a review by Caroline Mullan…
A friend of mine, Caroline Mullan, emailed me a review of the Stone Dance and though I might have wished that she’d enjoyed the books more, I liked it enough to ask her if she would mind me putting it up on my site – and she was kind enough to agree.
(I have appended an extract from my email reply to Caroline as a comment on this post…)
The Stone Dance of the Chameleon – Ricardo Pinto (1999, 2004, 2009) – a review by Caroline Mullan
This is a very long trilogy, each volume of which has over 700 pages.
The first volume, The Chosen, was published in 1999, and my partner read it and was impressed (My partner is not often impressed). The second, The Standing Dead, came out in 2004, and I bought copies of the first two in paperback so that I would have the trilogy to read when the final volume appeared. The last, The Third God, was launched at Eastercon last year, by Ricardo in person, and we have the hardback Ricardo inscribed. So, I have read all three volumes back-to-back and feel entitled to an opinion.
I, too, am impressed. But I wish I liked them better.
We first meet our hero Carnelian aged 15, secure among his family in his childhood home, greeting unexpected visitors. With breathtaking speed his home is dismantled round him, and he embarks on the two thousand page journey across his world that will take him to adulthood, and bring him to full knowledge of good and evil. He travels as a child, initially, subservient to powerful others. Later he makes his own decisions and choices. Throughout, his acts arise from ignorance and hope, and are undertaken without knowledge or understanding of possible consequences. His journey has disastrous consequences for his world. (I think this is quite rare: Stephen King’s The Stand might come close, but even in fantasy few authors grant their protagonists such powerful destructive agency.) Carnelian’s journey and his world’s catastrophe proceed inexorably and entirely convincingly from their premises to their conclusions.
Carnelian himself is an ignorant, spoiled, self-indulgent brat who takes a very long time to grow up, and there were times when I wanted to throw the book across the room in order to avoid another episode of his repeated, tortured indecision. (Thinking as I write this, I realise that I should have more sympathy for someone refusing to grow up, but that was not how I felt at the time.) Even the best of the other characters
are scarcely more sympathetic, and the worst are fully-realised monsters of tyranny and cruel self-indulgence. The books are violent, unpleasant, and filled with people damaged physically and emotionally from living in a brutal and dysfunctional society, saturated with and fascinated by death and its surrounding rituals.
However brutal or macabre, Carnelian’s world is fully-realised, its landscape, people, economics, politics, sociology and iconography developed rigorously and convincingly as a fascinating, working world. It is this discipline, this rigour and this fascination (the fact that the book is science fiction, rather than fantasy, if you will) that kept me reading to the convincing and bloody end.
(In interviews, Ricardo tells us that he spent years in therapy in order to be able to complete these books. I first met him at the 2008 Eastercon, where we talked about reading Tanith Lee, and Jung, and I’m not in the least surprised.)
Despite taking twelve years to write, this trilogy is all one book. Despite being all one book, the three volumes are very good at taking their individual stories forward without requiring continuous checking back for detailed knowledge of the previous volumes. Technically, it may be one of the best-constructed trilogies I have ever read.
So I cannot in honour recommend you read this trilogy for enjoyment. But as a work of literary art, I think it will stand the test of time, and as an exercise in building and revealing a world it is superb, and on that basis I will recommend it unreservedly to those who read for those qualities. But make sure you can set aside long hours to read it. You will need them.
31 Replies to “a review by Caroline Mullan…”
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here here to Foucault and The History of Sexuality. ^^
“Nietzsche, Genealogy, and History” is also very applicalbe to the historicizing of the Three Lands by those who live in it. Actually, I think the trilogy realizes what Foucault describes, but what we rarely get being in the present or looking at the past: an accident, overturns, meeting of opposing forces, and the unravelling or history. That piece is probably one of, if not the, most influential pieces for me; most fitting for a similarly influential piece of literature. 😛
And I don’t know whether I come from the Jung or Freud camp. I think it’s a mix, although it seems Freud had a bit more influence on the (mis)direction of queer theory, from my limited knowledge.
