George R.R. Martin may be famous for his televised series A Song of Ice and Fire, but before that, he was and still is active on other literaryGeorge R.R. Martin may be famous for his televised series A Song of Ice and Fire, but before that, he was and still is active on other literary fronts, like horror. My first encounter with the horror-version of Mr Martin was De Fevre Dream (the Dutch translation of 'Fevre Dream', which I reviewed in Dutch here). I liked this trip into the past very much.
One of his other horror-works is 'The Skin Trade', originally published in 1988. It won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella (1989). The story got translated in the past few years, also in France. Éditions ActuSF first published it in 2012. Seven years later, an augmented edition sees the light of day. There is still a foreword and biography by Emmanuel Chastellière, whose Célestopol / Célestopol (yes, both editions, as the latter was very lightly revised) is on my TBR-pile. The rest of this new edition of 'Skin Trade' contains a large extract of Nightflyers et autres récits.
Sandwiched between the foreword and the biography/extract part is the real story. Two main characters, Willie Flambeaux (a debt-recovery agent) and Randi Wade (private detective, her father was in the local police force), investigate suspicious murders: people skinned alive. Randi and Willie have their own ways of approaching the matter. Willie, not being totally honest with Randi, is far from sporty, even has asthma and is very dependent on his Ventolin (inhaler), but as an agent, he can be very convincing and cunning. Randi will trespass when needed and possible, even go farther than her father's former colleagues, like a certain Joe Urquhart, her father's former partner.
Speaking of her father: He (and Joe) was charged at some time to investigate the massive killings of children. However, they couldn't solve the case, as Randi's father got killed by "some kind of wild animal". This mystery has since then always haunted Randi's mind and she will continue to use this to get more information, even for her current case.
The current case involves people Willie knew and was acquainted with.
Mr Martin didn't show many cards, but offered only bits and pieces to keep everyone in suspense. Why are these people assassinated? Is there a motif? Are there any suspects? Witnesses? Who's behind this? One man? A group? Were there such or similar cases in the past? A pattern? And so on, and so forth.
As Willie and Randi fight their way onwards to discover the secret, it's a bit like a video game, as another reader wrote. At the end, they have to confront and fight the end boss. However, it's not as simple as that. There is more to it, much more. The town is infested, so to speak. Werewolves play a role ((view spoiler)[By day, they take on a human form, by night or when danger is present, they transform (hide spoiler)]), as the depiction on the cover clearly indicates. (view spoiler)[Those who were taken out, were lycanthropes. One crazy member, who couldn't transform, desperately wanted to. Killing others was the only way to obtain a wolfskin and let the dark powers come to life, to please the werewolves overlord.
Behind the killings, both the children's and the most recent ones, is an entire group of werewolves who have influence in the most important places, not in the least the police force. This explains why this and similar cases can't and don't get solved (hide spoiler)]. Willie only reveals his personal secret ((view spoiler)[Yes, he too is a werewolf, but uses his powers only to do good or when his human body won't carry him far or fast enough (hide spoiler)]) when he has no other choice, but his silence long put a damper on their (his and Randi's) mutual understanding and friendship. And they need each other very much, as they complement one another.
'Skin Trade' is a very entertaining story, recommended as an in-between for fans of horror and/or urban fantasy. The book reads like a page-turner, thanks to Martin's skilful writing (and the translation by Annaïg Houesnard, since I read the French edition). There are no chapters, which is a way of making you (want to) read on and discover, through the alternating POVs of Willie and Randi, what happens.
This story was to be the first in a series with Willie and Randi at the helm, but time and circumstances decided differently. On the other hand, it would have been nice to see a few more become reality, and so offer more insight and information on the world and on both main characters in the first place. But it is what it is, and it's good and that's all that matters.
I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust....more
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, QueThis 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
And so, through "subtle" pushing by the publisher, I succumbed to reading Les Ombres d'Esver (roughly translated: The Shadows of Esver) by the BelgianAnd so, through "subtle" pushing by the publisher, I succumbed to reading Les Ombres d'Esver (roughly translated: The Shadows of Esver) by the Belgian author Katia Lanero Zamora. The novel, published in 2018, is catalogued as YA (Young Adult), but as Mrs Zamora herself said: Anyone can read the book, it's not specifically written for young adults. I repeat, forget the YA-label.
There will be spoiling, but that's mainly for my own recollection and future reference.
As some readers have detected, Esver is an acronym for Rêves, French for 'Dreams'. Dreams and botany are two key ingredients in this story. A key phrase in this dark story is: Le soleil finit toujours par se lever (an African proverb, apparently - full version: Quelle que soit la durée de la nuit, le soleil finit toujours par se lever.).
Esver is a large domain, a mansion that is located far from the civilised world. People sometimes come to Gersande de Vincenaux (mother of Amaryllis) for healing, also when the doctor and/or pharmacist can't solve the problem.
