I am totally in love with Louis's writing style, or better said, her voice. Because she does have a voice which is so rare nowadays: in the cacophony...moreI am totally in love with Louis's writing style, or better said, her voice. Because she does have a voice which is so rare nowadays: in the cacophony of writers, rarely one can recognize a unique voice, distinguishable from thousands others. And yet, I believe that's the case with her. Her pen brings words to life: if she talks about a character, I find myself inside that person's head; if she describes the environment, I'm there looking at mountains or wading barefoot through rivers. I believe her style's strongest point is the character development, although quite a few people seem to regard the introspection as a slowing in the rhythm of the story. I guess it's a personal preference: I'd rather read a few extra pages to understand the actor's behavior, than dive head-down into the story and without gulping for enough air to bring the tale to life. As I said in my review of The Curse of Chalion (link to review), I don't think anything in her stories is gratuitous.
However overall I found Paladin of Souls less captivating than The Curse of Chalion. It took me a while to realize what there seem to be the "problem" (not that it greatly affected my reading experience, as my one-day-start-to-end read proved it). Some folks complained that there isn't that much going on in the book; but I believe that's only a side effect since there are much more action numbers in Paladin of Souls than in the previous instalment. In my opinion, the novel would have done better with an extra negative character. In The Curse of Chalion we have the Chancellor dy Jiornal who plays the secondary villain next to the curse itself. But in the second novel, there is no one besides the mysterious demon-driver to bring more tension (and twists of fate) in the scene. Yes we still have a version of the positive character turned negative through a perverted quality (in The Curse of Chalion this is Roya Orico who, by being too lenient, tips the good-bad scale; here it's Lady Cattilara whose morbid love threatens the lives of all those around her). But as these characters always turn good in the end, their contribution to the angst is not the same as a true rogue.
On the other hand, I found the characters from Paladin of Souls more nuanced and multidimensional than those in The Curse of Chalion. Ista is not only torn apart by a catastrophical early life, but also between her resentment (and let's admit it, esoteric fear) of dealing with the Gods and her true divine calling. Her furtive and rather concisely described love affair is charming and much more convincing than that of Royina Iselle in The Curse of Chalion. Both male characters, Lord Arhys and Lord Illvin, although extraordinary in their military skills, are quite regular men, easily tempted by a hot-blooded beautiful woman and frighten by their portended bleak fates.
Finally, although the goods' presence is much more widespread in this second installment (the Bastard Good is a singular character), I found the pure metaphysical discourse shy away in front of the mystery with metaphysical vibe.(less)
The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a story about uprooting, about the desperation of never finding one's "land," about the insecurity of never knowing w...moreThe Yiddish Policemen's Union is a story about uprooting, about the desperation of never finding one's "land," about the insecurity of never knowing where one is going to be tomorrow. I'm not Jewish, but in my opinion this novel tells the millennia-old story of a people always forced to run, always prejudiced against, always oppressed. Because from Antiquity (going through the horrid Inquisition era) to World War II, these people never enjoyed a pause in the their flee. Do they even enjoy it now, during the twenty-first century?
But first things first, let's get over with the writing technique that everyone talks about. Simple test: do you like the following sentence? "The clock on the hospital wall hummed to itself, got antsy, kept snapping off pieces of the night with its minute hand." YES → lucky you; you're in for a great ride. NO/MAYBE → this novel is about 380 pages of akin sentences to the one above.
I read lots of comments from people who wondered what was the purpose of the plethora of Yiddish terms? Does Mr. Chabon try to create a language barrier and hence suggest the idea of isolation? It turns out, the language was in fact the spark that kindled the idea of this novel. Here is the story as told by the author himself in "Guidebook to a Land of Ghosts," an essay first published in 1997 (yes, ten years before the novel first saw the light).
