- Adventures In Reading
- Beauty In Ruins
- Best Fantasy Books HQ
- Bitten By Books
- Bookworm Blues
- Charlotte's Library
- Civilian Reader
- Critical Mass
- Curated Fantasy Books
- Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews
- Edi's Book Lighthouse
- Everything is Nice
- Falcata Times
- Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews
- Fantasy Cafe
- Fantasy Literature
- Far Beyond Reality
- Genre Reader
- Jeff VanderMeer
- King of the Nerds
- Layers of Thought
- Neth Space
- Only The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy
- Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
- Rob's Blog O' Stuff
- Smorgasbord Fantasia
- Speculative Book Review
- Stainless Steel Droppings
- Tez Says
- The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
- The Bibliosanctum
- The Book Smugglers
- The Nocturnal Library
- The OF Blog
- The Speculative Scotsman
- The Vinciolo Journal
- The Wertzone
- Tip the Wink
- Val's Random Comments
- Voyager Books
- Walker of Worlds
- ► 2016 (140)
- ► 2015 (136)
- ► 2014 (155)
- ► 2013 (260)
- ► 2012 (287)
- ► 2011 (317)
- ► 2010 (346)
- The Science Fiction and Fantasy Ethics group - a n...
- Spotlight on June 2009 Books
- Three Un-reviews - "The Ingenious Edgar Jones, Hon...
- Alan Baxter offers a signed copy of RealmShift his...
- Interview with James Enge (Interviewed by Mihir Wa...
- Gollancz authors - Men versus Women
- Exclusive Author's Photo as Scene from the Novel; ...
- "The City and the City" by China Mieville (Reviewe...
- Editorial: Sharing a World, Part I
- "Ages of Wonder" ed. by Julie E. Czerneda and Rob ...
- Starfinder by John Marco (Reviewed by Cindy Hannik...
- Sherlock Holmes - Issue #1 (Reviewed by Fabio Fern...
- "Terminator: Salvation [The official movie noveliz...
- Interview with Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (...
- Personal Favorite from 2008: "The Ninth Circle" by...
- "Fall of Thanes" by Brian Ruckley (Reviewed by Liv...
- "Ice Song" by Kirsten Imani Kasai (Reviewed by Liv...
- George Mann's Newbury and Hobbes six volumes all c...
- Flash News: On his birthday, FBC's co-editor Fabio...
- The City & The City, by China Miéville (Reviewed b...
- Strange and Exceptional - "Severance: Stories" by ...
- Interview with Lou Anders
- The Farwalker's Quest by Joni Sensel (Reviewed by:...
- Winners of the Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child/Age...
- "Worst Nightmares" by Shane Briant (Reviewed by Da...
- FBC Flash News – Three-Book YA Deal For Stephen De...
- Stone's Fall by Iain Pears (Reviewed by Liviu Suci...
- Index of Guest Author Posts on FBC
- Fantasy Book Critic Remembers...
- The Grand Conjunction (Astropolis Finale) by Sean ...
- FBC Flash News: Two-book US Rights Deal for Mark C...
- Index of Interviews
- Storm Glass by Maria Snyder (Reviewed by Liviu Suc...
- FBC sends get well wishes to author John C. Wright...
- "Wings" by Aprilynne Pike (reviewed by Cindy Hanni...
- Overlooked Masterpiece: Omega by Christopher Evans...
- FBC wishes author and editor Eric Flint a speedy r...
- Fantasy Book Critic one month later and miscellane...
- Flash News: FBC's co-editor Fabio Fernandes publis...
- The Locus Awards "Finalists"
- Interview with Mark Charan Newton
- ▼ May (41)
- ► 2008 (376)
Friday, May 15, 2009
Robert Olen Butler at Wikipedia and at Florida State University
Order "Severance: Stories" HERE
Pre-order upcoming and highly anticipated novel Hell HERE
INTRODUCTION: The biggest benefit of doing reviews for FBC has been discovering new authors that I would most likely have not heard about. As mentioned in various posts, I have been generally up to date with what's been published in sf for almost 20 years now and in fantasy for maybe 8 or so, but for the rest it is hit or miss for obvious time reasons.