The large mansion is occupied by Amaryllis and her mother, Gersande de Vincenaux. Where's the father, Aurélien? Well, in the beginning, there was one happy family: father, mother, Amaryllis, and her brother. As it goes with an aristrocratic family, they had staff. Amaryllis and her brother Narcisse would play games, he would tell stories (inspired by Horace's stories), play the valiant bodyguard, and so on. One of the servants, Horace, would take care that all went well for the children, especially when the parents didn't have time to devote attention to their proper offspring. After all, what are staff otherwise for?
The relationship between mother and father would, at some point, suffer greatly. (view spoiler)[Not only did his wife have an affair with their servant (or butler?) Horace - father wasn't exactly the best gentleman ever, so no wonder one then seeks solace and affection elsewhere -, but the death of their son would the nail on the coffin of their relationship and the further existence of Esver. From that day on, it was decided that Esver would be sold and that Amaryllis would be looked after, as in 'be the wife of the new owner'. Mother, however, would have to be put away in a mental institution.
Amaryllis's brother had a vivid imagination, so much even that he went outside, into the garden. He was desperate to retrieve Étincelle, the silver word that fends off any enemy. Only, according to the story, the sword is at the bottom of the lake. As he can't swim, Amaryllis offered to dive in his stead, but he refusesd. She dove, but got caught by the cold. Narcisse wanted to jump in to rescue her... to no avail. Her brother's body is eventually found - after her parents had to drag the information out of her (she vowed to not tell about their little secret) -, but the boy's no longer among the living. That's when the father breaks into a fury, accusing his wife of all the misery in his life. (hide spoiler)]
Amaryllis, a 16 year old girl, thus lives together with her mother ever since. Her mother is a botanist and healer. In her time, she worked on finding a formula to create a natural, plant-based medicine. As Amaryllis seems to suffer from nightly, epic escapades, fighting against evil invaders from a parallel world, mother has prepared her a herbal medicine to improve her daughter's sleep. Amaryllis, however, isn't in favour of such treatment, as she feels she has a duty to fulfill. Together with the magical beings Rouage and Féroce, she, as Captain of the Army of Light with her mother's hairpin that serves as a sword - nicknames Étincelle or Sparkle - at night, has to protect Esver and hunt for the stolen
During the day, Amaryllis is obliged to study the ways of botany, learn all about plants, flowers and their characteristics. She can't go to school, because of her so-called illness. In addition, she's to keep an eye on and maintain a certain plant's health. The plant was named Aeternalis. Mother is almost omniscient, especially between 08h44 (time for breakfast) and 20h44 (bedtime). (view spoiler)[At these times, Amaryllis's mother tranforms into a wyvern that takes its task of guarding Esver and Amaryllis very seriously. Only, Amaryllis doesn't know it's her mother and why she's able to transform. (hide spoiler)]
Since Gersande and Amaryllis are the sole surivors/inhabitants of the domain, they have to do it all themselves. No one can maintain such a large domain and mansion, so dust, cobwebs, stains, ... are left to roam. The most important activities are: eating, studying, and sleeping. Repeat. No time for cleaning, the future of Esver and especially that of Amaryllis is at stake. Her mother's goal is to get Amaryllis go to a prestigious university (Institut Théophraste d'Erésos) and thus escape the fate that awaits her, should she remain at Esver.
Once more pieces of the puzzle are connected, the relationship between Amaryllis and her mother vastly improves. (view spoiler)[Gersande can't leave Esver, as that would maker her incapable of returning to her human form; she would, when she transforms into a wyvern. Amaryllis doesn't want to leave Esver, because she doesn't want to leave her mother all by herself. (hide spoiler)]
Eventually, the day comes when Esver is to be handed over to its new owner, one of father's business partners. In come a horde of redecorators to make sure the mansion looks spic and span. Mother and daughter are given new clothes, because the transfer of ownership is to be done by a large banquet and under official conditions. Little do father and the other know that the evening will not go as planned.
(view spoiler)[Gersande transforms into a wyvern again, the guests run screaming out of the house, seeking refuge or taking flight. Amarylllis goes out on a final quest to retrieve the stolen ruby that belonged to the wyvern. It was said an old, bed-chained harpie had had it all this time. Retrieving it would restore peace and tranquillity, for all involved. All's well that ends well, right?
Not yet, as Amaryllis, in the final battle, had to confront her younger self. This little girl challenged her older version: to kill the one responsable for this misery. A few persons (mother, Naricsse, Horace, ...) were projected, and Amaryllis was to stab or behead the culprit(s). She didn't, instead chose to hug and console her younger self. Together they would return to the scene of the crime to fend off the dark forces, the Shadows, the Ombres.
With the ruby back, Amaryllis having found peace with her own emotions, our fellowship (including the Army of Light, which did exist) fought off the evil. Mother Gersande, as she passed a certain boundary, got cured from the curse that dominated her life for so long. She could now leave Esver without any fear or doubt. The "imaginary" beings returned to their world, together with the younger Amaryllis, through the crack that connected both their world and the real world. Amaryllis and her mother, as they lived in rather poor circumstances, stepped outside towards new horizons and a new life.
