started this and seemed a bit "interesting dialogue but who cares" and I started reading forward and then the ending which is really, really powerfulstarted this and seemed a bit "interesting dialogue but who cares" and I started reading forward and then the ending which is really, really powerful so I went back to read it end to end; has some great stuff so far, though it is really dark no question about it
I finished Dark Defiles and on first read I felt it was very good - maybe not fully satisfying as I thought RK Morgan went a bit overboard in trying to do "anti-fantasy" so there were moments the book read like a parody where Ringil (or the other two main characters, Archeth and Egar though somewhat less evident there as Egar was still an impulsive barbarian and Archeth a cool superior-race - ok partly as she was half human after all - intellect) did something utterly contrarian just to do it and say "f.. you" to everyone (while RK Morgan implicitly said f.. you to the fantasy reader so to speak); but there were tons and tons of powerful moments, most of the stuff from earlier 2 books was explained, and there was a mostly definite conclusion;
As the novel stayed with me, i felt i needed a full reread of all 3 books (Steel remains, Cold command, dark Defiles) and after that I notched up my appreciation of Dark Defiles and the series overall and now i feel that it is indeed one of the best fantasy series of recent times: very powerful, very well developed and thought out and full of memorable quotes.
While the content is modern, the structure is really old fashioned with all 3 books forming a huge one novel tapestry - while more recent top notch series started fragmenting the storyline into definite parts and either expanding the universe or raising the stakes, rather than pretty much introducing all the main stuff in book 1, however indirectly and veiled there, with books 2 and 3 mostly piling revelations, action and depth; the one drawback is that a lot of the finer points are appreciated only at the end when one knows what's really what and with 6 years from book 1 to book 3 one really needs the full series reread...
here is one such quote that is not that spoilery, as I blanked the names:
"Ringil rubbed his chin. “Did ***** do something to you?”
“And yet you sent him to die on a spike.”
“That*…” A spasm of pain twisted **** face. “It was the law.”
“So is this. It’s recent legislation, you may not have heard. Harm those I care for, and those you care for will be harmed. How does it feel?”
and one more:
"Supposing I could take you to that city—how would you live there? Your blade would be behind glass in a museum, and no use for it even if it were not. The languages you speak would be millennia dead. What would you do for money, for food? Do you see yourself cleaning tables, perhaps, in some eatery whose owner does not mind your halting attempts at the local tongue? A brief career as a tavern whore, maybe, while your looks last? Do you see yourself washing dishes or mucking out horses, as you grow old and gray? Does that appeal?
He grimaces. Well, now you come to mention it …
Quite. And here is our difficulty. Your daydreamed retirement is no more honest than the daydreamed heroics of young boys who’ve never picked up a blade. It is a fantasy staple—stale, learned longing, incurious of any human detail, a mediocre hand dealt out from the grubby, endlessly reshuffled myths and legends and comforting lies you people like to tell each other. There is less weight to it in the end than in all your boyhood fantasies of a life with the gypsies, out on the marsh at Trelayne. That at least was something you might once have attempted, a path you might have taken. But this—this is a lie to yourself that you carry around in your heart because you’d rather not face the truth.
And what truth would that be?
I want them dead, he says quietly. I want them all ****ing dead.
Ah. The Mistress of Dice and Death puts a companionable arm around his shoulders. Her touch bites through his clothes like freezing iron. Now that’s more like it."
This is my second read of the book, but in a way the first really careful such as years ago in the early 00's I loaned a copy from the Romanian LibrarThis is my second read of the book, but in a way the first really careful such as years ago in the early 00's I loaned a copy from the Romanian Library in NYC but the very depressing nature of the novel made it a hard slog and I read some parts carefully and some parts fast.
The book is actually more or less a novel as it is very autobiographical and even his choice of splitting his personality into 2 characters - the philosopher and the narrator poet/diplomat and the trajectory of each is very natural as under the darkness falling on Romania, the poet at least could write his poems in private and hope to have them re-edited at some point as it actually happened though only soon after the author's death, but the philosopher was dead; in another touch the author anticipates his death near his birthday...