Also today the explosion of micro-publishers and independent authors makes it all but impossible to keep up even with knowing about all sff novels and choosing the ones I really want to read, so lots and lots of titles that I have greatly enjoyed and led me to other titles were found by chance and more recently by my association with FBC.
So when we received here an inquiry from Mr. Butler about reviewing the upcoming novel Hell, with an extremely humble heading for such a noted author and Pulitzer prize winner, I immediately was intrigued and "headed out online" for excerpts, while later when I got hooked by what I found especially in Severance, I immediately visited my local library and came home with an armful of Robert Olen Butler books, many of which I plan to order and enjoy in time; Hell shoot up high on my scale of anticipated books and it became an asap one.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS The best that science knows about life after death is that the head retains consciousness for about 90 seconds after a decapitation. Since it is generally accepted that a person can utter about 160 words per minute when agitated and doing the math, we come up with 240 words a severed head can say.
So Severance: Stories is just that - sixty two 240 word "monologues" by severed heads of mostly famous historical characters that suffered beheading - ranging from executions to ritual suicides to accidents - from Cicero and St. Paul to Robespierre and Mishima, just to note some of the most famous examples, though you will find other well known ones like Mary Stuart, Louis XVI...
The last "severed head" is a fictional one, belonging to the author's alter-ego. There are mythological characters and common ones (Gorgon, St. George's Dragon, a chicken that is served as dinner) as well as "regular" people caught in tragic circumstances.
Each story is prefaced by a short description of the "person" involved and the circumstances of the beheading, as well as the place and time. The order of appearance is chronological and the book itself as a physical object is extraordinarily well designed. For a taste of the stories and why I got hooked read an excerpt HERE
After reading the stories several times I will talk a bit about some of the personal highlights from this book, but I expect that anyone reading Severance will be touched and moved by different stories, since they are all so personal. Great kudos to Mr. Butler for getting all the sixty two voices just right.
gorgon and former human beauty, beheaded by Perseus, circa 2000 b.c.
"dreaming, surely I dream now:..."
This story with a mythological underpinning is the second of the book and illustrates the mixture of myth and history in the first part of the collection.
Paul (Saul of Tarsus)
apostle, beheaded by the Emperor Nero, 67
"narrow the gate through to the warren of merchants past figs and linen..."
Religious dimension added to the mix; very moving overall; more apostles and saints to come.
Mayan ballplayer, beheaded by custom as captain of losing team, 803
"life is held within the ball..."
Different cultures, same human story.
poet, guillotined by order of the French Revolutionary Tribunal, 1794
"great the minds in Mother’s gilded chairs.."
Favorite story - The French Revolution presents quite a few characters in Severance but the famous poet's story has always been a moving one for me.
Chinese wife, beheaded by her husband, 1838
"straight and whole are my feet..."
Another moving story combining "regular" people and different cultures.
Jewish woman, beheaded in Russian pogrom, 1905
"taste of horseradish taste of nettle..."
The extraordinary range of Robert Olen Butler shown once more; another favorite of mine.
Benita von Berg
German baroness, beheaded by Adolph Hitler for espionage, 1935
"dying tip of one cigarette..."
Another less well know historical character that I have encountered previously.
Americaunas pullet, beheaded in Alabama for Sunday dinner, 1958
"little grit things in the straw here..."
No comment necessary.
woman of Bani, Burkina Faso, beheaded by fatwa, 2002
"Mother I cannot see your face..."
Another moving story featuring regular people and different cultures.
Robert Olen Butler
writer, decapitated on the job, 2010
"heedless words but whispered..."
Great touch and the one fictional story that I pray will remain fictional...
Severance: Stories is just amazing and a book I plan to sample again and again through the years. Highly, highly recommended.
Note: After the success of Severance, Robert Olen Butler turned his hand to famous couples ' monologues in Intercourse: Stories which are lighter, funnier but as good as the ones in this book. Look for a review of Intercourse here in the summer (Jun-Aug 09).
12:01 AM | Posted by Liviu | | Edit Post