I couldn’t find the essay by Foucault (can you point me to where I might find it, Athena?) but I did manage to find this that gives a brief overview of it. I must say that it serves to analytically reinforce insights that I have arrived at intuitively… Indeed, it does seem to me that the trilogy has stumbled along that path…
As I have stated before, I am definitely in the Jung camp… but I do say this having read vastly more Jung than Freud. Alas, both men were enough of their time to be rather negative towards homosexuality. Perhaps you might expand on this aspect…?
Ricardo, not exactly true, at least when it comes to Freud.
One of my romantic partners is involved in a master’s thesis dealing with gender roles in lesbian couples and Freud mentions specifically a sort of bisexual constitution of our own psyche. The thing is that most of what Freud wrote that wasn’t as clearly anti-homosexual as people liked was mostly ignored. (Also, she’s the one who got me into reading your books after my first botched attempt.)
It’s isn’t the same, but you can read a part of this paper that deals with Freud’s view of bisexuality. (Caveat: shameless self-publicizing.)
The most influential work, when it comes to society at large comes from the Freudian works, and feminism, as well as queer theory, picked that up partly because of said reason. But Judith Butler, Irigaray et al. also deal with Jung.
PS – Sorry to barge in on the conversation.
I was perhaps being rather lazy with my comment about Freud – particularly because I don’t now recall what made me say that *grin* I have read that Jung was negative towards homosexuality, seeing it as some kind of dysfunction – again, I’m not sure I’ve actually come across this directly in Jung – but rather in comments on Jung. This said, I don’t know if your bisexual counter-argument is entirely pertinent. Surely this is not the same thing. As far as I can recall, the notion of bisexuality goes back to Plato (? certainly one of the ancient Greeks) that we are all originally double beings (interesting resonance with my syblings – a resonance I’m not sure I have been aware of) who were separated and thereafter yearned for each other – this being the origin of our sexual desire for each other. This may well have allowed for double beings of a single sex – I can’t recall. Further, Jung explored in depth the notion that every man contains an ‘anima’, every woman an ‘animus’ – the first ‘female’ the second ‘male’ that complements our gender – with some very complex analysis of consequences… (no time to read your shamelessly self-publicized paper now ;O))… Can’t see what any of this has to do with homosexuality…
As for barging in – nonsense!!! These discussions are open to all comers!! :O)
PS your ‘romantic partner’ is clearly a woman of extremely discerning tastes….. *wide grin*
*grin* I can say she is indeed, at least when it comes to literature!
I can’t really comment on Jung with such insight, but when it comes to Freud, the stance he takes on psychological bisexuality helps to allay some of the problems people usually have when talking about homosexuality and psychoanalysis, since that same-sex component is a part of the human psyche. Which isn’t to say that Freud isn’t unambiguous or problem-free when it comes to the topic of homosexuality, of course.
I’m quite tolerant of such intolerance in the context of the times…
Thanks for the compliment, [ricardo], and for your thought-out comments to my reply.
Indeed, I’m usually even farther removed from Freud – coming from the field of Communication Sciences, Lacan is ‘our’ superstar. It’s very gratifying for me to know I’ve shown you something that resonates with your experience as a person and as an author. And indeed, there is ‘unheimlich’ all around The Stone Dance.
The conflict you mention, represented by Osidian and Carnelian has also a very sarcastic interpretation for me. Carnelian is the dreamy type, the ‘purer’ soul, if I might use the term, someone who shows faith in the ways of the world. But Osidian is the one who is always the first to embody in himself the discourse of religion and belief. Not because he necessarily belives such things himself – or does he? *nudge* – but because he sees the instrumental value of appropriating the agency of such discourse, taking advantage of its effects. He wields that power rationally – and that is a very harsh critique on religion *huge smile*.