The nightly adventures were not exactly figments of Amaryllis's imagination. The ruby was stolen from Gersande by her mother-in-law, represented as the old harpie in the "pic tourmenté". She stole the precious stone from Gersande at the time of Narcisse's drowning. Féroce, the bull centaur, was a representation of Horace, while Rouage was a representation of her deceased brother, Narcisse. (hide spoiler)]
In the end, karma does its work. As the father didn't really look after his children, treated his wife miserably, and only sought richess and status, divine intervention found it more just and harmonious to work out a solution that befitted each involved party best. The mystery that surrounded Esver would continue to exist and children would tales to tell for years to come, without really knowing what went on inside and outside those walls.
'Les Ombres d'Esver', is a very good book, even though there's always room for improvement here and there (details are important, yes). The writing is beautiful, captivating and makes this story a page-turner. Both your imagination and feelings are addressed. Mrs Zamora wrote more than just a fantastic story, as it also asks of the reader to reflect upon their own upbringing, for example, and/or their relationship with their own parents or with their own children, or with their guardians (if not brought up by their parents).
Some passages have had an emotional impact on me during my reading of this book, probably also due to some personal circumstances. This doesn't happen often, though.
So yes, maybe I should be a little less critical or strict in my reading choices. Just a little, though.
For anyone interested, there exists a playlist on Spotify for this book. See HERE.
I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust....more
Morgan of Glencoe, a Breton writer/musician (harpist), has recently had her debut novel republished by Éditions ActuSF. As it goes in such aMorgan of Glencoe, a Breton writer/musician (harpist), has recently had her debut novel republished by Éditions ActuSF. As it goes in such a situation, the text was revised, the title changed, new artwork, and so on. So, out with Si loin du Soleil and in with 'Dans l'ombre de Paris' (English: In the Shadow of Paris). As the story takes place in Paris, France, the book is given a chauvinistic touch.
At the same time, it's the first book in the trilogy 'La Dernière Geste'. Morgan of Glencoe is working on book two, which should see the light of day... sometime in 2020, at the earliest, of course.
What's the story about, at least in this first book? The Japanese princess Yuri is lured to France under false pretenses - to reinforce the ties between the Empire and France - by her father, the White Ambassador over there. Little does she know, but she's to marry the Fresh (Prince of Bel-Air ;-)), eh, French prince Louis-Philippe, who's being prepared to take over the throne from his father, who currently rules with an iron first. Of course, the prince adopts this style to enforce his will. Mother and Queen Gabrielle is more of the soft kind, has to obey her husband, and tries/d to reign in her son, though with little success.
Yuri has never known her mother, or at least not long enough, and her father has been living since quite some time in France, so he hasn't been that much of a father. As the message he sent her sounds promising and Yuri has not really much of a choice but to go to France, she takes the Orient-Express for this long journey to the western world. Yuri is assisted and guarded by colonel Ryûzaki, her personal bodyguard since long, and his hybrid lieutenant HA-17, aka Levana. Our princess leaves behind a life, a place where she had servants for almost everything.
On the train, Camille-Agnès Albane du Mont de Trente-Chênes is the ruler. She's the captain, she's boss. No one is to question her authority, not even those of royal blood. This she states loud and clear, especially when Yuri's life is at stake. Luckily, there's a doctor on board - especially when a disaster is to be avoided; not everyone seems to want princess Yuri to come to France. The culprit is never found, though. Or not yet? -, able to heal (almost) any injury, poisoning, disease, ... But he's not of the human kind. Next to Ren, there's an entire crew that repairs, provides, and so on.
And that's another element in this story: the diversity of living beings. Humans, Selkies (Wikipedia-link), will-o'-the-wisps (Wikipedia-link), faeries, ... all have their place in this world, in this relatively modern version of France. Ah yes, it doesn't take place in the past, it's not a steampunk story (there have been several of those in French SFFF the last few years, though), as there are indications of modernity. It's a uchronia (Wikipedia-link).
Team Louis-Philippe * Prince Louis-Philippe * Queen Gabrielle * Yuri's father (Nekohaima), the White Ambassador
Team Orient-Express * Camille-Agnès Albane du Mont de Trente-Chênes (captain) * Douze (I think he's the engine/train driver) aka Jack * Alcyone (Aeling, patroller) * Ren (Spectral, doctor) * ...
Team Sewers (Égouts in the book) * Sir Edward Longway (Knight of Keltia, enemy of the French prince, LGBT+, does have a son [Douze aka Jack], leader of the underground population) * Bran (aka Waterlily, formerly known as Shura, LGBT+, Selkie, student of Taliesin, ...) * Drauf (responsible for the weaponry) * Taliesin (bard, master of Bran, one of Edward's best friends and as a bard, very high ranked in the Keltian hierarchy, based on Celtic society - clarification by the author) * ...