Now as an ebook became available for a very good price I immediately got it (when i found about it of course, the ebook may have been out there for a while..) and I took my time with the novel.
Just great style from Lucian Blaga and a superb but very dark testimony of how the darkness fell on Romania from 1944 (slowly at first, though the author is one of the lucid ones that sees clearly where August 23 will lead) till 1989
Highly, highly recommended but not an easy read as you will find yourself despairing alongside the narrator; the love stories and especially Ana Rares bring a little relief but of course we know it's temporary as the dark is there to stay for almost half a century...more
This is a superb novel but one that is not for everyone with its hallucinatory prose, uncertain and shifting identities and themes of incest, forbiddeThis is a superb novel but one that is not for everyone with its hallucinatory prose, uncertain and shifting identities and themes of incest, forbidden love, s&m, Lolita... all taking places in the ruins of Germany in 1949
Everyone encountered is not quite what he or she seems but the main characters - our "hero" HR aka Henri Robin aka many other names - his seeming double (identity and role to be revealed later), his "handler", the older German officer that is a target of assassination and the mysterious mother and daughter of the American zone in Berlin whose past and relationships with the main characters above is also slowly revealed give this novel its power in addition to the superb prose.
Highly, highly recommended and another novel that needs to be read at least twice since early happenings change or deepen their sense after later revelations so the second reading will be quite different than the first...more
As I mentioned in a recent review, sometimes books come out of nowhere, hijack my reading schedule andI will just copy my FBC Review here:
As I mentioned in a recent review, sometimes books come out of nowhere, hijack my reading schedule and it takes a while until I can un-weave the magical spell they had exerted on me and leave their universe, usually needing at least one complete reread as well as an immediate review.
The novelistic debut of the author, The Invisible Bridge attracted my attention by its fascinating cover in a Borders bookstore several days ago and the blurb below made me open it; I got hooked on the first page which you can read in the extract linked above and I stayed way, way too late to finish the novel since I really needed to find out what happens with the main characters, while rereading it at leisure during the next few days.
"Paris, 1937. Andras Lévi, a Hungarian Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he has promised to deliver to C. Morgenstern on the rue de Sévigné. As he becomes involved with the letter's recipient, his elder brother takes up medical studies in Modena, their younger brother leaves school for the stage - and Europe's unfolding tragedy sends each of their lives into terrifying uncertainty. From the Hungarian village of Konyár to the grand opera houses of Budapest and Paris, from the lonely chill of Andras's garret to the enduring passion he discovers on the rue de Sévigné, from the despair of a Carpathian winter to an unimaginable life in forced labor camps and beyond, The Invisible Bridge tells the unforgettable story of brothers bound by history and love, of a marriage tested by disaster, of a Jewish family's struggle against annihilation, and of the dangerous power of art in a time of war."
FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: The Invisible Bridge stands at about 600 pages divided into five parts and 42 named chapters with an epilogue some decades later. The novel spans the turbulent years from 1937 to 1945 with action mostly in Paris, Budapest and various labor camps on or behind the Eastern front lines where Hungarian Jewish males were conscripted as forced laborers for the army instead of as soldiers, since they were considered unreliable to be given weapons and training to use them.
The novel follows the intertwined destinies of the lower-middle class Levi family from a village near Debrecen, of whom middle brother and architect-to-be, Andras is the main hero, though older brother Tibor and younger Matyas play important roles too and the rich Hasz family of Budapest, of whom early forties Gyorgy is a Bank President and his son Jozsef, a painter-to-be is studying - and partying, with more of the latter than the former of course - in Paris.
There is also mysterious early thirties Klara - Claire - Morgenstern who is a ballet teacher in Paris with a 16 year old strong willed daughter Elisabet, to whom Gyorgy's mother, the matriarch of the Hasz charges the twenty two year old Andras to secretly deliver a letter when he gets to Paris for his studies, in addition to carrying a huge package with goodies for Jozsef.