The quote I chose, the one you say could be an epigraph, was chosen precisely because I felt it could indeed be an epigraph, taken alone. And there is one other major crossing between Focault and your work, something I only hinted at with the quote I chose – inscription. The Wise are the best example, though certainly not the only one (the tattoos on the faces of most people are another, softer one). The inscription of power is, at the same time, metaphorical and physical – even in Foucault. The peoples of The Stone Dance have internalized in themselves the panopticon, the have inscribed it in themselves – they constantly behave as if being watched, even when they are not – the heliographs are the expression of such a control, just like the panoptic tower of Bentham’s prisons, but they are not the tool. But the power functionings of that society are also branded into their skins and bodies – most forms of punishment there entail some inscription, some shaping of the body. The blindness of the Wise attests to this: their physical blindness is the marking of their control over the devices of power that rule that society. Also, the salt on the hair of the tribe elders is another good example of this inscription of language, domination and siginification onto the body – by emulating the Chosen, they contribute to the maintenance of the power rethorics therein contained. You might find Judith Butler’s “Foucalt and the Paradox of Bodily Inscriptions” a nice read; although I don’t agree with everything she says in there, she raises some very fine points.
Wow, does it show that I have a pro-Foucault bias? *grin* I think you’d find some of his books absolutely fascinating, and even maybe useful for some of your research. Discipline and Punish, the book from whence came that quote, is a nice place to start. Also, the appearance of homosexuality as a non-topic (or non-cathegory, if you prefer) in The Stone Dance resonates very closely with what Foucault says about the subject on his first volume of The History of Sexuality, one of the first works to cause the appearance of queer theory some years afterwards.
I cannot criticize Caroline’s belief that the trilogy is unenjoyable, as that is her opinion. I would, however, strongly contest the notion that flawed characters, a brutal setting and apocalyptic narrative are inherently unenjoyable. Personally, I find the notion of the hero deeply problematic, for it implies a simple binary between good and evil, privileges one world view over all others, sees compromise as weakness and celebrates the desire to engage in warfare. All of these qualities could be applied to Tony Blair, but I would argue that his self belief has ushered in an era of mistrust, violence and paranoia. Carnelian’s unwillingness to kill Osidian should be seen as one of his strengths, as murder would have reincorporated him into the violence of the Chosen culture from which he fought to break free. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that the elements that Caroline found problematic were actually the source of my enjoyment of the series. I believe that pain, suffering and melancholy are just as frequently experienced as joy, determination and success, and I was delighted to read a work of fantasy that acknowledges and explores this truth of the human condition.
Yes, Carnelian was infuriating at times. But then again, from where would his suddent knowledge, or coming-of-brains ( 😛 ), come from? All around us we have people and institutions that teach us how the world works, who give us insights into it. Carnelian’s main source of insight about the inner workings of his world was Osidian. And that says it all.
I too picked up The Chosen when I was about 14 or younger. Unfortunately, translated into Portuguese. And it didn’t catch my attention, I was unable to appreciate all its subtleties right from the get-go. I picked it up again maybe some 4 or 5 years ago, and the experience just blew my mind.
Being now a 23 year-old researcher and university teacher, I can verily say that I regret that incapacity to keep reading the book at that time. Because even though I had put it down very quickly, it lingered in me, or the memory of it; it didn’t fade away.
Ricardo, the world you built, and all the laws, rules, violence and hierarchies that you created are exquisite. More than enjoyable, the three books are a psychological tour de force into many subjects. So the enjoyment of these three books is essentially in how exquisitely well-built they are, how thought-provoking they are.
To be thoroughly amazed: that is a thing of beauty, and your books do just that.
:O) thanks for all the kind words.
I am curious as to what you feel is wrong with the Portuguese translation – I had understood it to be excellent… I’m also curious as to what you research and teach…
Oh, don’t get me wrong. The translation is good. But it is a translation. English has its own dynamics, and as much as I love Portuguese, reading a translation is always something less pleasant than reading the original. Having read The Third God in English, I can attest to the difference – the books just “flow” better in English. (I shall refrain from ranting about how bad of a translation culture Portugal has.)