Upon arrival, it's clear that Yuri will need to adapt to a new culture. France isn't Japan, the way of reigning is very different. It doesn't take long before our princess starts to question her voyage and stay in France. She discovered the real reason for her being in France. Of course, one never took her own convictions and desires into account. Queen Gabrielle has a talk with the girl, feels sorry for her. As Yuri didn't want all of this to happen, Gabrielle helps her escape, but whereto? Yuri is used to a world of servants, helping her with anything, even helping her dress.
Shelter is provided, also thanks to the quick and efficient intervention of Bran aka Shura (her name when she was fighting back in Japan) and Yuri feeling sorry for her situation, especially with the sick baby-brother (if I'm not mistaken). Bran hasn't forgotten this. Bran is not human, but a selkie. She's also called Waterlily, as feels like a fish in the water.
The Sewers population is a peaceful, close-knit community. Several of them live underground, but have a dayjob above ground. Access is limited and dangerous, if you don't know which path to follow. The rodents that live there aren't as cute as your own hamster or rat, for example.
As Yuri is/was used to being served and helped, it's in the sewers that her life takes a totally different course, away from the "golden" cage. She has to learn to tie her own knots, to adopt new habits, take part in the underground life. However, she can always address her questions and worries to Bran, Edward, and so on. Little by little, she becomes more and more independent.
While the Sewers-community is peaceful, they aren't that soft with criminals, sex offenders, ... The most severe punishment is being locked up, in the dark, deep down in the sewers and you have half an hour to escape, or be devoured by the rodents. Frédéric is one whose actions (seducing a fellow community member) led to this punishment.
(view spoiler)[As it happened to be, Frédéric, a sex offender, was thus punished, but managed to escape, though not completely unharmed. When one is punished this way, this person is ousted from the community or soon enough will be. Resentful as he is, he plans to betray the community to the prince in exchange for a large reward, of course. Otherwise, why would you take the risk, as you too have lived so long underground, defying the current political system above? The prince sets up a search party (and killing spree, while at it) to bring back Yuri. But above all, it's a perfect excuse to finally take out his long-time enemy (Sir Edward), although both have left each other in peace, as the feud took place a long time ago. But Sir Edward was forced to go underground. (hide spoiler)]
So, prince Louis-Philippe organises a search party with his newly formed army and Colonel Ryûzaki and HA-17/Levana; the latter under command of the prince when they arrived. They are not at all aware of how Yuri is faring. The underground population, while in the possession of arms, is not as well-equipped as the army, because they abhor violence, but will revert to it in case of danger. This time, they have to scramble and set up defenses. However, is it because the army is so efficient? Or the defenses so weak? This kind of action scene is, to be honest, dealt with in a rapid fashion. Of course, Morgan of Glencoe is no Bernard Cornwell, for example, and maybe it would have hurt the flow of the story, if the battle lasted another ten pages longer, for example.
On a sidenote: This round of extermination reminded me of Trump vs Mexicans, Erdogan vs Kurds, Israel vs Palestinians, Bolsonaro and the Amazon tribes (indigenous people), and so on. The Sewers-community are so-called vermin, criminals, etc, must thus be exterminated.
All's well that ends well, you would say. But it isn't. (view spoiler)[The killing spree was very bloody, very efficient, even. There were many casualties, especially among the underground population. And sadly enough, Yuri's main circle of friends is among them. Sir Edward, Bran, Taliesin, Samuel, ... However, the library is saved, as are the many children hiding in there. The healer (I forgot her name) who guarded them, is also safe. (hide spoiler)] While the ending may be dark and cruel, not all is lost; there is hope that the wrongs will be set right.
Book two will see our princess Yuri-hime returning to the palace, taking up her life as wife of Louis-Philippe, as princess of France. Or will she?
There is one page at the end, teasing you (the reader). Frédéric might think he can now roam free, under the auspices of the prince, but then an unexpected turn of events takes place. (view spoiler)[Nekohaima, Yuri's father, had a talk with Queen Gabrielle - or rather, she wanted to talk to him, for old times' sake - about Yuri, her escape, her life underground. He also finds out about the search party and decides to take action. He pays Frédéric a visit, one that doesn't end well for our betrayer. (hide spoiler)] This bodes well for the sequel. Bring it on, I'd say!
I don't always read YA-novels, but when I do... All meme-joking aside, this first novel, this voyage into a different, darker kind of Paris (hence the title), has been a positive surprise. The writing is very good, attractive and makes this story a page-turner. Whether you're a young or older adult, this book is not really restricted to one age group. Bring on book two, 'L'Héritage du Rail'.
Looking forward to the sequel, I hope to see at least these questions answered:
But now that Yuri's friends are gone, will she have to accept her fate (to wed the prince)? Will she be able to escape again and stand up for herself? Will her colonel and hybrid find out the real truth and rejoin her side, accept her view on the matter, on how she wants to live her life? Will the relationship with her father improve? What about the queen? What role will she play next? What about the train crew, who were also close with the Sewers-community/Égouts?
