duals and trials.As far as I know, this mix of history and fiction is quite unusual for the times. Even more unusual is the idea of a memoir for an ordinary woman and not someone famous, well at least not famous for the right reasons.
Mémoires is by no means meant to be serious but entertaining and light. The main protagonist, Henriette-Sylvie de Molière, is writing her story to a female noble person she addresses as "Your Highness". From the first sentence, it appears that Henriette-Sylvie's name has been wrongly associated with certain scandals and that she is attempting to clear her name, explaining the "innocent mistakes" of her youth. Nevertheless, the aim is to please and entertain and Henriette-Sylvie has a lot of stories to tell and she is not at all as innocent as she could be... and the wonderful thing is that she makes no apologies for it, despite the novel's initial aim.
It all begins with Henriette-Sylvie's birth which is shrouded in mystery: birth on a beach, a mother's disappearance, childhood among farmers and here comes in a duke who sees something different in this child and knows she's destined for more than this. The duke places her with wealthy friends of his who have children of their own. Henriette-Sylvie grows up to be a young woman of breathtaking beauty. The one she then believes to be her father attempts to rape her when she is thirteen during a hunt. Henriette-Sylvie accidentally shots him trying to defend herself. She is then rescued by her "mother"'s lover who also falls in love with her and that is only the beginning of her adventures...
Henriette-Sylvie is not afraid of enjoying life and its multiple pleasures. Her tale is in drastic opposition to the literary inheritance of the classical age. And yet, I'm not quite sure why Madame de Villedieu chose anonymity to write this. It's been said that those who knew her and her story could easily recognize her style and aspects of her life. Mémoires is not an autobiography (well, only a fictional one) but some elements and places frequently visited do echo ones from Madame de Villedieu's life. Henriette-Sylvie is meant to be a sort of role model for women who have been accused of not being virtuous enough for their times. Though one must admit that it is hard to believe that Henriette-Sylvie is completely innocent; she does put herself in the strangest situations, and yes, she does admit to having had lovers. If there really needs to be something scandalous about the whole novel, it's probably it's total lack of guilt, but even that is drowned by the humorous aspect. Though the novel is meant to be a clarification, Henriette-Sylvie does not make any apologies for her behavior as she often depicts what courtship and what takes place around and after passion.
I really enjoyed reading this. I'm sure I didn't get all of the humor, not knowing enough of the times' lifestyle and famous figures, but I got enough to make it worth while. And so, even if you're reading this novel on a superficial level and don't really care in what ways it relates to the life of the person who wrote it, you'll enjoy it. But if you read it bearing in mind the reputation of Madame de Villedieu's, you'll enjoy it even more. Highly recommended for entertainment but also for the historical and feminist perspectives.(less)
This is the second and final book in the series Wang and it's definitely a nice wrap up to the overall series as it ties up all the loose ends and fin...more This is the second and final book in the series Wang and it's definitely a nice wrap up to the overall series as it ties up all the loose ends and finally leaves our main characters in a comfortable place... Perhaps it even wrapped things up a bit too nicely for my taste.
The first book ended with the Fredric Alexandre winning the Uchronic Games against all odds, mostly thanks to the Chinese immigrant Wang. The second book opens on another final of the Uchronic Games, two years later. The mixed feelings and jealousy Fredric experiences towards his first officer Wang are quite obvious and render their military association somewhat hazardous.
Outside the Games, the stakes are still the same: Western Nations are attempting to fight an invisible enemy whose numbers are fewer but which possesses a greater and much more advanced technology. This enemy sees in Wang the one who will lead the immigrants' army and bring down the electro-magnetic wall which separates the West from the rest of the world and bring an end to Western domination.
The first 150 pages take place during the Uchronic Games and while there were some very poignant scenes illustrating the extent to which the immigrants are forced to go to in order to survive, 150 pages was just too long for me. And so, it momentarily suspended the pace of the series. But then, things started to get interesting again as soon as Wang was out of the Games and thrown into real life issues (though those being as life threatening as they were during the Games, you might not notice the difference).
My main complaint about this conclusion to the series is that it's been too well introduced, i.e. it renders the book too predictable. You know how it's going to end, you know why and there are very few surprises. I still consider it a worthwhile read, but the first book was far more interesting and engaging the second one. Still, if you've enjoyed the first volume, you need to read the second, it's still a very powerful conclusion but it definitely doesn't compare to the first. (less)
Science fiction and erotica... um... plenty to cover here.
When I first heard about this anthology, I was pleasantly surprised by two things. First, t...moreScience fiction and erotica... um... plenty to cover here.
When I first heard about this anthology, I was pleasantly surprised by two things. First, this is a French anthology that contains first-time published stories by some classic science fiction French authors (Joëlle Wintrebert and Francis Berthelot), some well-established young writers such as Mélanie Fazi, Stéphane Beauverger (whose wonderful novel Le Déchronologue I reviewed a while back), Charlotte Bousquet and Sylvie Lainé, and some not entirely unknown newcomers (Norbert Merjagnan, Virginie Bétruger and illustrator Daylon).
Second, this anthology is the remarkable work of a small independent house, Les 3 Souhaits, which is the editorial offspring of the science fiction news website Actu SF. I reviewed one of their titles, Le Guide des Fées. Regards sur la Femme [A Guide to Fairies. A study of women:] last year and they really deserve to be cheered for their original and thought-provoking work and ideas. I hope they will soon have the chance to be more widely distributed. At the moment, the only way to get a hold of their books is through their website or at conventions.
As it always the case with anthologies, some stories clearly stand out and that selection tends to vary from one reader to the next. IMHO, the one which belittles all others is Joëlle Wintrebert's 'Camélions'. For a long time, Joëlle Wintrebert was France's only female science fiction writer, and I'm ashamed to admit that I've never read any of her novels though I have her novel Pollen (Au Diable Vauvert, 2002) in my to-read pile(s)... somewhere.
'Camélions' is about a human colony which gets stranded on a hostile planet and one woman who will bring down barriers and taboos, and dare make contact with the local population (who resemble human-size butterflies) at the risk of being shunned by her peers. It's a powerful and sensuous story about survival, love and betrayal. And now I really need to unearth Pollen and get to it sometime this year!
The other two stories which stood out for me were Maïa Mazaurette's 'Saturnales' and Mélanie Fazi's 'Miroir de Porcelaine'.
Maïa Mazaurette is graphic artist, writer and blogger most well-known for her blog Sexactu. I had the opportunity to meet her at the Salon du Livre in March and she is lots of fun to be around. Her novel Rien ne nous survivra is yet another title which needs to make it in my read pile this year!.
'Saturnales' takes place in a future in which sex, and especially first times, is carefully planned and involves so many artifices that there is little to nothing natural about it anymore, but pleasure is guaranteed. It's filled with the stingy humor that characterizes Maïa Mazaurette and will leave you half-smiling, half-horrified.
Mélanie Fazi ranks among my favorite short story writers. I read her short story collection Notre-Dame-aux-Ecailles about two years ago and while I had an overall uneven impression, I simply adore her lyrical and poetic style. Really, she could be retelling this morning's news that I would still find it fascinating. She is also a very talented translator. She got the Jacques Chambon award for Best Translation for her work on Graham Joyce's The Facts of Life (French title: Lignes de Vie which I reviewed here). FYI, some of Mélanie Fazi's works have been translated in English and appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror and The Third Alternative for those you who would like to check it out.
'Miroir de Porcelaine' is a dreamy (bordering on nightmarish), sensuous tale of lovers drawn apart by robots created for an artistic purpose. Well worth your time, and it won the Masterton Award 2010 - Best Short Story category.
I think the only thing lacking from this anthology is perhaps a compilation of short author bios because such an anthology could really appeal to non-genre readers who know nothing about these writers. Overall, a wonderful initiative and a thought-provoking result that I highly recommend. (less)
This is an enjoying little guide describing the various figures and portrayal of fairies. It's smartly constructed in a way that you don't have to rea...moreThis is an enjoying little guide describing the various figures and portrayal of fairies. It's smartly constructed in a way that you don't have to read the entire book in one go. If you'd rather go through it in a chronological order, you may but you can also read it by theme or subject and follow the many references that link one chapter to another. More than just a book on the depiction of fairies throughout the ages in literature, poetry, painting, etc. it's also a very interesting study of the portrayal of women as it cleverly links the two subjects. Highly recommended to those who have an interest in gender studies and fantasy. (less)
Quite frankly I was bit disappointed reading this very short novel (you could probably call it a novella). I'm not quite sure what all the fuss was ab...moreQuite frankly I was bit disappointed reading this very short novel (you could probably call it a novella). I'm not quite sure what all the fuss was about. Okay so it got the Grand Prix de la Science Fiction Française which is a bit like the French equivalent of the Hugo awards but while I did find the story intriguing and thought that it asked interesting questions with regards to pedophilia and the distinction between the body and the mind, I thought it was really much too short to really do justice to those delicate interrogations. I don't know how to say this but it was just "too easy". I would have like more characterization, more plot development, more everything really... The author was clearly on to something but she didn't push it far enough in my opinion. Now that I think back on it, I'm not sure it was a problem of it being too short. I've read short stories and novellas which touched me on a deeper level than any novel ever did. So it's a question of depth really and a question of this novel/novella/short story having an identity problem and not really knowing what it's supposed to be. The message and content are delivered but the packaging still needs work. (less)