I am doing research on several topics. European youngsters’ use of the new media (part of EU Kids Online); the representation of women in men’s and women’s magazines in Portugal; polyamory as a queer identity for my Master’s thesis. I teach Ethics in the context of Computer Science, and Sociology of the Public Opinion, History of Journalism and Research Methods and Practices – those 3 in the context of Journalism and Communication Sciences.
Now that I’m giving a second thought to my own comment, I think your books cause a feeling of Unheimliche (a mainly freudian concept, see Wikipedia). That might explain why although some people liked the books, they didn’t find them ‘entertaining’.
I would feel somewhat aggrieved if it were to turn out that the Portuguese versions of my books were better than my originals *grin*. I asked because my mother, after having read The Chosen in English, read it in Portuguese and said to me: “it really came alive” *wide grin*. I put this down to Portuguese being her mother tongue (strangely, that should be true for me?!), but not just that, it occurred to me that, in Portuguese, the story connected to her experiences of reading fairytales as a child and thus ‘internalized’ it more deeply in her…
Your field of study seems most interesting and diverse!
Your Unheimliche reminds me of the ‘uncanny valley’ – which is interesting, since one of the most clear examples of this is an artificial face that seems a mask – and this quality is definitely something I recognize as being in my own work…
It did come alive, but then again, it was never “dead” to begin with. *wink* But the cadence of the story-telling is more befitting of English than of Portuguese – naturally so, since it was written in English. Your point about the fairytales makes sense, though, but still I find it much easier to read in English (which isn’t my mother tongue, obviously).
Yes, I think diverse is the word. I think I’ll start having identity issues in no time, now. *grin*
The uncanny valley is an updated version of the original concept, based around “The Sandman”, and the standard English translation for that phrase is “The Uncanny”, which is also the name of the text Freud wrote (English version here). But if the idea of masks is one of the reasons that made me talk of uncanny things, the powerplays of the world you created and many of its subtleties are another. They seem to resonate very clearly with a specific social and political reading of this our world. The immense cruelty inscribed into the functioning of that society recalls our own fears of cruelty, our own potential for it, how easy it is to build a society around it, in all its variations. This, I think, many people find disturbing – uncanny.
But without this deep exploration into the very limits of our own liberty, of our own possibility, can we really claim to have a realistic view on who and what we are (or we make ourselves be)? What really struck me as deeply interesting was the way in which lore and simple “realism” were so tightly knit together that it was almost impossible to see if the author – you, that is – actually meant to include a magical/mystical element as part of that world or not. And it makes the events on The Third God even more disquieting, as no superpowers or whatever were needed to shift the very fundaments of that society. There is a clear and rational efficiency in Osidian that causes us to tremble, as we peek into the horizon of possibilities that we ourselves constitute.
Also, your books reminded me of the idea of the Panopticon, a concept developed by Jeremy Bentham for building prisons in the UK and later analyzed by Michel Foucault (see this for a fascinating read). It seems that the whole society was sort of a panoptic device. Do you think this holds some truth?
(For a teaser, I leave you with a quote from that last link:
«He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.»)
no “obviously” about it – your English is excellent!
I have just finished reading the Freud text on the ‘uncanny’ that you link to and it switched on all kinds of light in my head. I haven’t read a lot of Freud – being somewhat in the ‘enemy camp’ *grin* that is Jung. However, the article inspired me (and I would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in my work) to order not only Freud’s The Uncanny but also The Tales of Hoffman that I have come across but never actually read…So, thanks for that. It has certainly made me aware of just how much the Stone Dance is a work filled with ‘unheimlich’. The links that Freud makes to childhood and repression certainly rings true.
