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Pavane (1968)

de Keith Roberts

Outros autores: Veja a seção outros autores.

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1,4064513,473 (3.69)65
1588: Queen Elizabeth is felled by an assassin's bullet. Within the week, the Spanish Armada had set sail, and its victory changed the course of history. 1968: England is still dominated by the Church of Rome. There are no telephones, no television, no nuclear power. As Catholicism and the Inquisition tighten their grip, rebellion is growing.… (mais)
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This is my review of Keith Roberts’ 1967 novel, ‘Pavane’. The cover for this review is from the Millennium Science Fiction Masterworks edition from 2000 and was created by Jim Burns.
This novel is often considered an alternative history tale, but there are some reasons to consider it to be a post catastrophe far future, near identical repeat of a similar period from the past – if you’ve read the book put your thoughts down in the comments! So, why would one think it’s an alternate history in the first place? This is mainly down to the prologue, which introduces us to a dying Queen, successfully struck down by an assassin’s bullet that caused chaos in a period of history where an outside power had set its sights on the Throne of England. We see nothing of the invasion itself or the intervening period between this prologue and the opening story. And, although I’m going to treat this as a single story, the tales were actually published as individual stories:
‘The Lady Margaret’, published in 1966’s April Impulse is that opening story, and it’s the tale of a Haulier, who runs a steam road locomotive hauling a train of wagons across Southern England in the year of Our Lord 1967. Not our version of that year, of course, or anything resembling it. In this story we are introduced to the haulage firm of Strange and Sons and its new owner, Jesse, as he prepares for the last run of the season in the Land Engine, The Lady Margaret. The land engines and the trains they haul are massive steam engines and their carriages, running on the rough roads of this near mediaeval England. One of the biggest drivers of our England being the lead in the industrial revolution was the fact that the country was a tariff free zone, but we learn here that the individual towns along the Lady Margaret’s route charge Jesse entry. There’s no particular plot to this tale until fairly near the end where Jesse asks for the hand in marriage of one of the inn keepers along his route but is refused in a direct manner! He also meets an old friend in what feels like a coincidental meeting, but one has to always be aware of the routiers, bands of highway men, preying on travellers between the walled and defended settlements.
‘The Signaller’ is the second story, being published in March 1966’s edition of Impulse. This tells the tale of a young man who had been apprenticed to the Guild of Signallers, those mysterious men who ran the large signal towers that sent messages from one end of the land to the other – and even here, it’s made clear these are continental in scale. It’s this story that introduces an element of the fantastic into the mix. Rather unusually, perhaps, we meet our protagonist as he’s in the process of dying, but we quickly drop back to the start of Rafe Bigland’s early fascination with the semaphore, first fired by the Serjeant of the local Tower when he finds the young Rafe watching the local tower manoeuvre its arms in the secret language of the guild. We’re then treated to Rafe’s progression through the guild and its arcane skills, then his first individual posting, and his survival through a deadly winter, trying to find things to do during the freezing winter weather while staying alert for signals coming through from the other towers in the chain. One of these activities was taking walks in the snowy wastes, and it’s this that leads to his downfall when he’s attacked by a catamount, badly wounding him. That should have been the end of him, but even though he was badly injured, he drove the creature away before passing out himself. When he came to once more, he found himself back in his Signallers hut, with a pot simmering on a fire he hadn't set. Looking round, he finds a young girl dressed in a summer dress in defiance of the harsh winter, and sun browned skin, but it was the pointed ears that proved her fey origins. As the story continues, we hear a tale of the Old World and Rafe seems to make a recovery, following his saviour out into the wild lands. But we are treated to a final scene of his guild masters going to the station to find Rafe’s dead body.
‘The White Boat’ is the third story, which was originally published in the New Worlds December 1966 edition. Personally, I found this the weakest tale in the collection. Teenage Becky was rebelling against her oncoming fate of being a wife and mother and wanted to know the secrets of the titular White Boat that visited her seaside village at apparently random times. It was during one of these visits that her curiosity overwhelmed her common sense, aided by her father’s contempt of her selling most of her catch to the sailors aboard the eldritch ship where she finds a less than welcoming ambiance when she joins the crew. After a period of time sailing round the stormy seas, Becky is returned home, and after a brief period of being thankful, she finds the conformity unbearable and with the church army planning on destroying the White Boat, Becky finds it better to sacrifice herself to save the White Boat than to continue living what would essentially be a lie.
‘Brother John’ is the next tale, first published in the March 1966 edition of Impulse. Again, this isn’t a pleasant read. The titular Brother John is a member of a particularly [technologically minded] order of monks, though this doesn’t really extend much beyond being master printers, though John himself hasn’t yet risen to those dizzying heights. His technical proficiency has, however, led to him being seconded to the [Bishop of London’s] special commission to examine the work of a member of the inquisition, and it’s what he sees there that drives the young[?] monk into a rage, though not one that is directly targeting the Church, but one that hearkens back to the Old Ones, which might be even less tolerated by the Church and John soon finds himself with an ever increasing price on his head. Eventually John and his followers are brought to battle by the Church forces and when it looks like John will be captured, he escapes out to sea where it’s assumed he dies. Or does he?!
‘Lords and Ladies’ is story number five and was published in the June 1966 edition of Impulse. In this story, we meet Jesse Strange for the final time as he lies on his death bed, and his niece Margaret sits in on the exultations of the local priest as he tries to drive out the demon infesting her uncle. During this death watch, Margaret flicks through memories of her life and interactions with her ailing uncle before returning to the present. As a scion of a wealthy family, Margaret was of interest to many young (and not so young!) men, but it was the Lord of Corfe castle that took her eye, and her maidenhead, but thanks to the disparities in their stations a full marriage was out of the question. Again, we get to see a touch of the Old Magic briefly, as Margaret contemplates her future.
‘Corfe Gate’ is the sixth tale and was published in the July 1966 edition of Impulse. In this tale the mistress of Corfe castle takes on the power of the Church, both forces emboldened by the absence of the English King as he travels to his American colonies. The Lady Eleanor had the stubborn nature inherited from her grandmother and had determined to breach the Church’s edicts on the forbidden technologies for the benefit of her subjects. The Church in its turn could not take such defiance to its authority and sent a besieging force against the castle. Lady Eleanor and her seneschal had already taken account of this possibility, though, and settled in for a long siege. Seeing her open defiance, and survival, at least initially, other Lords sent out their own defiance of the Church, leaving much of the country in turmoil. This story’s indication of hidden secrets lie in what was hidden in the tower accessible only by the seneschal. A device that appeared to do little more than glow in the dark of the room as the man spoke into it… The attack on Lady Eleanor had raised the whole country against the imposing Church troops. Somehow the King of England had been informed of the events in his homeland and made it back in time to enforce a peace on his warring land.
‘Coda’ is the seventh and final tale in the book, being written for the collection as is set a few generations after Corfe Gate. In this tale we learn that soon after the events of Corfe Gate, the Church had read the writing on the wall and the increasing number of revolts against its autocratic rule, leading it to open up its archives and improve the lives of the citizens. The tale opens with the arrival of a tourist at the remains of Corfe Castle, and he reads a letter written by an ancestor about the true purpose of the Church’s moratorium on technology, and it’s largely this letter that make me feel that the timeline of Pavane is a post apocalypse near-repeat of ancient history. Though the Coda is the only place that this prehistory is hinted at.
One of the best things about the tales in the book is how Roberts uses the weather to fill in the, ah, atmosphere of the story; cold and crisp in the original story, and stormy throughout the other main stories, with flashes of nice weather when the characters' lives are going well. Only the Coda is permanently set in a sunny environment. ( )
1 vote JohnFair | Jun 4, 2023 |
How to describe Pavane? Two things are simple to say: first, it's a fix-up novel, or a mosaic. A collection of stories set in the same universe that are brought together and presented as a novel.

