This little book, like a small magazine, is the first in a series, as you can see on the publisher's website: click here.
David Bry's last novel, Que pThis little book, like a small magazine, is the first in a series, as you can see on the publisher's website: click here.
David Bry's last novel, Que passe l'hiver, is on my TBR-pile since May this year, but as is typical for every reader: too many books, too little time. But I hope to read it asap.
Meanwhile, I got to read two of Mr Bry's short-stories: 'Le Roi de la clairière' and 'Ce que l'homme croit', both so short, you could read them between two meetings or during your lunch-break, for example. Rough translations of the titles: 'The King of the Clearing (or Glade)' and 'What man believes'.
'Le Roi de la clairière' is about man vs nature, about the time when man was part of the animal kingdom and showed respect for it, respect for the king (in this case, a wolf). But man got greedy, (d)evolved, procreated, all to the detriment of nature, of the aforementioned kingdom. What happens when one gets greedy and selfish? It's lonely at the top, as the saying goes.
'Ce que l'homme croit' is about a warrior-king who's lost his beloved spouse. He still misses her dearly and hopes she'll appear again, one day. Everyone knows that it will never happen, but our king (I assume it's a king) is prepared to pay his mage anything to keep the illusion, the thought alive. (view spoiler)[Even if means asking a girl from town to come over and pretend she's the king's deceased wife. And yes, our main character is fully aware of what's at play, yet wants it that way. Also, alcohol helps to drink away the sadness, until more alcohol is needed. We don't know how he lost his wife, though, but that's not what matters here. Still, can you call 'wanting a deceased lover back' love? Or is it rather selfish to want something like that? (hide spoiler)]
Short story short: Both little tales were very well written, very fluent, too, and both with a deeper message. Actually, I am a little curious to know if for both stories, the author foresaw a larger context, a large novella or even full-blown novel....more
To begin with, this new edition contains both stories of the 'Machines et magie' duology: La Chasseuse de livres: Le Grimoire and La Machine de LéandrTo begin with, this new edition contains both stories of the 'Machines et magie' duology: La Chasseuse de livres: Le Grimoire and La Machine de Léandre, both reworked for this re-edition. This results in 180 pages for 'La Machine de Léandre' and 70 pages for 'La Chasseuse de livres'. An interview with the author - about the main story, the universe in which it takes place, and more - rounds off this new edition.
La Machine de Léandre: This story takes place a few years before the events in Sorcières Associées. Main character Constance Agdal, Professor of Magical Sciences, has only one desire: devote time to her research and forget her (magic-related) past. But as her past is part of who she is, it's hard for her to ignore it, even if she has chosen a scientific career. She runs a laboratory with other scientists; some aid her in her work, but she's also got a colleague (Simon Dowell) who works on something totally different. One day, he's gone missing. No one knows where he went, not even if he's at home (curiously enough, this option is not investigated). Not only that, but there was also a gash in the veil between the real world and the world of "exotic creatures", which allowed for Albert Dupont to enter the real world, but not of his own choosing.
Soon enough, every person with influence and power will be in need of Constance (either to know more about Simon Dowell or to make [ab]use of her acquired knowledge through years of research, and whilst they're at it, to help repair the opening between both worlds): be it a representative (Artémise Watts) of the Magistère (House of Mages), a police inspector, an incubus (Albert Dupont, who will assist/stand by Constance now and then; and we all know what incubuses thrive on), Philidor Magnus (a friend of Simon Dowell, with whom he was working on a unique project, to be revealed very soon), ...
Constance is not the most extraverted/social person, but Albert Dupont will visit her regularly, whether she expects it or not. However, because of her past, she has a special power to detect strange behaviour/happenings/appearances and even influence or create events when she's in danger, so as to distract her kidnappers. Yes, Constance isn't leading the calm, scientific life she dreamed of. On the contrary.
As Philidor Magnus desperately wants to finish his project, and since Simon Dowell is still missing, he asks Constance to help him with the last bits. It's then that Philidor's terrible secret is revealed, albeit through a dumb intervention by Constance. Some creepy stuff here. (view spoiler)[Philidor Magnus is in fact Léandre. Léandre has survived for several centuries through the drinking of dragon's blood. His painting is also on the wall among many other historic characters. Constance recognised his face. Also, Simon Dowell was not completely gone. He was dead, yes, but his head was used as vital piece for the magic machine of Léandre. Constance was not to reveal that news to anyone; worse, she was supposed to replace Simon to keep the machine running. And so, Mighty Mouse, eh, Albert Dupont came to save the day. Well, sort of. There was some fighting between him and Léandre, and Albert landed on one of the handles of the machine, creating a sort of short-circuiting, causing many rays to escape and create a large suction hole, which would suck up everything, the entire city and flush it into another universe. Thanks to quick thinking, Constance avoided a great disaster. In doing so, she almost booked a one-way ticket to the other side. But all's well that ends well, otherwise it wouldn't be a good story. (hide spoiler)]
This was quite an entertaining story, showing how magic and science are both needed in the world, as both contribute to people's happiness, but how the process isn't free from danger. Of course, as it's not a full-blown novel, some things/situations were dealt with in a quick manner. On the other hand, if you're in need of a good story to read in-between, this will certainly quench your thirst.
La Chasseuse de livres: In this story, we follow a female student (or princess, as she calls herself), who goes by the name of Cassandra de Galata, has the task at the faculty where she studies/works, to translate the annotated logbook of Léandre the Alchimist. On a sidenote: Cassandra is also present in Sorcières Associées.
One day, she receives a letter from Tamora Caton, president of The Foundation of Occult Sciences (La Fondation des Sciences Occultes), who asks - no, summons - her to fulfil a long lost book of spells: l'Appel aux Anciens (rough translation: Summoning the Ancients).
The main question is: Did the book ever exist? Is there any proof of this? De Galata can only base her quest on books in the various libraries and other sources and plan everything from there. Ms Caton is more than convinced of the books existence, which for many is a reason to consider her a weird person. However, there is a fierce competition, as two more people are out to find the precious prize. One of them is Quintus, a fellow researcher (and far cousin) with whom she doesn't get along at all, and Rinaldo Dia Marra (authoritative member of the Société des Arcanes, an southern equivalent of the Magistère). Furthermore, Quintus is a member of the Magistère, an ancient association of mages. There activities were reduced to a strict minimum, as the the Cult of the Way (la Voie) rose and converted many souls. Nowadays, anything religious takes place in temples.
Both Quintus and Rinaldo have their own reasons and objectives to follow Cassandra and see to it that her quest ends in what each of them wants it to end.
Her voyage takes her to Tourmayeur (Tour Majeure, Important Tower [roughly translated], hence the name) and she decides to hire a guide to take her on a tour to discover the region. When she talks about a specific area, where her research was to lead her, the guide refuses to go any father, indicating that that zone is forbidden territory. History has it that danger looms around every corner, in every crevice, and that there is yet more research to be done before it's safe for people to go there. A little stubborn as she is, Cassandra decides to investigate it herself.
That's when things are set in motion. The search for the book of spells is on, the underground hides many secrets, everyone wants a piece of the cake. But it won't be a piece of cake to accomplish it.
'La Chasseuse de Livres' was a lot shorter than 'La Machine de Léandre', and thus suffers a bit from the same problems: wrapping up things a little too fast, not elaborating on certain happenings, ... Nevertheless, its lightness contributed to this espresso of excitement.
Long story short: 'La Machine de Léandre' (new omnibus-edition, including 'La Chasseuse de Livres') confirms the fluent pen of Alex Evans. One must not have read any of the other two books that take place in the same universe. It's a perfect book to read on a lazy Sunday - or when commuting to and from work, for example -, when in need of a magical field-trip, full of adventure and elaborate descriptions here and there.
I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust....more
As languages or linguistics are one of my interests, even though I don't follow any studies on the subject, nor do I thoroughly look for articles or bAs languages or linguistics are one of my interests, even though I don't follow any studies on the subject, nor do I thoroughly look for articles or books, I do like some (general) language reading from time to time, be it academic or popular, as you can see here.
At the end of July, I made a quick trip to Paris, France, and it was only by accident that I came across a bookshop: L'Arbre du Voyageur (roughly translated: The Traveller's Tree). I only had a few minutes, but I had to go in there. The first shelf I saw, by accident, had something to do with languages, sociology, ... and the first book I picked was this one: 'La Langue mondiale - Traduction et domination' by Pascale Casanova. She was a professor and well-known literary critic. Was, as she passed away in September 2018.