Romantic, epic, dark even painfully so at times, The Invisible Bridge is historical fiction of the highest caliber.
ANALYSIS: "The Invisible Bridge" succeeds so well because of three aspects:
1: The characters: Andras and Klara first and foremost are such extraordinary characters, the young idealistic student who cannot help himself but fall in love with the 31 year old woman with a 16 year old girl and a dark past we get hints about and who somehow managed to make a reasonably successful life for herself and Elisabet despite all; also Tibor, Andras' friends, the closet gay Polaner and the handsome Ben Yakov, the wastrel but good natured Joszef, theater manager Zoltan Novak who is Andras' mentor and first employer and the rest of the Hasz and Levi families are all memorable and distinctive characters and you want them to succeed and later to survive, though of course the odds were what they were, so do not get overtly fond of anyone...
2: The writing style which is spellbinding; the book is a page turner end to end and it manages to combine the first half cautious optimism of the main characters even in face of the clouds of war and of rising antisemitism in France and violence in Germany and other places, with the day to day struggle to survival in the face of the tightening vise of the second half. "The Invisible Bridge" does not descend into melodrama in the first half, nor does it descend into despair and darkness without a light in sight, in the second half, but it maintains a "matter of fact" attitude throughout that kept me guessing almost to the end what will be the fate of the characters.
3: The world-building: as noted at the end of the novel, "The Invisible Bridge" is based on the author's family stories and real life experiences plus a lot of research and it shows. The feel of both Paris of 1937-1939 and of Hungary from 1939-1945 is pitch perfect and the Jewish traditions are vividly expounded. "The Invisible Bridge" feels to me "right" as a book set partly in Eastern Europe in a way few books by Western authors feel and the little details like recipes, names, ways of speech contribute mightily to that feeling.
There are several moments that descend a bit into farce like the story of Ilana, the Italian Orthodox Rabbi's daughter that Tibor helps elope to Paris to secretly marry Andras' friend, the handsome ladies' man Ben Yakov - who is actually in love with Black American student Lucia - and of course Tibor falls in love with Ilana, while Ben Yakov is desperately unhappy that he cannot marry Lucia so he hopes that Ilana's beauty will 'cure him" of his "wandering eye" so to speak- all with predictable results of course, but the novel manages to surprise after that. But the lighter interludes work well as a balance to the increasing darkness that descends on the world and on our characters.
Another superb touch in the novel was how famous stories like Job's fate are weaved explicitly in the novel, first in the story of Andras' father nicknamed "Lucky Bella" in an ironic and tragic way as he lost everything in life - family, child, inheritance - by age 30 and was living in depression and despair on the community's charity until a wise rabbi convinced him to try and turn around his fortunes and then in the tragic story of one of novel's important characters, though for this one you have to read the book to find out what's what. The last meeting of Andras with the respective character in 1943 is one of the emotional highlights of the second half of the novel.
In turns, a wonderful love story, an epic historical saga in the grand traditions of yore and a dark story of destruction and survival, The Invisible Bridge (A++) is one of two awesome mainstream novels that will lead that category in my best of 2010 list....more
4th read of the book across the years (first read was on US publication in the mid 90's) and I am still impressed and entertained by this excellent re4th read of the book across the years (first read was on US publication in the mid 90's) and I am still impressed and entertained by this excellent recreation of the tumultuous events of 1788-11794 in France through the eyes of Danton, Desmoulins and Robespierre as well as the circle of their acquaintances and friends...
Since comparisons with Wolf Hall are inevitable, I think that the latter is better written somewhat as a novel, but this one is more entertaining and interesting and does not drag as Wolf Hall does at the end, but is a non-stop ride for all its 750+ pages...more
Stunning, fascinating and well deserved of all acclaim it got. Though the general outline of what's what became obvious about 1/3 - 1/2 in the novel sStunning, fascinating and well deserved of all acclaim it got. Though the general outline of what's what became obvious about 1/3 - 1/2 in the novel so the final twists were not that surprising for me, the execution is just superb.