In 1993 the author bought a book published in 1958, named Say It in Yiddish (by Uriel Weinreich and Beatrice Weinreich). It was an modern phrasal dictionary, which he calls "probably the saddest book that I own." The issue that gnaws at him is the futility of this phrase-guide, since by that time Israel already abandoned the Yiddish language. From there to brainstorming about possible needs for such a dictionary, there was only one step. (He puts forth two speculations but, for lack of space, I'll mention only the relevant one.)
"I can imagine a different Yisroel (Note: a post-war equivalent of Israel), the youngest nation on the North American continent, founded in the former Alaska territory during World War II as a resettlement zone for the Jews of Europe. (I once read that Franklin Roosevelt was briefly sold on such a plan.) [...] The resulting country is a cold, northern land of furs, paprika, samovars, and one long, glorious day of summer. It would be absurd to speak Hebrew, that tongue of spikenard and almonds, in such a place. (Nota bene: so he assumes that they would speak Yiddish instead)[...]
But grief haunts every mile of the places to which the Weinreichs beckon. [...] By taking us to Yisroel, the Weinreichs are, in effect, taking us home, to the 'old country.' To a Europe that might have been."
It is the old country that the author attempts to recreate in The Yiddish Policemen's Union, and he success admirably. Because this world is not just a scanty pencil sketch - it is a luscious Renaissance-style oil painting (you know, the ones that dwell in every minute detail). Mr. Chabon "paints" credible humans with their emotions and personal histories, which are part of a plausible community history, placed in a made-up but once again believable development, subject to the bigger geographic interaction. No element is left aside and no effort to improve on the novel's world is too small. The author could have chosen to tell the story of the old country from a historical perspective, with much less time-cost and subsequent creative effort. But, by molding a contemporary world, Michael Chabon appears to point out that the character's feelings of uprooting are in fact still a painful reality.
This is not a happy story, but neither is altogether a dejected one. The relentless bereavement of the people who have lost their land is an ever-present shadow. But so is the hope that one day they will find their land. ------✁------------
P.S. At the end, the edition that I read (Harper Collins's ebook published in 2012) has a Glossary of Yiddish Terms, which unfortunately is nowhere before mentioned. Do yourself a favor and check to see whether your edition has one. You'll need it...(less)
Welcome to the real estate of the galaxy, a.k.a, the Zones of Thought, where everything from te...moreReview Subtitle: "Location... location... location..."
Welcome to the real estate of the galaxy, a.k.a, the Zones of Thought, where everything from technology to the cognitive process itself is a function of the distance from the galactic center. That is, the further away from the center, the more advanced the potential civilizations and the forms of life. So advanced in fact, that the Transcend, the outermost region, is the home of the gods or Powers (entities whose intelligence is omnipotent), while the Slowness, the innermost region, is a galactic ghetto and home of... the Old Earth (modest technology, human-equivalent of intelligence). Mr. Vinge truly creates a fascination and original landscape of our galaxy.
Still, A Fire Upon the Deep is not a story about the Old Earth (by now, an almost forgotten planet), but the story of Tines, a backwater world located even further up in the Slowness and hence stuck for millennia at a Medievalistic level of technological development. It is also the story of Relay, of Straumli Realm, of Sjandra Kei, of Harmonious Repose (humorously nicknamed "Rest in Peace"), all worlds of of the Beyond, the middle zone of the galaxy, and all of them (view spoiler)[destroyed (hide spoiler)] by the Power called Blight that is accidentally brought to life in the first chapter of the novel. And in the same time, it is a profoundly human story of a handful of characters, whose life is threatened by the newborn Power and who try to find a way to annihilate it.
The amount of information that streams in front of us is incredible, and since he used to be a professor of Mathematics, that information is quite often strewn with abstract details. Most often the facts help advance the plot, but at times, I felt that the novel would have done better with 50 pages less. Also, and this is the reason, I down-rated the book, I found some of the characters' motivations a bit weak, Ravna's particularly.
To end, I didn't believe that the solution to expunge the Blight was morally questionable, as it's been suggested. In fact, I believe that a free civilization, even crippled, is superior to a civilization who lost its freedom and selfhood. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)