This small book was her last work, published by Éditions Seuil. It contains five chapters (rough translation of the titles by me), sandwiched between an introduction (Exordium) and an epilogue (Exitus):
1) The bilingualism Latin-French 2) When French had to be defended/protected 3) Translation as conquest 4) The Beautiful Infidels 5) Leopardi and the French Language
Mrs Casanova treats in a concise, yet pretty complete manner how Latin was previously the most prestigious and noble language in the world (or rather, Europe). It was applied in education, politics, religious affairs, writing, and so on. French, on the other hand, was the language for everyday use, spoken by the common people, and at that, pretty poor in vocabulary and grammar.
Little by little (specially in the 16th to 19th centuries; let's also not forget the founding the the Académie française in 1639, thanks to King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu), French became richer and more varied in content, in style, and ultimately, a world language. As is common today, French took over words from Latin, translated texts from Latin to French (on the one hand, quite a "loose" translation, not to say "reinterpreted"; on the other hand, translations closer to the original texts). And so, Latin lost more and more of its power, though it took several centuries to accomplish that. As it took several decades for English to take over from French as dominant language. See for recent examples: business English and the fact that French (and other languages) have added many English words (with or without a little tweaking) to their own vocabulary.
Mrs Casanova also shows how a dominant language can really influence or even eradicate a dominated language. Even if people are bilingual (or speak at least two languages and can switch from one to the other) are also dominated and dominant. Another myth she debunks is: it's not because language x is the (most) dominant one, that it's also - on a larger scale - the most powerful one on an economic or military level.
Another point she addresses is the fact that language (and thus translation) can be used as a weapon to eradicate other languages, like countries fight other countries for dominance or resources. Several examples are presented to demonstrate this kind of undertaking.
Leopardi was an Italian writer, a fierce defender of his mother-tongue, but also appreciative of the French language. He fought for the distinction between the two, not e.g. French dominating Italian, since - as is written elsewhere in the book - Italian was also, at some point, considered higher on the hierarchical ladder than French, since Italian was more closely related to Latin. French also evolved from Latin, but this is another example of one language finding itself better, more worthy than the other.
Mrs Casanova based her discourse on several works, like:
Her idea of language is one of equality, that all languages should be treated as equal, without one dominating (or be considered more prestigious, more classy, ... than) the other for whatever reason.
Translations are very common nowadays. Especially translations from English into another language (French, German, Dutch, ...), whereas not as much books get translated from the other languages into English. A bit of arrogance on the English side, which in this way considers itself more important than the others. Since English is spoken and written around the world, why bother translating works in foreign languages into English? But in this way, English remains stagnant, whereas other languages are enriched, sort of, through translations.
However, Mrs Casanova also showed how translations were (or are?) regulated in such a way, that it would be hard to distinguish the original from its translation: this could have happened by asking the translator to translate in such a way that it wouldn't look like a translation (thus adapting one's style to fit that of the source language); or, those who commanded a translation, would omit the translator's name on purpose (another example of how translations would be used as a weapon). What do you mean, respecting the translator and his/her work? Throughout the centuries, many times, it seems, translations were forged, tampered with, all for the "higher good" of the target language (French, in this case). But who knows what happened back when Latin copied from Greek?
Also, translations aren't always taken from the source language, but from a secondary language. For instance: from Chinese over German to English. This also means you may lose meaning and thus not correctly translate what was originally written.
The writing style of Mrs Casanova is not that accessible; despite having improved my knowledge and comprehension of the French language the last four years, there were several times I had to plough through her sometimes heavy wording, especially with the several sub-clauses. It's an academic work, after all. The mentioning of older works and their authors was not that much of a problem to understand what she meant. Of course, if you're familiar with these works or authors, it's easier to follow her line of thought. Du Bellay, Erich Auerbach, Leopardi, etc. are all unknown to me. But I'm glad she mentioned those books as footnotes on the respective pages and not as a collection of notes at the end of this essay.
To cut things short: Mrs Casanova's last work is, if I understood correctly, a plea for respect for all languages and their characteristics, their own voice, their own identity, despite the loan words, the copying, and so on. I found it very interesting to read how Latin (which took over the throne from Greek) dominated Europe, but then had to leave its place for French (although German and Italian also fought for dominant positions), which in turn had to step down in favour of English (currently a or the dominating language). Also interesting to read is how translations were dealt with so many centuries ago (reinterpret or stay close to the original?) and how these still impact today's politics, economy, writing and publishing, and more.
I might check out other such works (language history, translation history, ...) later to have a broader view of the subject.
Zo'n 3 jaar geleden, zeker na het, dankzij m'n werk, bijwonen van een interne infosessie over de Europese Unie, heb ik mij het volgende boekje aangescZo'n 3 jaar geleden, zeker na het, dankzij m'n werk, bijwonen van een interne infosessie over de Europese Unie, heb ik mij het volgende boekje aangeschaft: Europese Unie (zie m'n recensie hier), een introductie over de EU, het Europees Parlement, de Europese Raad, de Europese Commissie, enz... Kwestie van een beter inzicht, hoe oppervlakkig ook, te bekomen van deze grote organisatie, die tegenwoordig meer kritiek dan steun krijgt. Dit komt uiteraard ook (!) omdat de media er niet in slagen een degelijke uitleg te geven en zeer algemeen erover berichten. Een kritiek die ook door Rob Heirbaut en Hendrik Vos in hun nieuwste boek vermeld wordt.
Gezien de problemen waarmee België, Europa en de wereld tegenwoordig te kampen hebben (gehad, waaronder de eurocrisis), leek het me opportuun om 'Europa in woelig water' te lezen. Ik had nood aan een opfrissing en wat duiding, al besef ik enigszins dat de Europese Unie best wel invloed heeft op het doen en laten van de Europese landen, toch alleszins deze die lid zijn van de Unie.
Zeker op vlak van reizen en handel kunnen de lidstaten apart het niet meer aan deze zaken zelf van A tot Z te regelen. Zo zijn er nog thema's waarbij het beter is dat er een organisatie is van bovenaf, zeker omdat Europa uit verschillende landen, volkeren en culturen bestaat, die elk een rijke geschiedenis achter de rug hebben, met vallen en opstaan. Dit verklaart mede waarom beslissingen in Europa vaak zo moeilijk zijn: verschillende meningen, gelobby, en niet in het minst: er moet unanimiteit zijn (lees: alle lidstaten moeten akkoord zijn met voorstel x of y; zelfs 1 lidstaat kan met een veto de boel blokkeren). Voor andere zaken volstaat een meerderheid.
De crisissen blijken te gaan over domeinen waarvoor de lidstaten geen soevereiniteit willen afstaan aan de EU, met alle gevolgen van dien. Uiteraard zal en kan de EU niet alles oplossen, maar bepaalde thema's en domeinen worden beter op 1 niveau geregeld, zodat het voor iedereen makkelijker werken en leven is. Zeker omdat niet elke lidstaat over de nodige ervaring of middelen beschikt om het zelf aan te pakken.
Bovendien, en dan beïnvloedt ook de werking en beslissingen van de EU, vertrouwen de lidstaten elkaar niet altijd en wordt er dus niet altijd informatie uitgewisseld.
De Europese Unie is een nuttige en nodige organisatie, die het leven in Europa op verschillende vlakken vereenvoudigd heeft, maar die op zich wellicht wat kan hervormd worden inzake structuur, manier van werken (om tot wetten en dergelijke te komen), ...
Het boek is ingedeeld in zes delen, om het overzicht te bewaren:
1) Een korte geschiedenis van de Europese Unie: --> het ontstaan, Schengen, de euro, enz.
2) Domeinen waarop de lidstaten liever zelf de touwtjes in handen houden: --> begroting, defensie, buitenlands beleid, energie, ...
3) De verschillende crisissen (ontstaan, aanpak, overleg, ...): --> eurocrisis, terrorisme (Spanje, Engeland, Frankrijk, België, ...), belastingontduiking (LuxLeaks, Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, ...), vluchtelingencrisis, geopolitieke problemen van bepaalde lidstaten (zie Oekraïene en Rusland, ex-Joegoslavië, Afrikaanse lente, ...), lokale problemen (Polen, Hongarije, ...), klimaatcrisis, enz.
4) Hoe worden beslissingen genomen? --> Wie zijn de actoren? Welke invloed hebben verkiezingen op de samenstelling van het Parlement, de Raad, de Commissie, enz... en wat is de impact op de beslissingen en eventuele opstelling en uitvoering van wetten?