Just superb; have a full review on FBC, while a minireview here:
After learning about How to Paint a Dead Man in the Booker Longlist, its cover and bluJust superb; have a full review on FBC, while a minireview here:
After learning about How to Paint a Dead Man in the Booker Longlist, its cover and blurb attracted me so I bought it on publication day here in the US last week and I read it soon after, this being a novel that once you immerse in you cannot leave and read anything else, at least fiction, once it ends you are sad that it did so and want more, so you have to reread it at least once...
"How to Paint a Dead Man" is a deceptively short novel as page count goes at about 270, but it packs so much imagery, lyricism and emotion to be almost overwhelming at times and compelling many rereads of earlier paragraphs, as well as a reread of the whole when done.
The novel is divided in four viewpoints "The Mirror Crisis", "Translated from the Bottle Journals", "The Fool on the Hill" and "The Divine Vision of Annette Tambroni", that follow each other with regularity seven times, while towards the end they invert a little in two more sequences, to end with "The Mirror Crisis" in a brilliant life-affirming way, with an epilogue "How to Paint a Dead Man" from an Italian manual.
I have to say that this one is closer to what one would call "essential sf" than things usually labeled such; it is innovative in so many ways, and whI have to say that this one is closer to what one would call "essential sf" than things usually labeled such; it is innovative in so many ways, and while Venusia was weird but with a sort-of-clear-plot/action and I have not decided yet if Mercury Station truly makes sense plot-wise, the things thrown in almost casually from a chrono-dynamics theory, to Quantum computers, to Medieval imagery and action combined with 22nd century Solar System intrigue, all in a package that will make you a bit dizzy but still compel you to turn pages, should make this one a must for any sf-lover. Highly, highly recommended!
I read this book in two days and it flows so well that I was extremely sad to see it ending; a family saga in the older tradition of such with modernI read this book in two days and it flows so well that I was extremely sad to see it ending; a family saga in the older tradition of such with modern sensibilities of today in content - very feminist for example
The story follows a large numbers of characters from 1895 to the early 1900's with vignettes continuing to 1919 and the end of the war
The pros is just superb, neither detached, nor emotional making for a very relaxing and gripping reading at the same time....more
Spirit: The Princess Du Bois Dormant by Gwyneth Jones is a standalone novel in her Aleutinian universe of the White Queen trilogy and several stories Spirit: The Princess Du Bois Dormant by Gwyneth Jones is a standalone novel in her Aleutinian universe of the White Queen trilogy and several stories.
I liked this one so much that I ordered the original trilogy and I intend to read those books when I get them.
In the Diaspora universe of Humanoid Bipeds - of which the "Blues" - humans of Earth/Blue Planet are one race, the serial immortals Aleutinians are another, and the vampire bat-like Sigurtians yet another with several more around, the space station Speranza is the capital of a loose federation, with interstellar travel by the Buonaraotti coaches or Aleutinian pods, dangerous, unreliable and which may have even disturbed the fabric of the Universe leading to the existence of the non-human races as far-future descendants of humanity joined in the Simultaneity - that is known as the Strong Paradoxical Theory, with several other competing theories involving parallel evolution or a mythical common ancestor, to account for the similarities and even capability of interbreeding with a bit of genetic help between the Humanoid races...
On Earth, humanity is divided between Traditionalists - life marriage, man as the head of family entitled to many concubines, women restricted at least in their private life, honor, duty, loyalty at least in theory - and Reformers - some men or women, but most bi-gendered alternating between male and female aspects, social workers, state service, serial lovers, part-time marriage - and at the beginning of the novel the Reformers hold power, while various factions vie for a "restoration" of the Traditionalists
General Yu is the nominal head of one of the most powerful Traditionalist houses, but quite a lot of power resides with his wife Lady Nef and her Aleutinian secretary and unofficial lover Francois. They are "Seniors", allowed sophisticated genetic treatments enabling them to live 150-200 years with Lady Nef having the prestigious title of "Immortal Designate" which makes her household almost untouchable despite the blunders of the General in his quest for power with dubious friends and allies.