Of course you’re right that the Stone Dance is about our world – both external and internal. Not only that, but it can be rad as an allegory of our world as it is now… and – this is the beauty of fantasy – and has always been *wide grin*. The balance you talk about – that between a mystical or a positivist interpretation – are, of course, deliberate and, also deliberately, intended to be unresolvable – since this is, ultimately, what I feel to be the truth… As you perhaps are hinting at, this conflict is represented by Carnelian and Osidian – and this is one of the reasons, I suspect, so many of my readers prefer to identify with Osidian in spite of his crimes… At first this surprised me, now it doesn’t…
Yes, I think there is a lot of truth in your comparison of the Commonwealth to Bentham’s Panopticon (though it’s only relatively recently that I have been reading Foucault), not only can this be seen through the agency of masks (through which one can observe while remaining unobserved), but also that another primary mode of control are the heliographs, allowing the Commonwealth to be constantly monitored – ironically, by the blind Wise (another resonance, it seems to me, with Freud’s thesis on the uncanny)… And, finally, your quote could, perfectly comfortably, have formed one of the epigraphs with which I start every chapter – a precept of the Wise…
Ricardo – I think you can edit my comments. Feel free to cut this much shorter, but I’m too lazy to e-mail you saying all this, since it is a response in part to what other people have said too.
Well I’m just echoing at this point, but agree that it isn’t a book to be enjoyed, or necessarily even liked, but definitely experienced. It’s not entertainment. My god, one has to read it more thoroughly than a science textbook from end to end. 😛 But there are so many things I got out of it, it would take an essay to list.
About being irritated about Carnelian’s indecision and ignorance, I remember one time e-mailing after the 2nd installment came out, and exasperatingly asking why on earth Carnelian would agree to climb up to the spring with Osidian near the end of the 2nd book. I was completely convinced that Osidian had some ulterior motive, and was reassured that it was a genuine window of affection. 😛 I don’t think I’ve ever bothered with any other book to outright ask an author about such a small incident.
I agree that this trilogy is truly one story, while on the other hand effectively sectioned off – the 3 installments all have completely different flavours. I liked the brave ending – and I would call it brave because it is unusually apocalyptic (and not in the 2012 kind of entertaining way), and worse (not in a bad way :P), not even in an intelligible way. When you think about it, the ending is both an apocalypse, a reversal/equalization of what came before- the Chinese word somehow seems more adequate 反, and even a rebirth in a sense. However, even this rebirth is not given a reassuringly romantic tone, but rather the base and almost primal feel of returning to those sentient beings who first crawled out from the caves. Fragments of cultures and genre tropes are assembled in such an alien way that if one actually makes its way through the book, the ending has a resounding emotional trigger. But of what? Did I feel sad at the destruction, happy at the deserved retribution after so much cruelty, melancholy, angry, fear for those who are heading out into a new world? All of the above, when I thought about it. But the first reaction is the physical one: a skip of a heart beat, a tensing of the throat, and maybe watering eyes, and how many books can do that?
Moreover, I had the privilege of waiting for the books. I think I discovered the first book a year or two after it was first published. Therefore, I had to wait an agonizing amount of time to get the 2nd, and my agony was too exhausted to wait for the 3rd. This trilogy spanned through my 3 levels of education, while Carnelian only grew a year or two older. So in a sense, I had the privilege of looking at an older brother, a peer, and at a younger self at different phases in my own life. That is a priceless gift that those who now have access to all 3 without having to wait, to think, to grow, won’t have.
Another random – it was thanks to this book that I learned about obsidian, as the name fascinated me, and I googled it up. One of my favourite masks to date is a smooth, minimalist obsidian Mayan one.
I can receive nothing more gratifying from you, Athena (or Caroline), or any other reader, than to hear about how you have engaged with my creation. Though I have learned that ‘my’ act of creation was only a part of what is needed to make the Stone Dance come alive – the other part is what you as a reader bring to it. What I began, you complete within you – and it is a joy for me to glimpse how my work has come alive in you. So much of what you say resonates with my intentions. For example, when you mention “rebirth” you put your fingers on one of the pulses of the Stone Dance – rebirth is built into it at its deepest level – even unto the very shape of the landscapes… It is hearing this kind of thing that makes my years of labour feel completely worthwhile.