5) Geld: --> Hoe wordt Europa (de EU, het Parlement, enz.) gefinancierd? Wie werken er allemaal voor deze grote machine en haar verschillende instanties? Wat wordt er via Europa gefinancierd in de verschillende lidstaten? (niet alleen de ambtenaren, maar ook subsidies voor projecten, bijvoorbeeld, of noodfondsen voor landen in nood)
6) De brexit: --> uitleg over het ontstaan van de wrevel, het ongenoegen, en hoe dit tot de publicatie van het boek werd aangepakt, wat er zoal gebeurd is. Wat zijn de mogelijke gevolgen van een brexit?
Het geheel is zeer helder en toegankelijk geschreven. Hier en daar worden zaken herhaald, wat een beetje vervelend kan overkomen, maar het helpt om de aandacht erbij te houden.
De meeste thema's worden oppervlakkig aangekaart, soms wordt er te snel overgeschakeld naar het volgende thema; zoniet, zou het boek veel dikker geweest zijn (350-400 bladzijden t.o.v. 286 nu). De EU is al niet zo'n populair onderwerp en wellicht was het ook niet de bedoeling om een diepgaande analyse van de EU op vandaag te maken.
Wat er m.i. ontbreekt en toch wel van belang is: * een index van gebruikte termen en namen * een overzicht van de verschillende verdragen (ev. met hun links) en een korte beschrijving daarvan * een bronnenlijst (boeken, artikels, websites, ...): het is niet omdat Rob Heirbaut journalist is en Hendrik Vos hoogleraar, dat ze geen bronnen moeten meegeven in hun op zich zeer heldere uitleg over de logge machine die de Europese Unie heet. * voetnoten of verwijzingen: Er wordt hier en daar een melding à la '(zie verder)' of 'zoals we eerder schreven' gemaakt, maar waarom verwijst men dan niet naar de betrokken bladzijden of minstens de hoofdstukken? Minpunt voor een dergeijke nalatigheid.
Zoals de heren zelf schrijven in dit verhelderende en zeer toegankelijke werk: de media gaan niet meer diep in op wat de EU is, wat ze doet, wiat precies wat beslist en welke invloed dat heeft. Vandaar dat dergelijke boeken belangrijk blijven. Dit boek is eerder een soort introductie of snelle opfrissing is van wat de EU en haar elementen (Parlement, Raad, Commissie, ...) zijn, wat ze doen, welke impact (en dat is best wat) ze hebben op het dagelijkse leven van de verbonden lidstaten en wat de stand van zaken vandaag (anno 2019, meer bepaald, tot april 2019) is.
Ik wil gerust wat meer diepgaande non-fictie over de EU lezen, maar we zullen eerst eens bij de officiële website zelf beginnen, zeker? ;-) Deze is in verschillende talen beschikbaar, dankzij het vele werk van de verschillende vertalers en tolken, wiens werk zeker niet te onderschatten is....more
'Underground Airlines' is a story that takes place in our contemporary world, one in which slavery was never abolished. There are the northern states,'Underground Airlines' is a story that takes place in our contemporary world, one in which slavery was never abolished. There are the northern states, so-called 'free states', and four southern states, so-called 'slave states'. Slavery is still active and maintained in the southern states. Slaves are held captive and monitored, have to undergo scrutiny for every move they make, for every place they wish to visit. Oh, how fun it is to be a black person in the southern states.
The northern states, where slavery has been abandoned after an economic trade agreement with the southern states, help fugitives escape to a better life in Canada. The means to realise this: an underground pattern of tunnels. There are no trains involved, but the name 'Underground Airlines' is a nice euphemism to escape from a dreadful situation, a situation that still exists - in a different form - today: one example given is the black population vs the white police force.
Our main character, Victor, is one of the escaped (and re-caught) slaves, but was offered a job in return for his life. He chose the job, because the alternative wasn't one. His main mission consisted in tracking down and capturing fellow fugitives to bring them back to their plantations. In his latest case, he was to bring back a man by the name of Jackdaw. Via several instructions from the US Marshals (his employers), he received the required papers to change his identity (Jim Dirkson, Brother, ...) and gain access to the southern plantations without too much trouble. So, yes, in a way, this is also a detective/thriller story. Mind you, Victor isn't even officially registered. So, whether he succeeds or fails in his mission, no one will mourn his death. All the more reason for him to be vigilant, if he wants to live.
He can't tell anyone of his true identity, of his current 'job', his mission. So, he concocts an own history, of working for a company that wishes to expand its business in the area and he has to look for the ideal location. That's also when he meets a mother (Martha Flowers) and her little son (Lionel). She seeks information about her husband, a slave called Samson. He managed to escape, but was recaptured. She and Jim (aka Victor) will little by little need each other, especially as Jim is given a new mission after trying to rescue Jackdaw, a process that didn't go very smoothly. In comes an opposing force: a priest (who helps fugitives and whom Jim/Victor met previously; he tried to gain help from the priest - Barton - to save his imaginary wife from a plantation), a black cop (Cook), ... these three work for the Underground Airlines, but internally, they all have their own agenda. Something Jim will find out soon enough, though not through a simple exchange of friendly words.
(view spoiler)[As Jim/Victor, though being constantly followed by his supervisor (thanks to an implanted chip in his/Jim's neck), manages to track down the tunnel and eventually Jackdaw's position. However, the aforementioned trio is onto Jim/Victor and awaits him at the other side of the tunnel, from which he hoped to escape. Poor Jackdaw doesn't survive; in fact, Jackdaw's real name is Kevin. He is a spy with the task to document the bad treatment of the slaves and the intrigue behind the slavery, which would then help end legalised slavery. Jim and the others, as Jim is now their captive, reach an agreement: Jim has to go back to the slave plantation where Kevin came from to meet up with another slave and recuperate an envelop containing important information. And all of a sudden, Jim/Victor is not so sure of himself any more, as if back to square one. What happened? Did he fear for his life more than before, since he was nowhere officially registered?
Said plantation will prove to be more than just that. There is supervision, but when slaves fight among each other, the guards don't intervene. They're only slaves, after all, less worth than a white human. After he's beaten up - a way to be able to isolate him from the supervised area -, he will find out how the world really works there: a system of slave-production. In other words, if I understood correctly: people are cloned, one way or another, to maintain a strong population of slaves. That's what Jim had to bring back: a flask containing genetic material to further the cloning process, should legalised slavery be abolished one day. However, the small gang who beat him up, will help him, but they refuse to escape, as this plantation is like a home to them. Everything is regulated and structured. (hide spoiler)]
The story is rooted in the period of the American Civil War (1861-1863; Wikipedia-link). Especially the afterword by Bertrand Campeis (from a.o. Le Guide de l'uchronie, on my TBR-pile) offers valuable background information on this period and the story. In Winters' book, the war never took place and Abraham Lincoln was assassinated before becoming president.
You won't get all giddy or happy from reading this story, on the contrary even. The cruel treatment and racism that the slaves have to undergo (or even Victor/Jim during his investigations), the fact that local people from the southern states live their lives like they're king of the world and don't want anybody (and certainly not the government) putting his/her nose in their businesses, ...
Long story short: Ben H. Winters has written an eye-opening story about (a part of) America's history (and the world's in general, as slavery and racism is not and never was not only rampant in the USA; each continent has [had] its share, even today), even if it takes place in a more contemporary version. Mr Winters did a lot of research to properly convey the atrocious events of the 19th century. As several historic events (like both World Wars) should not be forgotten - and yet, "we" never seem to learn from our mistakes (there still are wars being waged, for example, and not only for "peace") -, so should the consequences of slavery and racism be.
On a side note: You could consider 'Underground Airlines' and The Underground Railroad (by Colson Whitehead) siblings, as both stories deal with the same period, the same themes, but approach them differently. 'Underground Airlines' was published in 2016 and has since then won several prizes. In late 2018, the book was translated into French (by Éric Holstein, whose D'or et d'Emeraude is on my TBR-pile) and published by Éditions ActuSF, as you can see here. Books like these are an excellent step-up to more serious works or articles about, in this case, the American Civil War.
I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust....more
'Dragon de glace' ('Ice Dragon' in its original, English version) was first released in 2011 via Éditions ActuSF. This bundle of 4 short-stories was r'Dragon de glace' ('Ice Dragon' in its original, English version) was first released in 2011 via Éditions ActuSF. This bundle of 4 short-stories was recently (June 2019) re-released in pocket format via Collection Hélios, a label shared by Éditions ActuSF, Les Éditions Mnémos, and Les Moutons Électriques.
This little book contains 4 stories, each dating from the 1980s and previously published in various magazines.
