This book was billed as a classic 'Steam Punk' story that helped define the genre ... the only problem here was that there was NO steam [tech:] and th...moreThis book was billed as a classic 'Steam Punk' story that helped define the genre ... the only problem here was that there was NO steam [tech:] and there was little or no punk either. In fact, the only way it fits here would be to credit the time period as Victorian (IMHO a useless expansion of the term), before mixing in a tremendous amount of magic in what should be more honestly billed as a time-travel fantasy. That said … it WAS a pretty decent time-travel story :)
The story opens with a magical spell gone wrong which tears holes [gates:] in the time-continuum which serves of the principle mechanism for the subsequent time-travel activities. Powers does a masterful job of weaving two intriguing plotlines … one from the future 20th century and one based in the host 19th century … both of which revolve around the protagonist, one Brendan Doyle, a mediocre 20th century scholar specializing in an obscure 19th century poet (whom he hopes to meet). Not long into the tale, Doyle becomes stranded in the past where he struggles to survive in the dark underworld of London beggars while avoiding capture by the local gypsies who fear he may upset their own schemes. Along the way we are introduced to a system of magic that is at once extremely limited when in connection with the earth and tremendously powerful (the ability to make a virtual army of homunculi, or ka’s, is really over the top IMHO). Stir in a body snatching werewolf, an Egyptian god or two, a secret society, a few elemental spirits, and the real story behind the Punch and Judy puppets for an entertaining mix of odds and ends that keep your interest as the mysteries unfold. The main problem with the story is that Powers touches so many things without really going into much detail … making it hard to leave any lasting impression. (less)
This story is a fantastical retelling of the mythic origins of man (and woman) told from a moderately feminist point of view with a fair amount of eas...moreThis story is a fantastical retelling of the mythic origins of man (and woman) told from a moderately feminist point of view with a fair amount of eastern philosophy mixed in. It begins with the presumption that Lilith was actually the first human soul and that through her love for others, God granted souls to all living things ... Including Adam, the first man. As the story unfolds, the author introduces from very interesting concepts about why we were created, what the soul does for us and how we have the [flawed] moral rules that guide us today. We also find a more rational explanation of man's ejection from the Garden of Eden and a new perspective of the story of Cain.
Unfortunately I thought that rational treatment took away from the mythic quality of the story in general and could not avoid the feeling that I was reading a fancy textbook in school. To be fair, I did learn quite a bit from the story and did enjoy it from that point of view; however, the story seemed to lack several of the critical elements of an entertaining page turner. Part of the problem for me might have been the graphic [sexual] nature of several parts of the story and the subsequent clinical treatment of the subject within. While such content is actually fairly common in ancient text, it is not part of the genre that I typically read for entertainment, making it difficult for me to truly enjoy the book.(less)
Okay ... I am not a big fan of the fractured narrative style (jumping back and forth through time). That said … Vonnegut pulls it off better then most...moreOkay ... I am not a big fan of the fractured narrative style (jumping back and forth through time). That said … Vonnegut pulls it off better then most. I can't really say that I enjoyed it that much; however, it has been awhile since I have encountered the supporting pseudo-stream of consciousness writing style and I found it mildly entertaining … Vonnegut’s sardonic humor helped immensely here.
Of the story itself … the book is characterized as an anti-war book; however, I felt it had more of an amoral tone then anything (with the possible exception being his discussion with his sons concerning massacres). That is, it was more of an eye witness report then a heart felt condemnation, leaving the reader free to impose whatever moral framework desired so long as the factual events were not dismissed. In that respect, I found myself draw into the story with a rubbernecker’s morbid sense of curiosity where it was safe to look because I was not actually involved. This was where the fractured narrative style really helped; it allowed the reader to explore events that were obviously tragic without overwhelming the reader with an extended emotional response … Vonnegut would just barely touch the ‘dark-side’ before zooming away toward lighter faire. (less)