Some general remarks about this first book:
* As Morgan of Glencoe is also a bard, music plays an important role in the story. Not just the fact that the Sewers-community enjoys music and several members play an instrument or sing (remember, Taliesin is a bard, Barn his student, ...), but McPeake's song 'Wild Mountain Thyme' (Wikipedia-link) returns now and then, in pieces or in its entiry (at the end).
* Edward, Bran, Taliesin, ... often communicate in English.
* The main character is from Japan, so the use of Japanese words is more than a logic decision. However, there is nowhere any explanation of these terms. This could have easily solved through footnotes. I hope this will be the case in the second and third books.
* The clear distinction between both cultures: the Japanese and the French. One being more closed, more tightly organised than the other. Especially Ryûzaki takes his task very personal, protects Yuri with his own life, is vigilant like no other. Although he made one little mistake. I don't know the right expression, but this one comes close: All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy. But here, it wasn't because of his own decision that he couldn't stay with Yuri 24/7.
* The author is a big fan of the word 'soudain' (English: suddenly). Using synonyms would have made the reading a little more attractive. See L'Internaute.fr. On the other hand, her use of 'soudain' reminded me of the French comedian Pierre Desproges, especially this video (YouTube-link, at +/- 2:07). Desproges' definition (if I understood correctly, since it's an old recording): "...une clause de style destinée à veiller votre intérêt de façon appel honnête, dans la mesure où c'est en vain qu'on pourra tenter de déceler la moindre trace de soudaineté dans l'action qui va suivre." Simply brilliant, this play on words. :-)
* An often used expression, especially by the Orient-Express crew (and its captain): Suie et charbon! (English: Soot and coal!)
* Ren (the doctor on the train) is a close friend (if not lover) of Bran, but he too was subjected to assaults. (view spoiler)[His lab was blown to pieces, but he survived. How he fared after the underground search party, and who was behind the attack, I don't know any more, but I hope book two will provide the answers. (hide spoiler)]
* Yuri showed compassion with Shura/Bran back in Japan. Bran not being human. Surprise, surprise, it's exactly the exotics (the non-human beings) who come to her rescue; the exact same beings whom prince Louis-Philippe seeks to eradicate.
* The train crew is called Fourmis (Ants), while the Sewers-community is referred to as Rats (as these rodents also dwell under the ground, in the sewers)
* Should you want a bit more information on this story, you can read this little interview (LINK) on ActuSF.com.
I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust....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 deTo 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
Lionel Davoust has rapidly become one of my favourite French authors, or at least a French author who occupies some places in my book collection, asLionel Davoust has rapidly become one of my favourite French authors, or at least a French author who occupies some places in my book collection, as you can see here (because of Goodreads' way of ordering, anthologies are not shown).
In his latest publication, Contes hybrides (Hybrid tales), Les Éditions Mille Cent Quinze (1115) chose three previously published stories, each having a length of about 40 pages:
1) Le Sang du large (2010) The first story, Le Sang du large, tells the tale of a writer, Paul Whittemore, who seeks to realise the imaginary. Does the imaginary exist? If I can think and write about it, then surely reality must follow? There has to be more to life than what man goes through day in, day out. The writer's spouse has left him, because of his fascination with the imaginary. And so, our writer seeks a way out of his misery.
(view spoiler)[It isn't until one dark day that a mermaid has come onto land to sing her song. Drawn by the unreal sounds, Mr Whittemore decides to seek their source and is dumbstruck when he observes the creature from his stories. Experiencing a writer's block, he wishes to get in touch with this mermaid, touch her (if only to invalidate his insanity and convince himself of his conviction), but she doesn't let him. One day, contact is established, but this only happens on dark, depressing days (if I understood correctly). Mr Whittemore pleads to be saved, to be taken to the magical world whence she came, but his request is denied. The opposite happens: As the mermaid sees the writer in distress, she decides to sacrifice her way of living to provide him with a renewed sense to live, a renewed kind of inspiration. But this change comes at a terrible cost for her. (hide spoiler)]
A beautiful tale about the relationship between the imaginary and reality. Who needs whom? Does one need more than the other? Does one need the other to validate one's own existence or the other way around? Or do both keep each other alive, as a sort of yin and yang?
2) Point de sauvegarde (2011) In this little SF-ish story, three American cyber-soldiers (more android than human) are sent out on a mission, somewhere in South America (the time of the Incas, Aztecs, ...) between Maraä and Barcelos in Brazil. They are to reconquer a secret place, said to be currently occupied by the local rebels. They are in direct contact with the mother-ship for data, instructions, aid, and so on. The mission is not without danger, however, so they must be vigilant at all times. Each of the three has his own speciality and his own personality; they need each other to successfully accomplish the mission. Each of these soldiers were given a new chance at life, after they committed vile crimes (like taking out your father for having raped your sister, and while you're at it, the rest of the family for having kept silent about it all).