1) Dragon de glace (Ice Dragon, 1980) This one was previously published in the (French) magazine Bifrost (no. 28, 2002). It's a story about a introverted, 7 year old girl, Adara, who lives with her little brother (Geoff), elder sister (Téri) and their father on a farm. The eldest girl also works as a waitress to have her family have a higher income. The little brother is a curious kid, not really afraid of anything. He was their father's favourite. Adara was born in winter, her favourite season. The cold, the snow, the ice... didn't bother her at all. The warmth and clarity of the summer was something she could never really feel comfortable, especially not when their uncle Hal, a dragon-rider and valiant warrior, came to visit them, which he did on a regular basis. Each time he brought them some gifts.
This time, a war was being waged and uncle Hal had to help fight off the enemies, who largely outnumbered Hal's troops. Adara, on the other hand, had become friends with the ice dragon. So much even, that she wanted to flee with him. Until the war hit home and she felt remorse for her actions and thoughts. All's well that ends well, except for the ice dragon.
A beautiful story, no question about that. (5/5)
2) Dans les contrées perdues (In the Lost Lands, 1982) This story was first published in France in the magazine Asphodale (no. 4, 2003). A knight visits a witch in her cottage in the woods to fulfil his mistress's wish: to be able to change shape, more precisely that of a werewolf. Her credo is: I've never refused a client. On the other hand, he has a wish of his own: his mistress must not succeed in her desire to change shape. Of course, the witch will be richly rewarded for her services. She goes out on a mission to satisfy both demands. She gets in touch with someone who can lead her to a werewolf. (view spoiler)[It will later turn out that her contact is the werewolf, changing shape as the full moon approaches. However, the witch can also change shape and is quick-witted, difficult to be fooled. And so, one thing leads to another: the werewolf dies, is stripped of his fur. The fur is then brought back for the knight to give to his mistress. (hide spoiler)] The result of the mission is positive, both demands were fulfilled. But the knight, who's madly in love with his mistress, will have wished he could "order" something else from the witch.
Another good story. (4/5)
3) L'Homme en forme de poire (The Pear-Shaped Man, 1987) This story was first published in France in the magazine Bifrost (no. 33, 2004). It's the weirdest of the pack, more realistic in setting. Not really fantasy, more like magical realism. The key role is played by a female illustrator, who has a secure job, thanks to a trustworthy collaboration. She delivers quality and on time. However, in the building where she lives with a friend, there's also a pear-shaped man. His behaviour is peculiar, weird, to say the least. He eats only a specific kind of crackers (Cheez Doodles) and drinks large amounts of cola. Nobody has ever seen him eat or drink anything else. He doesn't even have a job. He doesn't even have a name, it seems, nor does he have a record anywhere. And nobody seems to care about all this, since he lives his life and they theirs.
He seems to have fallen for Jessie, who is anxious to find out more about him, yet is also terrified of him, as he looks creepy. At some point, her flatmates assure her that nothing can go wrong. So he finally pays him a visit. The end is quite expected. (view spoiler)[She seems to have been swallowed by him, becoming him afterwards. Her flatmates don't even realise this. (hide spoiler)]
A creepy story, not so much to my liking. (3/5)
4) Portrait de famille (Portraits of his Children, 1985) I don't think this one was ever published in France, until now. There's no information in this little book about any previous publication, except Asimov's, November 1985. The story revolves around a writer who has lost his wife and his daughter, as he considered the characters in his books better family members than his own wife and daughter. His wife divorced from him, but went over to the other side a few years later. His daughter never forgave her father for his silly and selfish decisions. She decided to send him paintings, portraits of his characters - whereas previously she sent some of her own. These paintings are haunted, as each character comes alive at night. Both writer and character then have a talk about the writer's life and behaviour, to make him see the error of his ways.
There's a red line in the order of the paintings, but his daughter skipped a few books in the series. In the end, he can't stand it any more, as he can't lead a proper life any longer. He calls his daughter, asks her for forgiveness. She pays him a visit, but not to forgive. On the contrary even. She's furious. (view spoiler)[She was raped in the period she had left her father and lived on her own. Her father used that event for another book, though with a few changes in names, of course. He would pay dearly for this mistake. (hide spoiler)] In the end, the writer does recognise that he's been a fool, that he followed a wrong path. The price that he pays, is very high, though.
A very dark story, very confronting, too. (5/5)
A bundle of 4 diverse stories, each very well written, also thanks to the translators' efforts. The diversity makes it a worthwhile object and shows that there is more to George R.R. Martin than 'A Song of Ice and Fire'. Very much recommended!
I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust....more
Ik heb dit kleinood, dit boekje met 3 verhalen uit de (zeer) oude doos (2de helft van de 19de en prille begin van de 20ste eeuw), enige tijd geleden iIk heb dit kleinood, dit boekje met 3 verhalen uit de (zeer) oude doos (2de helft van de 19de en prille begin van de 20ste eeuw), enige tijd geleden in de verzameling van mijn vader gevonden. Daar ik amper tot nooit schrijfsels van Vlaamse auteurs lees, maar wel enige interesse betoon in talen, zou het mij geen vreugde schenken dit kleinood te zien verdwijnen.
De versies in mijn boekje zijn iets "moderner", wat opgekuist qua spelling (minder 'sch', Wenen i.p.v. Weenen, k = c, enz.), ook al krijg je te zien hoe hedendaagse woorden voorheen anders of gesplitst geschreven werden, hoeveel woorden er in de loop der decennia in onbruik zijn geraakt (schier, allengs, altoos, rabauw, ...), maar vooral: hoe het Vlaams vroeger iets lyrischer was, iets poëtischer. Dit kwam (wellicht?) door de toenmalige bezetters: Oostenrijkers (Duits), Fransen (Frans), ... Je merkt het aan de woordenschat en de zinsbouw. Vandaag is het dagelijkse Vlaams veel directer, korter door de bocht, wat bepaalde verwoordingen duidelijker, minder omslachtig maakt, maar dat afgeborstelde heeft dan niet de charme van zijn oude gedaante.
Het eerste verhaal, Op de toren, speelt zich af ten tijde van de Boerenkrijg (Wikipedia-link), toen de Oostenrijkers België ingenomen hadden en daar regeerden. Één van de hoofdpersonages is de beiaard van Antwerpen.
Onder de Oostenrijkse kroon was het voor de Belgen/Vlamingen (want het verhaal speelt zich grotendeels in Vlaanderen - eh, Zuid-Nederland - af) geen makkelijk leven. Er brak bijgevolg opstand uit, waarna de Fransen de kans schoon zagen zich België toe te eigenen. De Oostenrijkse vijgen (bijnaam in dit verhaal) werden verjaagd, hoewel er tot op het bittere eind nog een kasteel bezet werd door een laatste regiment, en de Franse ratten (bijnaam in dit verhaal) hun credo "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" (Wikipedia-link) invoerden. Ze gaven er echter een totaal andere invulling aan. De Belg was niet gelijk, al zeker niet aan de Fransman. De Belg was niet vrij om te doen en te laten wat hij wou. De Republikein was de adel, geestelijken, enz. niet gunstig gezind. Rijken werden al snel van hun rijkdommen beroofd, zogezegd om onder de armen te verdelen. Het is echter het "crapuul" van het Franse leger dat zich de "vrijheid" en "gelijkheid" toe-eigende en zich als beesten gedroeg.
Uiteraard had je onder de lokale bevolking mensen die pro-Fransen waren (en zich bij het leger voegden, collaboreerden, om het zo te zeggen), al was het maar om van de Oostenrijkers af te zijn. Anderen waren wel tegen het Oostenrijkse juk, maar zagen in de Fransen geen goede vervanging.
Het waren barre tijden (ook voor de liefde), onder beide bezettingen. Dat kun je na het lezen niet ontkennen. Het is pas toen de Fransen verdreven werden door de Nederlanders, dat er terug licht aan het einde van de tunnel was voor België.
Een zeer mooi verhaal, dat het meer dan verdient om gelezen te worden, zeker als geschiedkundige feiten je interesseren en je middels fictie wat te weten wilt komen, als opstapje naar de non-fictie over deze periode.
Het tweede verhaal is eerder een kortverhaal van zo'n 20 bladzijden: 'Slachtoffers voor Transvaal'. Ik ken(de) Transvaal helemaal niet. Het bleek een republiek in Zuid-Afrika (Wikipedia-link) te zijn geweest, eentje waar de Britten de plak zwaaiden of wilden zwaaien. Ook hier is er sprake van een opstand om deze inval/bezetting ongedaan te maken. Centraal staat hier de jeugd: de ene jongen trekt zich het lot van de bevolking aan, waant zich de "redder des vaderlands" - ook al weet hij dat hij te jong is om te gaan vechten; het is dus gewoon een soort "statement" dat hij wilt maken, in al zijn overtuiging - en probeert gelijkgestemden onder z'n vrienden te ronselen, of eerder, te overtuigen van zijn "goed doel". Uiteraard is er ook een tegenstander, die de ander een lesje wil leren en doet hetzelfde van zijn kant. Het komt tot schermutselingen tussen beide groepjes, met kwalijke gevolgen.