I remember you writing to me what seems a thousand years ago and telling me – I think I’m right – that you were twelve… Over the years I have often quoted you as an example of how long I’ve taken to write these books: that you had begun reading them when you were a young teenager and had had to wait until you were in your twenties to finish reading the story… So when you tell me that you see the extremely drawn out process of writing the books as a benefit rather than a curse, that leaves me almost speechless with wonder… and delight :O)
Of course I approve of anyone showing interest in anything Mayan – especially if it’s made of obsidian.
Lastly, a little random comment of my own: what is the pin-yin for the Chinese character you quote? I would love to track it down…
This is coming very late, but the pinyin for 反 is “fan”. 😛
I’ll have to say the level of cruelty was a bit of an issue for me in the first two volumes, even while I’ve always been fascinated by the story, but The Third God resolved that perfectly—I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where the resolution was at once so unexpected, but at the same time in all its radicalness completely and utterly inherently logical, not to say necessary.
For me the ending was absolutely lovely, entirely credible even after all the horror, and definitely hopeful.
(And IMO the reviewer is a bit harsh on Carnelian. He’s only fifteen in the first book and has no conception whatsoever of what the world beyond the confinements of his father’s exile really is like. If he handled it better, adapted to it faster, let go of his humanity and had been more ready to kill his former lover, the ending would have rung false. Or not have been possible at all, because if he’d killed Osidian in vol.2, the world of the Chosen would have remained the same, because it took both of them, Carnelian’s love and compassion—and the resulting indecision—, as well as Osidian’s obsession with power and regaining his place in the system and his strategic knowledge to bring it down.
Sorry for dropping in like this as a random reader, but I really wanted to take the occasion to say thank you for a story that I very much enjoyed reading and will definitely linger for a long while.
I would like to think all my readers are ‘random’ *grin* It does seem to me that one’s strengths are the other’s weaknesses and vice versa, and that both are necessary to bring about change. Osidian has all the strength of the standard hero – all the certainty… and look where it gets him. Carnelian may be muddled, confused, but he has compassion… and as my books seek to demonstrate, compassion can move mountains…
I’d like to add something, though I wonder if it’s much use to anyone.
I’m wrapping up The Third God, and like Caroline, I’ve struggled at times. I’ve had a number of occasions where yelling ‘OMG Carnelian, get your act together – stab Osidian, or yourself, RIGHT NOW!’ to the empty room has seemed entirely justified.
However, I’d never have read the many pages of the book if it wasn’t good. I find Carnelian tiresome, and I’d really, really have liked for him to become more decisive throughout the book. I’d also have liked for him to make informed choices, and have those fail – rather than him making hopeful but uninformed choices, and have those fail. As it stands, it’s simply too obvious how he struggles in vain.
But again – I find the worldbuilding in the books to be without compare in the very numerous books I’ve read. I find many characters to have depth and texture – enough that I love hating most of them. My only real objection is that, being a rather devout hero-worshipper, I’d have liked this epic to have one. But Carnelian is, and remains, a wuss – he has less than 100 pages left to man up =)
Carnelian may not be a ‘hero’ but then that’s not what I set out to write. Rather he is a real person. One of the points of the Stone Dance is to show how, for most people, life is a struggle… because most of us are not ‘blessed’ with the lack of doubt that seems to infect ‘heroes’. Nevertheless, struggle he does and, ultimately, through his struggle he changes the world… Isn’t there a message of hope in this?
There is hope, yes – and Carnelian struggles, yes.
What I’m saying is that Carnelian, for many many pages of the series, becomes a bystander to his own story. His dreams, his ambitions, his hopes and his actions do very little to achieve anything.
Now, for me personally – and I’m slightly primitive in this regard, I freely admit that – I’d like Carnelian to at some point awaken like the sleeping giant, and fix his world through personal action and initiative. I realise that’s not the story you’re writing.
However, the story you *are* writing ends up – in my view – being sort of around Carnelian, rather than being about Carnelian. Except for the ending, most of the story doesn’t need him there, and his fears and doubts and indecision, as well as his love and compassion and hope, just isn’t really very relevant to anything.