Second, it's an alternate history. In 1588, says the prologue, Queen Elizabeth I was assassinated, which set into motion a series of events that prevented the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church (the political, militant Catholic Church) ended up controlling half the world. These stories take place over a few generations in the late 20th century.

The things that are more difficult to convey about the book are how beautifully it's written and how vivid and moving the stories are.

Also difficult are my mixed feelings about the presentation of the Catholic Church, which is not really the Catholic Church at all. The world is very different under its stifling power, the most obvious thing being that the Church has prevented the use of many technological advances. The Pope issues papal bulls with titles like "Petroleum Veto" that forbid the use of internal combustion engines. The remnant of the Inquisition (called the Court of Spiritual Welfare) is present, too.

Yet the 20th century feudal world presented is a fascinating setting, and the stories are very moving, like I said. And then there's The Coda - the last short story in the book - which is thought provoking.

This is a book that I'm not likely to forget.

Neil Gaiman Presents did an audio version of this over on Audible. Stephen Crossley narrates. I listened to a couple of stories and it was excellent. I also enjoyed Gaiman's introduction.

Added: I would compare Keith Roberts (this book, anyway) to Gene Wolfe, Jack Vance, Tim Powers.
2 vote SDanielson | Sep 5, 2022 |
An exquisitely crafted alternate history of England. A set of six linked stories set up as a dance,or pavane, if you will. Not anything really profound but a delight in itself as a work of fiction. Deliciously written and craftily plotted to a most satisfying ending.

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

Roberts takes some pretty mighty swings at the Romish church and his main message may be how religion keeps progressive humanity back with a superstitious spear of fear and intimidation. ( )
  Gumbywan | Jun 24, 2022 |
I read this a while ago. Well written but I disagreed with his version of an alternate England. I felt he hadn't done enough research. ( )
  LizTuckwell | May 1, 2022 |
"Pavane" seems dated in some odd ways, although it was fun to read. I found the first story to be the least interesting, and the coda to be entirely unnecessary. ( )
  leahsusan | Mar 26, 2022 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 45 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
Roberts evokes this imaginary England with a persuasive attention to detail and a grandeur of vision that I find irresistible.
 
The idea of lyrical storytelling - something that doesn't exactly tell a concrete story, but keeps dancing around its point long enough for you to get the idea... is both the great joy and great frustration of Pavane. It's entirely appropriate for it to take its name from the dance, as it is stately, complex, and somewhat obscure. This is a book to read once, get stuck, return to with a clear head, blast through, and then read again in search of deeper meanings. They are definitely there, and they are definitely worth finding.
 

» Adicionar outros autores (10 possíveis)

Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Roberts, Keithautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
典已, 杉本Artista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Burns, JimArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Dillon, DianeArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Dillon, LeoArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
道雄, 越智翻訳autor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
O'Conner, DavidArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Powers, Richard M.Artista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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1588: Queen Elizabeth is felled by an assassin's bullet. Within the week, the Spanish Armada had set sail, and its victory changed the course of history. 1968: England is still dominated by the Church of Rome. There are no telephones, no television, no nuclear power. As Catholicism and the Inquisition tighten their grip, rebellion is growing.

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