Ook hier, een knap geschreven verhaal dat levendig wordt voorgesteld.
Tot slot, verhaal drie: 'Het geschenk van de jager'. Dit speelt zich ook zeer lang geleden af en betreft een familie die in het Gentse woont (de Muide), terwijl de grootvader eerder in de regio van Brugge (de Kleite) woont, een bosrijke omgeving. Daar zijn twee nichtjes, de ene al bevalliger dan de ander, de ene al wat extraverter dan de andere. De neven, Petrus en Karel, die bij hun moeder wonen, gaan op een dag op bezoek. Van het een komt het ander tussen Petrus en Regina, terwijl Ida al in de Kleite een minnaar had. Karel had in de stad ook z'n gading gevonden bij ene Nelleke.
Het verhaal zit vol contrasten: * wonen in de stad <> wonen in een bosrijke omgeving * van gegoede afkomst <> van eenvoudigere afkomst * 1 wedde <> 2 wedden, al betekent dat niet dat deze met 2 wedden (Karel en Nelleke) beter af zijn. * fabrieksarbeiders <> bezembinders/verkopers
Maar goed, het komt dus tot een huwelijk, meer dan één zelfs. De grootvader heeft steeds goed gezorgd voor de nichtjes, bekeek de zaken op lange termijn. Zo opgevoed, past Regina haar manier van leven in stad toe. Spaarzaam, geld opzij zetten, kleren verstellen, niet onnodig geld uitgeven, altijd genoeg overhouden om van te leven en een reserve opbouwen voor als het moeilijker gaat.
Bij Nelleke en Karel is er geen spaarsysteem en letten zij niet op hun bestedingen. Ze worden af en toe erop gelegd / bedrogen en betalen veel voor weinig; anders gezegd: men krijgt geen 250 gram gehakt mee, maar 200 gram, en voor dezelfde prijs. Bijgevolg stijgen de uitgaven telkens.
Zo ook het contrast inzake stijl: kleding, verzorging, leven, ... Regina had een bruidsschat meegekregen van grootvader, wat ideaal was om de schulden van Petrus' moeder te betalen. Moeder had namelijk een groot gat in haar hand en moest vaak spullen verpanden of op krediet verkrijgen. De twee wedden (Karel, Nelleke) vs de ene wedde van Petrus was voor velen een doorn in het oog, niet in het minst voor moeder, Karel, Nelleke en zeker voor de roddeltantes in de buurt.
En zo lees je dan hoe nijd en jaloezie erge schade kunnen berokken aan velen. Schade die moeilijk te herstellen valt en waarvoor je een sterk karakter moet hebben om de zaak te willen (!) uitklaren. Want als puntje bij paaltje komt, was het toch Regina, de spilfiguur, die de zaken mocht rechttrekken, maar er zelf bijna aan ten onder ging. Maar zoals men een verhaal met een positieve noot afsluit: eind goed, al goed. Zeker wanneer Regina en Petrus alsnog de stad verlieten om hun heil (terug) in het bos te zoeken en zo hun leven heropbouwden.
Dit is het soort verhaal dat ik nooit zou lezen, maar het gebruik van oud Vlaams deed veel goed, maakte de vertelling aantrekkelijker.
Om een lang verhaal kort te maken: Ik heb van dit boekje zeer genoten, niet in het minst en vooral door het oude Vlaams en de betrokken periodes waarin de verhalen zich afspelen. De woordenschat, de zinsbouw, ... het maakt de verhalen alleen maar levendiger. In modern Nederlands zou de boodschap niet overkomen, denk ik.
Het leven was toen niet zo rooskleurig als wordt geromantiseerd. De gezondheidszorg was nog veraf van wat we sinds enkele decennia en vooral vandaag kennen, en zo zijn er nog enkele verschillen, waaronder voeding: vlees, wit brood, ... was duur, werd vooral op hoogdagen geconsumeerd; in de week was het aanbod veel beperkter. Groot geld werd er niet verdiend, het leven was duur, je moest vaak elke cent of frank omdraaien, alvorens die te spenderen aan eender wat. Beter kleding verstellen dan iets nieuws kopen, bijvoorbeeld.
Bovendien kunnen deze verhalen een opstapje naar andere historische romans (of non-fictiewerken) over de Boerenkrijg en de Transvaalse Republiek zijn. ...more
This was my first encounter with the pen of Robert Charles Wilson, and not even in its original form. His famed Spin trilogy is on my TBR-pile, also iThis was my first encounter with the pen of Robert Charles Wilson, and not even in its original form. His famed Spin trilogy is on my TBR-pile, also in a French (omnibus-)version: La trilogie Spin.
Bios takes place in the far future, somewhere not too far from (or inside, I didn't quite get that) the Kuiper belt (Wikipedia-page, NASA-page) and is about the colonisation of a distant planet called Isis. Isis has its own fauna (miners, more animal than human) and flora. The planet is a hostile place to anything non-native. Humans have been trying to colonise it for many years, mainly because both Earth and Isis are very much related on an evolutionary level. However, life has developed differently on Isis.
There are at least two hubs/stations for Research and Development: Marburg and Yambuku. Scientists and engineers going outside must undergo a thorough cleaning before re-entering a station. The suits they wear contain protective material and sensors. Other accessories complete the package. However, one cannot stay outside for too long, because the batteries and alike don't last for days on end. This doesn't mean that there is no supervision; there is: self-driving robots on the ground, telecommunication, scanners, ... There's always someone in the central control room to provide help/assistance when needed.
The local stations are supervised by a floating spaceship, which provides for itself: it has its own gardens, its recycling system (I forgot: the space suits also have a sort of recycling system for sweat and other fluids), and so on. Turing machines make sure there are enough resources coming from the moon.
Rescue shuttles (Higgs spheres) are very few in number and can carry only a handful of people. No one thought more would be necessary, even if there are several tens/hundreds of people (scientists, directors, the lot) involved in the project.
The project is set up and financed by two parties: the ancient Families (rich people, entrepreneurs) and a sort of company/corporation called Trusts. Mainly the latter's department Mécanismes & Personnel is responsible for the development and integration of specific tools to suppress emotions. Test objects are girls who live in an orphanage. Each of them has the same kind of "protection", though in a different form. One of them, Zoé Fisher, will be the sole survivor and sent out to investigate the environment of Isis, to prepare the way for human colonisation. Or, at least, that is the official explanation.
Zoé embarks on this mission, full of confidence and aware that she has an implant that will help her overcome any feelings of fear, stress, or emotional outbursts. (view spoiler)[Were it not that prior to that, the doctor responsible for those implants, Anna Chopra, removed that device. Why? Most likely because she disagreed with this procedure and wanted Zoé to experience real emotions, live a proper live as a human being. She isn't aware of this, and does experience proper feelings of love, sadness, exuberance, fear, ... Especially after her meeting with the three main scientists to assist her on her mission. Tam Hayes, one of the remaining scientists, has a large impact on her and feelings of love are exchanged between them.
Note: one of Anna's relatives will, more than a century later, visit the spaceship and planet Isis, after the demise of the project. (hide spoiler)] Next to that, she was genetically modified to withstand attacks from harmful bacteria, in case her suit would not provide enough protection.
All is not well on a dangerous planet like Isis. Anything alien to the local environment, will be destroyed within a short period of time. Anything, not just humans, but also infrastructure, no matter the material from which it is made. Once the specific bacteria (or similar) gets inside, there's no way of stopping the invasion. When touched, it takes only a few hours before Death comes around to collect the bodies. At some point, that's what happens: Isis' ecosystem refused to allow mankind to stay any longer. So, the inevitable happened, despite the measures that were taken.
(view spoiler)[All's well that ends well? Eh, not exactly. For Isis, all's well, as nature took back what was taken or occupied by humans. No one survived, not even Avrion Theophilus (responsible for the existence of Zoé) or Zoé herself, who was kidnapped by the miners and saw no way out the creatures' mountains. Tam Hayes, one of the three scientists that assisted her on her mission, decided to go out and rescue her, despite counter-advice from his colleague (Dieter Franklin). Tam is so angry with Theo's way of dealing with Zoé, that he persists even more in his rescue mission, knowing full well the implications and consequences. (hide spoiler)]
Isis is not just a planet, its ecosystem also has its own voice, its own mind, its own memory. It communicates through telepathy with Zoé (by which Isis takes on the form of someone dear to its interlocutor), as she is trapped underground and thinks about her feelings, about her time aboard one of the stations, about Tam Hayes (one of the scientists with whom she got along very well). Isis conveys a message about life, about nature, about evolution. A philosophical message, in other words.
