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3.71  ·  Rating details ·  3,063 ratings  ·  273 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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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  3,063 ratings  ·  273 reviews

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Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: british, sci-fi, church
The Christendom Chronicles

I don’t think it’s right to comment on Keith Roberts’s Pavane without comparing it to its near contemporary, Kingsley Amis’s The Alteration. Pavane is probably a better written book all round but both books present a remarkably consistent counter-factual view of a 20th century Christendom which might have existed if the Protestant Reformation had never taken place (The Alteration) or was suppressed (Pavane).

Both books are also profoundly pessimistic about European poli
mark monday
"Do you know what I mean?"
The slice of life is a guide, an instruction manual to understand a life. It is a bore at first, like many such manuals, like many such lives, when looking at the minutiae, when looking from the outside in. The life moves forward in stops and starts, decisions are made, love lives and dies and death is imagined then made real. The life goes on, and so starts another life, and then another..
"Yes," she said. "It's like a... dance somehow, a minuet or a pavane. Some
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Parvane is alt-history as it should be done. Convincing, engrossing, and as exactingly built as the finest steam engine.

I was recommended this book after reading Martin Amis’ The Alteration, a very solid alt-history novel set in a modern Britain still under Catholic rule, in a world where Martin Luther became Pope instead of setting off the Protestant revolution.

Pavane is built around a similar setting- via the murder of Elizabeth The First Catholicism defeated the Protestant revolution and in
Jul 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Pavane is an alternate history story. One of those “What If” novels that speculate what the world would be like if past events took a decidedly different turn. The novel is set in England during the late 20th Century and a brief prologue sets up the premise: in 1588, Queen Elizabeth is assassinated; the Spanish Armada defeats the British, and the course of history for Europe and the New World changes. The Protestant religion is crushed and the Catholic Church of the Spanish Inquisition becomes t ...more
Pavane: Six glimpses of an alternate England dominated by the Church

Pavane (1968), by Keith Roberts, is a book I’ve long wanted to read, a collection of loosely-linked stories set in an alternate England where Queen Elizabeth was assassinated and Philip II won the throne of England. Because of this, the Protestant Reformation never happened and Europe fell under the control of the Roman Catholic Church. The stories begin in 1968 (when the book was published), but this England does not resemble o
Feb 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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.

Joseph Delaney
I first read this about twenty years ago. I enjoyed it even more at this second reading. It is an alternative history that really does build a convincing world. A great story full of adventures and conflict.
Kat  Hooper
Feb 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
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
Scott Danielson
Mar 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
An exquisitely crafted alternate history of England. A set of six linked stories set up as a dance,or pavane, if you will. Not anything really profound but a delight in itself as a work of fiction. Deliciously written and craftily plotted to a most satisfying ending.

I'm not a big alternate history fan but throughly enjoyed this.

Roberts takes some pretty mighty swings at the Romish church and his main message may be how religion keeps progressive humanity back with a superstitious spear of fear
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Classic 70s alternate history.

400 years ago a single bullet killed a single woman. After that everything was similar but different to how it would have been.

This is slow, thoughtful, idealistic and beautiful after the fashion of 70s literary SF. The story is made up of 6 sequential short stories, each building a part of this alternate world, each introducing a well drawn sympathetic character, each ending in a vague, almost tentative resolution.

The book uses the motif of the dance, the Pavane
I am an admirer of the music of Ed Kuepper. From his early days in seminal punk rock band The Saints, followed by the amazingly underappreciated Laughing Clowns, through to film score and solo recordings, I seem to have been along for the musical ride, be that live or via studio recordings. He recently released his 50th album Lost Cities. This release was the first new material for 8 years and for me personally it was worth the wait. The opening track is called Pavane, a word I did not know. I i ...more
Aug 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pavane is one of the earlier alternate reality books. The premise: Elisabeth I. has been murdered, the Spanish Armada won. The industrial age with the dominance of England never occured. The Catholic Church defeated all reformation attempts and is hindering progress by declaring most technological innovations to be heretic. Electricity, the combustion engine, radio communication- heresy! It's the twentieth century, England stands firm to the Catholic Church and is ruled by the king and the arist ...more
Nov 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 13, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, sf-masterworks
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.
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-read
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
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read for the Science Fiction Masterworks Book Club.

Who's this Keith Roberts guy? I wondered. I had never heard of him.

But lots of people I had heard of had, because they all did blurbs for this edition of this book: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Ian R. MacLeod, S.M. Stirling, Christopher Priest, George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois. Neil Gaiman is quoted as saying that he read of the stories in Pavane as a child, and it "scarred him." Well, that's quite the list of recommendations! I thought. And
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
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Pavane is a stately, measured dance, popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Keith Roberts wrote a true masterwork of Science Fiction: 1960’s alternative history that presaged steampunk, with elements of fantasy, social criticism, and above all and above all else, humanity at its best.
You will see brilliant, lyrical verse, masterful plots, intensely drawn characters. His descriptions are breathtaking. Here’s a short one: “On either side of the knoll the land stretched in long, spe
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-books
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
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Who knew that an alternate history could be written with such beautiful prose? This book has a prologue, six loosely connected stories called measures, and a coda, which could be called an epilogue. This book imagines what the UK (and to a degree, the rest of the world) might have been like if Queen Elizabeth I died young. Imagine the Spanish Amada returning and capturing Great Britain. Imagine the Anglicanism thwarted. Imagine the Roman Catholic Church controlling the world and keeping progress ...more
Nov 06, 2011 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Nicola Griffith
Shelves: fiction-fantasy
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Apr 18, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Graeme Dunlop
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed rereading this genre classic.

Written in 1968, it depicts a modern-day Britain under the rule of the Catholic Church. ("Modern day", i.e., late 60s). The Church rules with a heavy hand and suppressed technology. This is a Britain of steam engines, giant semaphore stations, and hand-crafted printing presses. It would not seem out of place in the early 1900s, except that other technologies ARE known, but forbidden. For example, use of petrol engines is severely restricted by th
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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

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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.” 3 likes
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