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Friday, September 18, 2009

"Filaria" by Brent Hayward (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Brent Hayward at ChiZine Publications
Order Filaria HERE

INTRODUCTION: After its recent debut last year, the new small press ChiZine has been expanding this fall with several books including "The Choir Boats" which I reviewed HERE and liked quite a lot; taking a look at all their offerings, "Filaria" which happened to be ChiZine's debut title in 2008, attracted my attention and some 230 pages later I can say that it is another small press gem that deserves as wide distribution and attention as possible.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Taking place in a multi-leveled structure with strong echoes of Gene Wolfe Long Sun' starship, Filaria is the tale of several characters who start at different levels and in quite different social positions. Symmetrically divided into 4x4 chapters, each 4 chapter section having an indicative title, and headed by the POV's position in the structure, Filaria is a page turner, absorbing and quite dense, packing inside material for a novel double its size.

Phister who starts on the bottom of the
structure which is powered by nuclear energy , with engines slowly breaking down and spewing radioactive detritus, is a young/old sixteen years of age teen on a quest; toothless, hairless and subsisting on a drug moss-like nutrient as all his peers, he will encounter unexpected marvels.

Deidre is the opposite of Phister, a privileged young girl who lives on the topmost level with her parents and 3 elder sisters where her father is estate supervisor. Deidre has an adventurous and restless spirit which leads her to question many of her society tenets as well as keep going to the next level downward to consort with the "dead boy", an avatar of the system AI.

Mereziah is a "lift attendant" in between levels 23 and 24, living in the cable system that ensures transport up and down; long deserted by anyone else except his slightly younger brother, the centenarian Mereziah has always dreamed of the higher levels and their supposed opulence, while being relatively content with his enclosed life. A strange capsule that seems to be marooned in his bailiwick will send him on the adventure of his lifetime.

Tran lives on the "pleasure" level 20, where women serve in brothels and men work as fishermen. A level of "gods" manifest and short lives, where Tran is going on a pilgrimage to find the ultimate "God" and ask him for a cure for his ailing wife.

"Filaria" has adventure, sense of wonder, love, excitement and the characters' arcs are very well done and quite moving. The last section which explains some of the mysteries is excellent, bringing a good closure to the novel but leaving enough open-ended stuff to avoid "over-explaining" which sometimes plague novels of discovery like this one.

One thing to be aware of is the abrupt ending of many chapters, while the restart of the respective character's sequence tells of the dramatic events that have happened in the meantime; this feature of the novel made me go back and make sure I have not somehow missed the implied events, but do not worry, the gap in our understanding is filled soon and we find out what happened as well as continuing the particular tale.

The novel was so compelling that I could not put it down once I started it and with each new detail revealed, I kept going back to earlier pages to see how it all fits, while after finishing it I re-read it to appreciate its superb architecture in full. While as mentioned above, not everything is explained, the whole makes wonderful sense and offers both closure and illumination. Highly recommended!


Anonymous said...

i even cant read your reviews as fast as you read books,but i will pick up some of your recommended books to know how your taste is.

i should start with this one


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