To properly describe the world, not in the least because of the context, you get a lot of scientific wording and descriptions about the planet, the plants, the bacteria, molecules, ... Hard SF, as they call it, but not so that the wording gets in the way of the reading pleasure. Not at all; on the contrary, they're a valuable addition, I find.
The characters all have a different background (religious or otherwise) and come from different places, not necessarily the US, but also Asia, for example. The orphanage where Zoé stayed, was in Teheran, Iran, for example.
Bios is a story whose message is still relevant today, even after 20 years. Ecology, the environmental issues are very hot today (as is the weather; what climate change?), as they are in Wilson's story. Mankind has still a lot to learn about its proper planet, yet decides to "destroy" it for the love of money. Colonising other planets is out of the question, because even of those, not sufficient knowledge has been collected. Nature will find a way to respond to man's interventions, as the various viruses, floods, draughts and so on prove, time and again. And still mankind does not learn or refuses to.
Bios is recommended reading, without question. Is it RCW's best novel? Probably not (isn't Spin wearing that crown?). It is, on the other hand, an entertaining story, one with an important message (not just about nature, but also about appreciating and respecting life), and very accessible at that.
Elisabeth Ebory's debut novel, translatable as 'The Fairy, the Magpie and Spring', was first released in the summer of 2017. Now, two years later andElisabeth Ebory's debut novel, translatable as 'The Fairy, the Magpie and Spring', was first released in the summer of 2017. Now, two years later and before the summer of 2019, the book is given a second chance in pocket format.
The story takes place mainly in London in the year 1837. Legend has it that fairies used to rule the world and there's one fairy, Rêvage, who wants to reinstate the fairies' rule for which she wants to be in command. The fairies are closed up / "trapped" in their own world, accessible only through sparkling corridors, for which a key exists. These appear only when someone uses them (elsewhere). But the system has gone out of control, as human soldiers/guards tried to destroy the key to the other world, therefore trapping the fairies in their own world.
Character-wise, there's an entire cast to follow and thanks to La Bibliothèque d'Aelinel, the title is explained: La Fée = Vik, la Pie = Philomène, and le Printemps = Rêvage.
There's young Philomène (view spoiler)[Ombrecyanne, as written on her special pistol, though it beats me why she wouldn't want to reveal her name, let alone if her name means anything (hide spoiler)] Parhasard (a play on words for "par hasard", "by coincidence"), a thief, who has stolen the golden cauldron from a witch in Siberia. More about this special cauldron can be read in the short-story Fichu chaudron, which I read in November 2018. See HERE. Anything coming out of this cauldron was made of gold.
Of course, said Siberian witch cursed Philomène, who mocked the witch whilst fleeing with her booty. It would be true, though: Philomène wouldn't know much luck afterwards, certainly not once she got involved in saving a former royal guardian/assassin by the name of Clem(ente de Roselle) from getting robbed. He and a adolescent girl named Vik (short for Victoria) were on the run. Philomène helped take out the robbers with her special gun, which fires magical arrows, putting one's adversaries to sleep for a very long time.
Oh yes, the Siberian witch is, one way or another, an acquaintance of Od. Both play special roles in the restoring of the worldly order and well-being of the little fellowship mentioned below.
Because of her noble act, she's invited for dinner with the gang of Clem. Od is the third member, can't cook to save his life, yet is the only one who seems to know something about preparing food. But he is capable of so much more, has his own secrets. However, all are wary about Philomène, as she doesn't fully trust the others. Philomène is of the solitary type, yet can't seem to detach herself from the group, once they break up camp and continue their mission. Meanwhile, she has stolen ink and parchment from Od, and it's not the only thing she's stolen from him. Nightmare, a black stallion that knows where the sparkling corridors are, was the first "thing" she unjustly acquired from Od.
On the other side, there are two other fairies: Rêvage and Sean, standing out with his green hair. When Rêvage is the mastermind, Sean is the accomplice who has to fulfil several tasks. He's not the brightest ever, yet has his moments of lucidity, especially when danger looms around the corner.
Both parties use special ink and parchment to evoke the lay of the land and the whereabouts of the other. A sort of Google Maps avant la lettre. Another means is telepathy, reading the other's mind.
The intrigue revolves around power, political power. Overthrowing the current regent, mother of the disappeared princess (queen-to-be) Victoria, and installing one's own child (Vik) on the throne. (view spoiler)[It's only much later that Vik finds out the truth from the terminal regent. The latter never wrote that parchment, bearing the seal of the palace, commanding Clemente to take out her daughter Victoria (a reference to the future queen Victoria of England?). The regent knew almost all along that Vik was not her real daughter and that something was not right.
The real Victoria was swapped, by Rêvage (the power-hungry fairy), with Vik. The real Victoria ended up with a wealthy family... as a servant girl. Much later, Vik and S - who are each other's siblings - undertake a mission to bring back Victoria and set things aright, as they found out the truth about the matter. (hide spoiler)]
The story begins slowly, but once the train is on track, it's hard to put the book down. The whole has a certain lightness that contributes to this consequence. Nevertheless, one cannot overlook some flaws: e.g. the characters coming across more as humans than as fairies, in my opinion; a little bit of the magic world of the fairies not really explained; ... In other words, there's room for a sequel.
This 30 pages counting short-story is the last in a series of twelve stories, published by Le Carnoplaste, as you can see here. Each story is writtenThis 30 pages counting short-story is the last in a series of twelve stories, published by Le Carnoplaste, as you can see here. Each story is written by a different author and you can only know who wrote what when you have the booklets in your hands. They each cost 3 EUR, but I was given my copy as a present by its author, Thomas Geha, this year at Les Imaginales (French SFFF-festival). I also bought two of his other books: Des sorciers et des hommes and the anthology Les Créateurs, both of course still to be read.
This short-story takes place in 11,996 B.C., somewhere in Eastern Europe. And 3 cycles after the crash of an alien species (a slug). There are a few clans in the large vicinity, one of which is that of Ock. Orik is the leader of another clan, but also Ock's enemy. The clans don't always get along, yet depend on each other for trade of goods or services or even members, especially when one clan is so decimated that the survivors can't continue on their own.
(view spoiler)[So, there's an alien slug in town, arrived after the gods sent out a sort of purple warning through the skies. Since several generations, animals and plants were disappearing and it became tougher to hunt for food. One day, two of Ock's clan members don't return from hunting or scouting. Ock decides to investigate this disappearance.
And that's also when he gets attacked by dead, skeletal horses. This revival is due to the slug's power, which revives dead animals and people by means of a blue substance. Horses, aurochs, warriors, wolves, bears, ... All these are skeletal zombies, which are hard to kill. The only solution is: decapitation. This definitely takes them out, as is also shown in the fading of the shine in their new, blue eyes.
As Ock's clan (Bear Cliff) gets exterminated, while he's out hunting, he decides to call upon the help of Orik's clan, since he and Orik once fought for the position of chief, but both were equally matched, so no one won. As the situation is urgent, Ock decides to take matter into his own hands and confront Orik with the danger that looms not far away. Orik mocks him, but has to pay a heavy price. Ock takes over the clan, though it takes some time to convince its members that he's the new boss.
So, the people go out to put an end to the massacre and in the end, there are, as far as battling goes, two survivors: Ock and R'ossni, Orik's best warrior and scout. Ock gets devoured by the slug, which, ironically, has not one bone in its body, yet its army of zombies consists of only that: bones (skeletons). As Ock managed to take out this one weapon he carried with him - large spoiler here - he can only laugh at his fate, since he's not devoured at all, let alone by any bone-jaws. So he takes out the knife bone and tries to cut his way out... until the slug explodes and the spell is broken.
R'ossni arrives at the scene of the crime and notices that Ock is no more, yet died "happily", so to speak, since he gave the alien slug a taste of its own medicine. As he's now the new clan-leader, he vowed to keep the memory of Ock alive for generations to come: Ock, the one who beat evil at its own game. (hide spoiler)]
This was one very entertaining story, and it makes me want to check out the other eleven stories. And of course, Mr Geha's books....more
Robert Silverberg needs no introduction, as he's one of the big names in SFF-history. It did take me a while to discover his works and so far, I've onRobert Silverberg needs no introduction, as he's one of the big names in SFF-history. It did take me a while to discover his works and so far, I've only read Downward to the Earth, which I can surely recommend. See my review here.