(view spoiler)[Their personalities and brains were copied to be transferred into robotic bodies, before the criminals were put to justice for their crimes (i.e. death row). All is not well from the start for the new cyber-soldiers. Barely landed, they are to take cover and proceed carefully. The calmest of the three is taken out very soon and not much is left of him. This makes the other two suspicious, concluding that someone must have informed the rebels of their coming. As the two remaining soldiers proceed towards the facility, the ancient temple, the defences are less and less apparent or present. The place is said to have been holy to the local people, hence the lack of resistance. It is believed that holy powers will make the soldiers stay away and abort their mission.
During their patrolling, their minds are being messed with. Strange happenings, weird messages appearing and disappearing, ... enough to go mental, despite the spartan training they've undergone. Everything is centred around the mission, soldiers are always to follow that credo: the mission is key.
As the examine their new surroundings and go deeper inside the temple, the events become more and more horrific. US GO HOME is a message that appears suddenly. "US, go home!" is a possible answer, but it isn't until they've seen themselves lying dead deep inside the temple, that the message is decoded as "We want to go home!", where the 'We' are the previous versions of the remaining two soldiers.
The strange element in this story is that when our soldiers are killed, they respawn at their last save, like in a video game. And that's what it is: "real" soldiers (although they are a digital copy of their former human versions) being used, abused and re-used to become lean, mean fighting-machines. Time and again. Re-spawn, redo the mission until satisfactory. Reset memory, do not object, only obey! (hide spoiler)]
A short-story to demonstrate how vile war is. No one wins, there are only losers. The biggest one being the soldiers themselves, as they are subjected to all the misery, rules, and so on. Without technological aid, they are lost. The more technology, the less human instincts and skills are of use and thus the more they become defunct. Ergo, the more you become a puppet of the system, which also counts for other professions, as many experience day in, day out.
3) Bienvenue à Magicland (2015) This is the story of an animal caretaker, a troll, in a zoo of fantastic creatures: Magicland. One species is unicorns. Unicorns are his favourite animal and one day he hopes to be promoted to performer, to assist the animals in their performances for the public. He does have one problem, though: He can't stand the people's (including kids's) ignorance and often idiotic questions about the animals and especially the unicorns. People also don't read the explanatory panels that are placed nearby.
"Can we hug them?" "Oh, look at those crazy horses!" (never, ever, call unicorns horses! Or face the wrath of Garam, the caretaker. They resemble horses, but are of a totally different species.) "Do you feed them every day?"
As he hasn't found a way to properly and politely deal with these kinds of questions and comments, he has regular appointments with a psychiatrist, who takes notes as Garam puts forward his case and concerns. His role is to make Garam reflect on his behaviour and seek his own answers to change course a little bit and enjoy his profession and life more.
(view spoiler)[Garam once read an epic story on unicorns and how the main character was also fascinated by them. He takes this character and the story as a guideline, as a way of living, of adoring these animals. Garam the troll may, in all his passion and admiration, come across as aggressive, anti-social, and what not. But in his explanations (the animals are there to bring a sense of wonder to the people, to instil happiness and joy), it seems he does have an altruistic side. His biggest wish would be if everyone or more people would be amazed by these animals and not reduce them to the level of a horse. Unicorns have horns, golden hooves (at least the star of the team - see also this page), are nobler and more graceful than horses. Besides, horses are herbivores, unicorns are carnivores and they will devour you if they don't like you. Which is part of the romantic idea Garam has of unicorns. In the book he read, the character is killed at the horn of a unicorn, as a sort of perfect death for one passionate about this species. Garam pursues more or less the same ideal.
One evening, as he and his tutor Knut - Garam aspires to be like Knut - leave the premises, they are awaited by protestors, who claim that the animals should not live in captivity, they belong in nature. While Knut and Garam were trained to keep calm and move on, at some point, Knut doesn't hold it any more. Garam keeps his cool, as instructed by Knut. Ultimately, Knut got fired and Garam was promoted, albeit not as Garam has imagined it. And that's how, one day, a little girl admiring the unicorns asks for some information. Garam explains his work, but it's not that what the girl is after. Satisfying a child is difficult, but he succeeds by directing her to the shop for a fluffy unicorn, something that makes her day.
There is some mental communication later between Garam and Ellaria. He thinks he'll die a death like in the story, but the opposite is true. The next day, people report having seen a dangerous, white creature out in the wild. Is it Ellaria? Is it another unicorn? Fact is that it was caught and brought to Magicland, the only place where unicorns can be taken care of and live in captivity. (hide spoiler)]
This story was divided into four parts: the four seasons. That's how we follow Garam the caretaker and his view on the world, on the people who daily visit Magicland to admire its animals. And ask sometimes idiotic questions, out of sheer ignorance or maybe just they don't know any better. Ultimately, they too make sure that Magicland continues to exist, that Garam and co. have a job. It's a circle.
Of course, reality and fiction are two different kinds of settings. Life can become dangerous or unpleasant when the two get mixed up and you lose your calm. That doesn't mean you can't have ideals in life. One needs ideals, goals, passions, ... a drive that keeps your life and vitality going.
'Contes hybrides', three stories that describe how fiction can influence or be involved in daily life. Three stories that also convey how important fiction (or the imaginary) is in real life. Which takes the upper hand? How does one influence the other? What are the consequences? Does that make us less or more human?
Once again, Lionel Davoust scores; three times, even. Short-stories are a domain in which he excels, although his latest series (Les Dieux Sauvages, to count five books when done) is also very successful, judging by the various reviews....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'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
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
In this little anthology/compilation, the French author Thomas Geha presents us six (previously published) stories that revolve around men or womenIn this little anthology/compilation, the French author Thomas Geha presents us six (previously published) stories that revolve around men or women whose lives have been turned upside down. They are faced with improbable, yet strangely enough familiar, situations. As the back cover says: What if you could bring back someone / a loved one who disappeared? What if your craziest dream was becoming reality? What if your life was fake/artificial? What if love was an eternal renewal? And do we really want to know the history of those we love? If so, at what price?
These are the stories:
1) La voix de monsieur Ambrose (2011) (The Voice of Mister Ambrose) 2) Là-bas (2005) (Yonder/Over There) 3) Copeaux (2011) (Shavings/Swarf) 4) Bris (2010) 5) Dans les jardins (2011, new) (In the Gardens) 6) Sumus Vicinae (2010) (Latin for "We are the neighbours"; a song by Nicolas Lens: YouTube-link)
The previously published stories were revised for this compilation, which features a foreword by Sylvie Miller and Philippe Ward.
All of these stories, which I'm not going to dissect this time, are set in the fantastic (Wikipedia), magical realism, and similar. They take place in the real world, yet are influenced by external forces. Each of them has a deeper meaning or layer. They may even hit home, if you have experienced similar events in your youth or adult life. As each of the characters, each of these "creators" (aren't we all creators, one way or another?), is faced with unexpected changes, they have to find a way to cope with them and take a moment for introspection.
The variety in just six stories is amazing. Geha's style also allows for you/the reader to experience the changes with those characters, almost feel what they are going through, maybe even make you reflect on situations you experienced in your own life.
Or, in more general philosophical terms: Who are we? What makes us human? What's the meaning of life? What's our destiny? However, you won't find answers to these and similar questions in this little book, as "no one holds the only truth in his hand" (see Kamelot - Farewell, 2003: lyrics, YouTube-link), as it's up to you/the reader to find your own answers; we all live different lives, yet we experience the same or similar events, feelings, and so on.
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'veRobert 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 bigThis 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.
Gezien Nederlandstalige SFF-auteurs minder aandacht krijgen in België en Nederland, en vooral Angelsaksische schrijvers/fsters ermee(English below)
Gezien Nederlandstalige SFF-auteurs minder aandacht krijgen in België en Nederland, en vooral Angelsaksische schrijvers/fsters ermee weglopen, is het niet altijd eenvoudig om te weten wat er schrijft in dit taalgebied. Bepaalde uitgevers proberen bijgevolg het tij wat te keren, o.a. met deze anthologie, gepubliceerd door Godijn Publishing (Nederland).
Het boek telt 26 kortverhalen met als thema 'Achterblijvers'. De selectie van de verhalen is het resultaat van een schrijfwedstrijd, waarbij jong en opkomend talent haar kunsten kon tonen. Elk verhaal heeft een gemiddelde lengte van 10 bladzijden. Zoals iemand anders schreef, zijn 26 verhalen eigenlijk best veel, zo niet, te veel voor een boek van iets meer dan 300 bladzijden. Minder is meer, of anders gezegd, minder verhalen, maar maak de overblijvende (achterblijvers ;-)) meer uitgewerkt.
Er is slechts een handvol verhalen dat me kon boeien en dat erbovenuit sprong:
* De stilte van een schilderij - Tim Reus * Dr raaf, de vrouw, het mozaïek - Wouter van Gorp * De oppasser - Jorrit de Klerk * Terminus - Mike Jansen * De Tombewaker - Niels van Beelen * Zone geel - Niels Colijn * De achterblijver - Laura Umbgrove
Andere verhalen waren eerder ok, maar niet buitengewoon. De rest was, eerlijk gezegd, niet goed. Niet alleen inzake stijl, maar ook de interpunctieregels die niet gerespecteerd werden (geen komma's bij een aanspreking of in bijzinnen, om maar een flagrant voorbeeld te vermelden). In één verhaal werd zelfs meermaals "ik wordt" (of "wordt ik") gebruikt. Het doet dan ook de vraag rijzen of de ingezonden teksten überhaupt nagekeken werden alvorens ze te publiceren. Of anders verwoord, hebben uitgevers misschien niet meer zoveel tijd over om teksten te controleren? Nu, de eerlijkheid gebiedt me te schrijven dat het probleem ook in andere genres voorkomt.
Het is nobel om nieuw en opkomend talent een podium aan te bieden, maar ik kan deze anthologie op zich niet aanraden. Kwaliteit boven kwantiteit en bovenal iets meer tijd steken in het nazien van ingezonden teksten zijn de voornaamste redenen.
Belgium and The Netherlands have their (small) share of SFF-authors, but they don't get as much exposure and the Anglo-Saxon authors from the UK and the US. Hence it being hard to name a few from the top of my head.
As there are publishers who try to turn the tide, I saw this anthology on the website of Godijn Publishing, a Dutch publisher, and decided to go for it. The book contains 26 short-stories, based on a writing competition.
As someone else here wrote, 26 is just too large a number for an anthology of +/- 300 pages. Each story has a length of, on average, 10 pages. The theme, as the title indicates, is Stragglers, though the various stories show that this translation doesn't always fit the bill. An 'achterblijver' in Dutch can also mean something like 'the last of your kind', 'staying behind, because not wanting to move/go away/...', and so on.
Out of the 26 stories, only a handful managed to stand out, in my humble opinion. These are:
* De stilte van een schilderij - Tim Reus * Dr raaf, de vrouw, het mozaïek - Wouter van Gorp * De oppasser - Jorrit de Klerk * Terminus - Mike Jansen * De Tombewaker - Niels van Beelen * Zone geel - Niels Colijn * De achterblijver - Laura Umbgrove
Some of the others were ok, though nothing out of the ordinary. And the remainder was not good, some not good at all. Not good at all, in that I wonder how they managed to get published at all. If not for the writing, then for the very lack of editing (punctuation, for example, though I have to add that it appears to be disrespected in any genre, as if publishers don't have time to devote to this task).
As noble as the idea is to give new and upcoming authors a platform, this anthology doesn't really cut it. Less is more. More focus on quality and especially revising/editing the texts that were sent in....more
Except the short-story 'Speech Sounds' (read in 2017, see here), I've never read anything by the late Mrs Butler, although Lilith's Brood has been onExcept the short-story 'Speech Sounds' (read in 2017, see here), I've never read anything by the late Mrs Butler, although Lilith's Brood has been on my TBR-pile for a few years. As it's a thick omnibus, I decided to go for something smaller, like Kindred.
In Kindred, we travel back and forth between 1815 and 1976. Dana, an black woman, is one way or another tied to one of her forefathers. Rufus is the boy in question. He lives with his mother and father in Maryland. The household is in the hands of black slaves, who have to obey at every command. Tom Weylin is Rufus's father and he keeps the slaves in check.
Dana, anno 1976, is transported back to 1815 each time Rufus gets into trouble, or rather, when his life is at stake. Sadly, Mrs Butler did not mention how it is that Rufus and Dana are linked and depend on each other for their well-being. Nor do we know why they are connected, although the story's message does give you clues and food for thought.
Kevin, Dana's husband, is also part of the travel process at some point. Both are writers, and being that smart/intelligent in an era where black people are considered less than animals, is dangerous. The Weylin family wasn't already of the brightest, so you can guess how they respond to a black person outsmart them in terms of writing and reading, for example. Especially when that black person is not free, according to the law, and appears in a state where black people have no rights, as opposed to other states, where black people can be free.
Dana can only travel back to her time when she really fears for her life (before being shot or being raped or a similar, horrific situation). However, there's a difference in time. Time goes faster in 1815 than in 1976. Example: She can be gone for a few months and when back in 1976, only a few days would have passed.
As Dana passed so much time in Rufus's world (in the end, he's the master of the house and there are a few positive changes - until Dana and Rufus clash one last time and fate decides the outcome), her way of thinking, her behaviour changed, despite having also undergone the same treatment as the other slaves. All the while, though, she had a wee bit more freedom, because of her link with Rufus. In short: She was surprised of how easily one can adapt to such a life, as a slave, and how easily one can think slavery isn't that bad after all.)
The story is very accessible, addresses the issue of slavery in a way that speaks to you. I don't know what research she did for it, but she depicted a time in which black people (or slaves in general) had poor lives. Working hard, living and sleeping under poor circumstances, being beaten for the smallest remark or act, and so on. Not to mention, being sold whenever the owner saw fit. Money was key, very important, more important than humans, than humanity.
Life was also very different back then, and not necessarily better, at least in terms of "comfort" or "freedom" (as I would label it): no ballpoints, no proper medicine, no proper doctors, slaves could not visit someone or go to town without permission (or face the consequences, if one did break the rules), no dish-washers, no washing machines for the laundry, no mobile phones, no proper soap or shampoo (compared to modern day products), and so on.
It's a book that should be read even today, as the present times, also in the western world, aren't exactly the happiest ones, what with the renewed rise of far right, the problem of migration (because of the wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Africa, Iraq, ...) and Europe and the US not really able to cope with those masses of people, which causes tension and what not with the residents in Europe and the US. Not to mention the problems of the LGBT+ community in Russia, for example.
A recommended read, that's for sure. Though I must add that (my copy) still contained a few typos or some negligence in terms of punctuation, even after all those years and republishing....more