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Friday, August 14, 2009

One More Superb Small Press Debut: "Angelglass" by David Barnett (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official David Barnett Website
Order “AngelglassHERE

INTRODUCTION: I found out about David Barnett from his Guardian post on: "Science fiction: the genre that dare not speak its name" which was quite well received in the sff online community and later I was delighted to announce the news about his latest novel "popCult!" which was acquired by Pendragon Press earlier this year. Of his two earlier novels, "Angelglass" looked very interesting for me and the author was extremely kind to send me a pdf review copy and I just loved it.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS:"Angelglass" hooked form the first lines which introduce our mysterious narrator - later to be named Poutnik (wanderer) in Prague of today where he falls in with a group of young western anti-globalization protesters.

"On balance, I know more than I do not, I think.
I know that I lie on damp grass. I know that the sky is blue and that the sun burns cold and distant, its power diminished by late autumn. That the tree which casts its spindly shadow across my body is dead, its calcified branches scraping at the sky like the fingers of something long forgotten to human knowledge. That the orange roofs which cluster at the edge of my vision hold people and life, and that the towers and halls which cling together on the hill above the labyrinthine streets form the castle.
I know that I am in Prague.
I know that I am naked.
I know that I have been born from white light and whispers.
What I do not know is my own name, or how I came to be here."

In the second alternating thread we meet Poutnik in Prague of 1580's where he is picked up by a brigade of English mercenaries whose leader has business with the
famous mystic Emperor Rudolf II. On discovering that Poutnik speaks English but has blank memory otherwise, Sir Anthony the mercenary boss presents him to Rudolf as a famous seer and Poutnik becomes "The Mirror of Prague" to the eccentric emperor.

In a "Heaven" interlude some powerful beings have a disagreement about their interaction with humanity...

The novel develops both main threads superbly introducing a cast of unforgettable characters in both Pragues and they will stay with you for a long time. In both timelines momentous events are brewing though they are not quite we would expect, while also many characters turn out to have hidden agendas and even hidden identities, while Poutnik observes and tries to "do good", to "save the innocents", this last being a phrase that seems to resonate with him out of nowhere.

Throw in nasty mercenaries, a Golem, persecutions and twists and turns and we have a novel that at about 240 pages in length packs the narrative heft of a 500 page one.

The threads mirror one another and converge in quite unexpected ways and
I have to say that the ending blew me away crowning this powerful novel. While I could discern some of the intended destination, the author managed to utterly surprise me, though in retrospect the ending is very fitting. Just great stuff and another novel that should be widely read and appreciated.


The Reader said...

Halfway thorugh it & I have to admit, its highly engrossing!


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