One of his last works is the 2010 novella 'The Last Song of Orpheus', which was translated into French in 2012 and published by Éditions ActuSF. Now, seven years later, a new edition is available, released in April 2019. The novella was translated by Jacqueline Callier and Florence Dolisi.
The French version comes with a foreword by Pierre-Paul Durastanti, the novella itself, and an interview with Mr Silverberg (conducted by Éric Holstein, whose D'or et d'Emeraude is on my TBR-list). The new cover was made by Benjamin Chaignon.
'Le Dernier Chant d'Orphée' is a rewriting of the Greek myth in which half-god Orpheus falls in love with the nymph Eurydice, but this love and relationship doesn't last long. Died by the bite of a snake, she arrives in the Underworld, home of Hades and Persephone. Orpheus has one big talent: music and singing, thanks to his master Apollo, to whom Orpheus is very much committed. His voice and musical skills cast a spell on all who hear it. Every creature, every tree or plant, quite simply everyone is moved by Orpheus's performances.
As he so heart-broken, Orpheus decides to head into the Underworld to ask for the return of Eurydice. The sole condition is that he can't look behind him until both have reached the world of mortals again. As you can imagine, Orpheus is too anxious and commits the fatal error. Of course, he can't just go back and ask again for her return, since Charon (the ferryman) can't be tricked again by Orpheus's chanting.
And so, our musical artist seeks other activities, even moves to Egypt to work for the pharaoh. Being far away will surely help to ease the pain, he believes. However, one can only learn so much in a new setting. Orpheus returns to Greece/Thrace, but is soon put on several missions to assist in various, dangerous undertakings.
In his rewriting of this myth, Mr Silverberg added the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, in which Jason is to retrieve the Golden Fleece, a symbol of authority and kingship. This fleece is well-guarded by a dragon. Jason manages to retrieve it, but only with the help of Orpheus (who sings the dragon to sleep) and the spells of Medea, the witch with whom Jason has fallen in love.
All's well that ends well, see the various retellings of the Greek mythologies. Except for Orpheus. Or rather, because of his talent, he finally seems to have come to terms with his fate, as Apollo also confirms to him. Or is it Dionysos, god in whose honour a party is held? A party involving liquor, sex, drugs, ... A party which men should not attend, as their lives would be at stake. However, Orpheus does attend, having been invited earlier. And then it's one type of music versus the other. Orpheus does not relent, hangs on to his very skills, but it will mean the end of him. Or will it? It's the only way to be reunited with his former lover, Eurydice, to whom he's been fateful since the beginning. Something not every woman appreciated. So, in a way, all's well that ends well.
My knowledge of the Greek myths is very vague and thankfully, we have internet these days to quickly look up some information. Yes, there are also libraries and books, for which we should be even more thankful, otherwise much information wouldn't (have) be(en) available on the WWW.
Anyway, not only is this a recommanded retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice (and Jason and the Argonauts and more), it's also an excellent way to (re-)explore the world of Greek mythology, one way or another. The translated version of Silverberg's novella is quite accessible and allows for a smooth read. I liked also how Mr Silverberg added some philosophical food for thought, how he put all gods (no matter the kind of religion) in one bowl and considered them as various sides/versions of one and the same god or entity. Like Dionysos and Apollo were considered two sides of the same coin, at least in the story. Again, I would have to dive into the world of Greek mythology for full details and understanding.
But yes, do read 'The Last Chant of Orpheus', or 'Le Dernier chant d'Orphée' if you wish to read it in a different language.
I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust.
This is the direct continuation of L'Envolée des Enges, which I read in December 2018. See my review HERE. In other words: both books form one big stoThis is the direct continuation of L'Envolée des Enges, which I read in December 2018. See my review HERE. In other words: both books form one big story that was simply cut in two.
There are several populations in this story and they have to share the same world, even if they each have their own territory/lands: Enges (angels, in a manner of speaking, who live on a special kind of pillar, from where every x years, it's time to take flight - for which each Enge has to create his/her own wings - and thus not come back), Êtres de l'eau (water beings, who can change shape, but need rivers, streams, etc. to recover from any injuries), Elbes, les Quatrièmes (with their blacksmiths mining for the precious and dangerous red metal), and others.
As we remember from the first book, the Enges were being eradicated and enslaved, but what was the reason for this sudden uprising and wipe-out? One element is a special kind of red metal, which is detrimental to the Enges, as it makes them weak and submissive. They wanted to persuade the Quatrièmes that the mining of his material is bad not just for them, but for everyone/the world in general. As the latter wouldn't listen, the Enges decides to take matter into own hands and so one thing led to another.
The then ruling Raniaque (Erini) ordered for the eradication of the Enges. In their fight for survival, they unleashed a cataclysm, which caused many casualties among the attacking humans as well as among the Enges themselves. The wind is their eternal ally, but as an Enge, you must be able to control your power. Lose control and chaos is unleashed. However, when push comes to shove, the Enges decided to retreat to their pillar and lead a life away from the rest. There they would teach their children how to develop one's wings and aim for the skies when the time had come.
It's up to the young Hélias, grandson of the deceased Raniaque ((view spoiler)[he was murdered, out of revenge for his cruel deeds and decisions against the Enges; one central character is Céléno, who will continue to play a role in this second book (hide spoiler)]), to re-establish order and take action. Hélias is still a teen, when he all of a sudden has to take the throne. Of course, the board of advisors is not happy with how this inexperienced half-one (as he is born from a human and an Elbe) is leading the country. Furthermore, he has taken decisions to reduce the privileges of the rich and mighty, as he wants to create a society where everyone is treated equally and no one is more or less than the other.
Hélias's power depends largely on the Group of Nine and the Grand Tribunals, especially because he's still under-aged to rule properly. It is thus no surprise that at some point, that those privileged Nine demand that Hélias be relieved from office, at least until he has reached the minimum age to rule.
(view spoiler)[As noble as this idea is, the ever-evil Zhang Fei (of Fen origin, a big manipulator, as we have seen in the first book) applies his charisma to convince the new Raniaque to assist the man in his so-called war with the neighbouring populations.
Naive, Hélias is reluctant to provide support, as he realises that his neutral position is then endangered. But Zhang Fei manages to obtain the flying coaches, which were originally meant for public transport, and turn them into weapons of mass destruction, i.e. bombers. And so, one thing leads to another... (hide spoiler)]
Céléno and Sujin (the water being who saved Céléno in the first book) continue their quest to set aright the wrongs: save the captured Enges, in the first place. Sujin meanwhile manages to become an assistant of Hélias, yet has no real political power, not even when the Group of Nine (with representatives of all people) meet on a regular basis.
Arhan, who previously worked in the pharmacy of the priest-mage, whose son Abel runs the shop, vows to better his life, after his vile actions to be able to repay his debts. But shifting sides has severe consequences and Arhan's road to a better world - as an empath (who can see others' auras), he wants to use his talent for good - is paved with obstacles of all sorts, even when seeks a new home, a new family to live with. (view spoiler)[Especially when at some point, the pharmacy is blown to pieces, after the dark secret was revealed: under the pharmacy, tests were performed to find out what made half-ones, Enges, ... so special. Arhan too was one of the test subjects, as the other tests were inconclusive, so the torturer had to find a proper specimen. Arhan was perfect, as he's also not fully human. Luckily, an Enge (Céléno) came on time to rescue him from an untimely death. (hide spoiler)]
The title, if I'm not mistaken, refers to Éole's and Borée's child, which was born under extreme circumstances. Borée was kidnapped by the invading humans, during the "war" with the Enges, while Éole didn't survive. Med, their child, was later entrusted to Hélias, and wasn't the most beautiful being ever. It was an abomination, and yet, Hélias had a lot of sympathy for the little one. So much even, that it influenced his way of ruling. Little did he know what powers the little one had in store, powers that would forever change the way the world would be ruled or look like.
Like the first book, this one too was written very smoothly. The story is one of compassion, of respect for and acceptance of the other, one in which racism, discrimination, etc. have no place, as differences should be used to unite and complement, not divide. Vengeance is never the answer.
A few remarks, though, at least in my copy:
* Ilmaris, an Enge, has black hair when she and Céléno meet at some kind of feast. A few pages later, when danger looms around the corner and both have to flee, Ilmaris suddenly has blond hair.
* A list of characters would have been nice and made the understanding easier, in my opinion. Or maybe a short recapitulation in the beginning of the book, since both books were not published right after one another. I thus strongly advise you to read both books without much interruption in-between. As the publishing dates of each book are far apart (August 2018 - April 2019), it's not easy to remember what happened or who's who. As you read on, though, several things become clear again and are explained, little by little.