Suppressing a rebellion in an obscure mountainous corner of Earth, General Yu's army brutally massacres all rebels except for the ten year old Gwibibwr/Bibi - which means Princess in the rebels tongue - who is found hiding in a tunnel after the soldiers blood lust has passed. Taken to Lady Nef, Bibi is offered the choice of becoming her servant or the General's concubine and as it becomes the daughter of a traditionalist chieftain, Bibi chooses the former.
In time she befriends two Han Chinese orphan girls Honesty and Nightingale who are her bed-neighbors in the girl's wing of the Yu/Nef household, attracts the attention of Francois, gets sponsored for college and returns as a junior Social Worker under Lady Nef's patronage. Honesty who remained in domestic service becomes her maid and confidante while Nightingale who is the daughter of a dead hero becomes an officer in the People's Army.
Bibi meets a young Reformer boy Mahmood at college and their "houses" agree to a match, Honesty is studying to become chief-servant, while Nightingale has a powerful young Prince as a lover so our 3 heroines seem to have their future assured. But of course it is not so simple.
Chance and fatality intervene and thrown unwittingly in the middle of dangerous plots, Bibi and Honesty have to follow Lady Nef and General Yu on a diplomatic mission far-away on Sigurt, the humanoid vampire-bat planet and while Bibi is temporarily promoted to Francois' assistant and noble status, that comes with a hidden price.
Part Count(ess) of Monte-Cristo in space, part space opera, part sociological/gender SF, Spirit is a wonderful, wonderful novel that made me a big time fan of Gwyneth Jones work and it vaulted in the top 5 sf novels of the year....more
This is a book that leaves one speechless for its brilliance. At 900 pages long, and quite grim in parts, though darkly funny always, I would have re This is a book that leaves one speechless for its brilliance. At 900 pages long, and quite grim in parts, though darkly funny always, I would have read it continuously, but for regular life commitments; even so I managed to read it in 3 days and it is just sad to arrive at the end, though I am sure I will return quite a few times to it; it demands one re-reading at least to appreciate its edifice - it is composed by 5 interlinked parts and it is sprawling and open-ended so little details I am sure I missed on first read will acquire importance on the several rereads I plan for this book in time
Part one details the rise in reputation of the German writer Benno von Archimboldi, born in 1920, but a mysterious figure never seen by anyone except its publisher and supposedly living throughout the world. This part has as main characters 4 University professors and major Archimboldian translators/critics, a Frenchman, a Spaniard, a somewhat crippled Italian and an English lady, their inter relationships and meetings with assorted odd characters. Finally in 2001 they get a tip that Archimboldi has been recently seen in Mexico and they follow there.
Part two is shorter and stranger, about a weird Chilean academic currently teaching in Santa Teresa and met by the critics in part one - his back story and the whys of his keeping an obscure math book by a Spanish poet hanged on his clothesline outside his house and quite a few other weird happenings
Part three is seen through the eyes of a Harlem reporter who by chance is sent to Santa Teresa to cover a boxing match - he reports on African American politics/social issues but the sports reporter just got murdered - and his involvement with the daughter of the academic above and the first glimpse of the issues involving the hundreds of murders/rapes in Santa Teresa
Part four is about the murders - it is a grim litany of the bodies, the following investigations, sometimes followed by arrests, sometimes not, interspersed with a lot of other related things, like the affair between a detective and the head of the mental hospital, the story of various weird characters, corruption and indifference and much more.
Part five returns to Benno von Archimbaldi and tells his story focusing of his war experiences and how he got to be a writer, and later why he goes to Santa Teresa at age 81 in 2001.
The novel is quite open-ended though many things are revealed. Brilliant and indubitably the best novel I've read this year, and one of the best ever. I have not had this feeling of reading a masterpiece of literature since the 2006 Les Bienveillantes by J. Littell though for that one I need to read the English translation when it will get done to see how it truly stacks ...more