I am being needlessly harsh on the poor guy to make the point. Still, it’s a story about how Osidian got betrayed, fled, returned at the head of an army and got his birthright back – oh and yea, there was this guy called Carnelian too, he was also there.
I hope I’m not being too savage, I’m not trying to offend. The books are great, but not unproblematic. I’m trying to describe how those problems affected me.
You answer the riddle you set. Carnelian is NOT the hero of the Stone Dance: Carnelian and Osidian are a joint hero. That when Carnelian met Osidian he considered him a sybling is suggestive… The books are filled with the symbolism of ‘twoness’, of duality…
Further, concerning the story you describe with Osidian at its centre: consider that story were Carnelian to be removed… Would even one of the links in the story you propose still hang together?
If you don’t mind me jumping in… Can I ask if you did at any point feel that this situation, this world, *was* fixable in the real sense of the word, much less by a single person’s actions? For me the ending was so unexpected because even well into the the third volume, much like Carnelian and Osidian, I couldn’t imagine a solution beyond maybe getting Osidian back on the throne and then (even unlikelier) changing the system to a (probably small) extent, and considering what the system was like, this, as well as the prospect of a (happy?) ending for Carnelian and Osidian under such circumstances, didn’t feel very satisfactory to me.
I never considered this world to be fixable anymore than Nazi ruled Germany was… There comes a point, I feel, where things can no longer change – and they can only be broken. Consider a pot made with clay: while it is still wet, it can be reshaped, but once it is fired, it is what it is. If you don’t like it, smash it to pieces…
Could the world be fixed? Well – everything is relativ, the wise would claim, with reasonable argument, that their world works. Perfectly, they might even claim.
But no – of course it’s a horrifying travesty. And evolution is impossible, only revolution remains an option.
The ‘duality’ of Osidian and Carnelian is obvious – if not sooner, then upon their return to Osrakum. Were Carnelian removed from the calculation, Osidian would ascend the throne, and nothing would change. Presumably, without Carnelian, Molochite would never have usurped Osidian in the first place.
But I never claimed the logic of the story was flawed. I merely stated I wish Carnelian was less of a passive observer to his own (shared) epic.
fair enough – I wasn’t contradicting what you say about Carnelian – it’s not an uncommon reaction…
It’s a common misconception that Fantasy should be ‘entertainment’, ‘something to let the mind flit around’.
It’s a bit typical for the expectations of many Fantasy readers, that the disclaimer that the trilogy can’t be recommended for enjoyment is included. You’d not suggest someone watch Schindler’s List for enjoyment either, so I think that this point is a bit moot.
Then again, despite the bloodshed and all such there is lots to be enjoyed in the books, I think.
I think it may depend a lot on your definition of ‘enjoyment’, as well – for one person it might be identification with the characters, for another atmosphere, or intensity of narrative, or a sense of comfort in the book’s imaginary surroundings. Or you might enjoy a book on one of those levels, but not others… it’s a complex thing.
First let me thank you for writing to me with your opinions. They were/are not entirely easy to digest, but on the whole I am pleased by your reaction. Of course I could wish that you had ‘enjoyed’ them better – but then, perhaps, for you (and many other people no doubt) – ‘enjoyment’ might well not be what the books are about. Even writing them I can’t say was enjoyable for me. Towards the end of The Third God I was using photographs from Auschwitz for reference… The books were, for me, a ‘release’ that became increasingly cathartic… So, they’re not ‘easy’ books, but I’m not going to apologize for that. On the other hand, many people find the joy that there is also in the books: the hope of survival and redemption. The Stone Dance may well be, more than anything else, a psychically disturbing journey – and I suspect the reaction of the reader will depend on what kind of journey they may have had through life. For some, in spite of the horror, the Stone Dance seems to provide some kind of consolation…
One final point: I would like to address your comment about “fully realized monsters”… There are many ‘monsters’ in my books – but I would claim that they are not caricatures… not merely ‘villains’… I tried to show what it was that brought each of these people to becoming the damaged, damaging individuals they are – further, I have, where I could, attempted to give each of them some kind of personal redemption…