I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust.
My first and only encounter with the works of Roger Zelazny is the omnibus The Chronicles of Amber (see my review here), which consists of the firstMy first and only encounter with the works of Roger Zelazny is the omnibus The Chronicles of Amber (see my review here), which consists of the first five books in the series. These five stories are in fact one big story, hence it being best to not consider/review the separate novels on their own.
Mr Zelazny has, of course, written more than just those books. One of them, also his last one, is 'A Night in the Lonesome October'.
The book was first translated (and published by Éditions J'ai Lu) into French in 1995, as NooSFere.org indicates. Éditions ActuSF republished the book in 2018 (large cover) and most recently (March 2019) as a mass market paperback.
The story is a very smooth read, thanks to the translating work by Ange Desmarais, although I presume that the original version is also very accessible. I don't think Éditions ActuSF has changed anything, rather just taken the original translation and republished it.
What is this rather funny story about? It revolves around a recurring game (le Jeu), during which Openers and Closers oppose forces to either allow or prevent the coming of the Great Old Ones, like Cthulhu, into the world of mortal men and thus install a new kind of governing power.
The story brings together several known characters from diverse planes of existence: Sherlock Holmes (The Great Detective), Rasputin (Rastov, a mad monk; at least, the character seems based on Rasputin), Count Dracula (The Count), Jack the Ripper (Jack), Frankenstein (The Good Doctor), ... There are also some secondary characters, like Jill (a witch), Owen (a druid), pastor Roberts (a clergyman), Larry Talbot (Wolf Man), and Morris and MacNab (both Hermetic occultists). Each of these characters has a familiar, an animal with near-human intelligence. The story itself is told from the perspective of Jack's dog, Snuff. Other animals include a cat, a rat, a snake, an own, a bat and a squirrel, each matching with a corresponding character. Some of these only joined in for fun, others were very serious about it and not experiencing their first Game.
Each of these characters is either an Opener or a Closer, with one "team" competing with (or against?) the other to play the Game. For this Game, all parties have to seek artefacts and attributes (especially limbs and organs from buried people, but also a ring, an icon and a chalice, if I'm not mistaken) to feed the fire at the start of the Game. The animals, on the other hand, are in contact with one another, exchanging only information if there's something to be gained in return. Each of these encounters is quite brief, but the rate increases as the D-day draws near.
Each chapter is one day of the month October and as you can imagine, the Game takes place on the 31st. At first, you/the reader don't know at all what's going on, why there are talking animals, which roles they play, why the other characters are involved. All is revealed only near or at the end. Somehow, you could foresee what it would be, but I have to admit that, for the life of me, couldn't predict what Zelazny had in store, once you the climax was reached. And it took a sneaky move to accomplish a satisfying result. For some, at least.
During the preparations, not everyone will live to see the day, be it a policeman or a participant in the Game. It's Snuff's job, which he likes very much, to find out why these murders occur, who commits him, and how that will impact the Game, or rather, the end result. Because, if his calculations to find the spot where the Game will/should take place are faulty, it can endanger the lives of many. Fear not, however, Mr Zelazny has a few tricks up his sleeve; there are a few surprises along the way.
The whole is preceded by a foreword by Timothée Rey, a French SFF-author who's very much in the know about Zelazny's works. He introduces you/the reader to Zelazny's interest in mythology, religion, and alike, and how he took (characters, happenings, quotes, ...) from such texts and books to write his own stories, to place these elements in a more modern setting.
If you're into a lighter kind of Lovecraftian stories (Lovecraft is a very unknown author to me, though I have heard of him and his god Cthulhu) with elements of Steampunk, detective stories, mythology, and spiced with humour in vein of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, ... then, by all means and even if you're not familiar with Zelazny's works, read this book. Heavily recommended! Yes, even in French.
I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust.
This little guide on Steampunk is an improved/updated re-edition of the version that came out in 2013: Le Guide Steampunk.
Steampunk is first of all aThis little guide on Steampunk is an improved/updated re-edition of the version that came out in 2013: Le Guide Steampunk.
Steampunk is first of all a literary (sub)genre, related to science fiction. The stories (usually) take place in the 19th century, the Victorian era, the era of Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle, to name just these two examples. But of course, it didn't really start there, as something and/or someone must have influenced these guys to write their stories like they were written.
The late 19th century is when the Industrial Revolution took place, which is reflected in the various stories, but also in the costumes people wear at conventions/festivals. Classic (and cliché) elements like high hats, goggles, cogwheels, ... are omnipresent and are an easily recognisable feature of steampunk. But there's more to the genre than this.
Étienne Barillier and Arthur Morgan (French-Steampunk.fr) have joined forces to compile a guide about steampunk, covering literature, films/movies, music, games, clothing, and more; with each theme, you'll find various short reviews, recommendations, and of course interviews with respective authors and artists.
At first, you get a short introduction on what steampunk is and where you can find it in today's society. Next is a foreword by Selena Chambers, who gives her thoughts on the genre/movement/lifestyle/what-have-you.
But what is steampunk really? Where does the term come from? Here, the two authors try to explain it in 10 questions, including authors like Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, ..., if there is something like French steampunk (yes, there is and plenty of it, too), the characteristics of steampunk, and so on.
Once this is digested, you're ready for the full ride: the literary history of steampunk. Where did it all begin? What came "first"? What are the best-known and most-influential works? Which authors contributed? For example, the trio James P. Blaylock - K.W. Jeter - Tim Powers seems to have been of utmost importance for the birth and rise of ("modern") steampunk. They were also interviewed for this guide and you can clearly distinguish their personalities, with - in my humble opinion and based on the man's answers - Mr Jeter being quite a serious man. Tim Powers seems to be the more "loose" one of the pack. In any case, it's interesting to read their take on steampunk and their role as "forefathers", though they don't it seriously themselves, are more considered like that by the outside world.
The literature part also contains interviews with French authors, like Mathieu Gaborit, Stéphane Tamaillon, and others. In the recommendations, other French authors are mentioned. English steampunk(-related) novels and authors are also tackled.
Steampunk is also present in comics, manga, and on the internet. Writers and drawers/graphical artists don't just come from France, the UK or the US. Asian (and particularly Japanese) artists and writers also invest heavily in their craft.
The multimedia side of the guide covers the steampunk found in films/movies, short films, television, games (boardgames, computer games, ...), and music (bands/artists who use steampunk in their lyrics, in their costumes, ..., regardless of the musical genre, be it metal, hip-hop, or otherwise). Here too, you'll find a handful of interviews and recommendations.
You can't discuss steampunk without mentioning the outfits, the clothing. As mentioned above, many apply the typical elements: goggles, cogwheels, high hats, even a specific type of gun/revolver. These elements have become so cliché, that designers urge people (fans and novices) to look for other ways to express the "punk" in steampunk, to use one's eyes and ears and exchange ideas and inspiration.
It is said (written) that steampunk also involves a DIY-mentality. Steampunk, as it refers in the majority of the cases to the 19th century, is based on an era in which machines and various could still be repaired when broken, whereas nowadays, with modern technology (computers, smartphones, and alike), when something is broken, you can't repair it any more (because of how the product is manufactured), so you're obliged to buy a new(er) copy.
Mr Barillier and Mr Morgan also provided a list of websites where fans and novices can find more information on steampunk, in its various forms.
Last but not least, there are some international conventions worthy of mentioning. Added to that are a few interviews with organisers and with Ann VanderMeer, known for her steampunk-anthologies.
Looking back at the various interviews with a diverse range of "steampunks" (authors, designers, ...), it's clear that they agree on several aspects on the one hand, but on the other hand, they each have an own opinion and take on what steampunk is, what is represents, what it entails. And that's also something positive, as it shows that steampunk is not something fixed, but rather allows for new ideas, new influences, new directions.
Long story short: There are a gazillion books about steampunk (and stories featuring steampunk elements) out there, be them in English, French, or another language. I've seen more than a handful (in French, translated or otherwise) these past few years. I've always wondered what made steampunk so attractive, why I kept seeing so many people dressed up like in the 19th century, what the fuss was with the goggles/high hats/... After having read this little book, I have acquired a better understanding of people's interest and love for this genre. I might even dive into some of the books that made this genre come to life, even though I've already read more recent works in which steampunk was an ingredient.
This nifty guide contains a lot of information on all things steampunk and is a very good starting point for those uninitiated - not that the connoisseurs shouldn't consult it; on the contrary, even - in the genre, the lifestyle, the steam or the punk in the steam.
I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust.