Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

The promise and disappointment of Dragon Wing

 

Returning to books and films you liked when you were young is an exciting but also slightly risky endeavour. It’s fun to rediscover old familiar territory, but there’s a very real risk that that old wonderland will turn out to have been a plastic swing, a see-saw and some sand with cat-poo buried in the corners.

And so, it was with some trepidation that I recently went back to Dragon Wing, the first book in the Death’s Gate septology by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickmann. I remembered it as a great world, but not the greatest story. And I was proven right.

Please note: this is a book review. But it is also a post about world building. There might be more to come on that topic, so if that’s your bone, stay tuned!

The sundered world

Dragon World takes place in Arianus, the world of sky. It is indicated that this takes place in “our” world sometime in a future in which the world has been split into four (or five, or more) worlds. Two races of powerful magicians, the Sartan and the Patryn, fought for control over the world, and rather let the Patryn win the whole world, the Sartan split the world. They made four worlds corresponding to the elements, and created the Labyrinth, a prison for the Patryn. Several hundred years later, the first Patryn are reaching the end of the Labyrinth into the glorious city of Nexus, and through the Death’s Gate into the four worlds to which the “mench” races of humans, elves and dwarves have been transported. But where are the Sartan? And why are the worlds failing?

The first book takes place solely on the World of Sky, Arianus. The people of Arianus live on floating islands of coralite, a porous material that secreted by a worm – like coral. The coralite is filled with a gas, keeping it floating in the air.

The floating islands of Arianus fall in three layers. In the Middle Realm, the elves and humans fight a long standing war, with human dragon riders raiding elves and elven dragon ships attacking human settlements. In the High Realm, the Mysteriarchs, the most powerful of all human wizards, have secluded themselves from the world. And down below, the Gegs (or dwarves to anyone but themselves) serve the great machine, the Kicksey-Winsey, every geg serving the great machine in some capacity for a significant portion of their lives. The machine is autonomous, seemingly has a will of its own, and is revered by the Gegs who serve it without really knowing why or what the purpose of the machine is. It does, however, produce a number of trerribly useful byproducts, like wooden beams, cloth – and water.

Now, in a world of flying, porous islands, water will fall, accumulating at the bottom. This means that while the Gegs live with almost constant thunderstorms, the High Realms have perpetual sunshine. It also means that while the Gegs have plenty of water, to everybody else, water is a most precious substance. Convenient for the elves, then, that the Gegs revere them as gods, delivering monthly supplies of water to keep the wheels of the elven empire turning.

The Assassin, the Idealist and the Changeling

The plot of Dragon Wing starts out rather dramatically. Hugh the Hand, a notorious assassin, is saved literally with his head on the executioner’s block, in order to be hired for what seems like a very easy job: to kill the king’s son. But the prince, ominously named Bane, is really the son of a mysteriarch. Along is also the prince’s clumsy and unseemly chamberlain (thought there is something odd about him).

Meanwhile in the low realm, the idealist geg, Limbeck Bolttightner, is sentenced to death for having incited young gegs to damage the Kicksey-Winsey – the worst crime a geg can commit. The means of execution will be flying out into the raging storms below. But like Hugh, Limbeck is saved, and he brings someone with him from below: Haplo, a Patryn, come to scout out Arianus for his master, and to seed chaos in the realm.

Of course, these two groups will meet and travel through the world of Arianus. When he book ends, the story of Arianus will be mostly closed, while the stage will have been set for the overarching story connecting the seven books.

But where are all the people

If the names of the authors of this book, Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickmann, sound familiar, it is because they are the creators of one of the most famous D&D campaign settings and book series: Dragonlance (they seem to have a thing for dragons). That world is a great and rich world, with many different cultures and races, interesting and exciting epochs and a great story that you can immerse yourself in. It is also, however, a world that is very much made for high adventure. Much of the world seems like a backdrop for heroics and villainy, war and, most of all, adventure!

Dragon Wing feels somewhat the same. I keep wondering how this world works – where are all the people? How are all these realms kept running? Where are they – physically, in a world that can seemingly be traversed in a few days? A world that can be kept running on water sent through just one tube for a few hours every month (there are a few other sources of water, but they seem limited). In one scene in the book, someone tries to trick our heroes by creating an army of illusions, reproducing the same people over and over again, but creating a hollow world in the process. The same goes for the whole book: it feels hollow, claiming to portray a whole world, but that world is just a backdrop, without any real gravity.

It seems such a shame. Weis and Hickman have the makings of a great world here, but they didn’t make it feel real. And don’t tell me it can’t be done! George R. R. Martin does it eminently in his Song of Fire and Ice! Joanne K. Rowling made a world that started out for kiddies, which hinders her worldbuilding a little, but Hogwarts always  feels real, teeming with students. But sadly, I don’t get that sensation from Dragon Wing.

Something else that Martin and Rowling do well, is write. Rowling has a playful attitude towards her language, without which Harry Potter would surely have flopped. And while Martin doesn’t write Shakespearean prose, his writing underlines his world, as well as the specific pair of eyes this chapter is seen through. I don’t get this from Dragon Wing either. The prose is a bit awkward, and the storytelling a bit off. I don’t really believe the characters. They seem to be caricatures, stereotypes. Alfred is too clumsy, the villain too cruel, Hugo too cold. And part of this is the prose, which doesn’t make it all seem real to me.

…but it was a good idea

Despite my criticism, I don’t dislike Dragon Wing. It was not a waste of my time to re-read it. It is a b-novel – a high-fantasy adventure. Well, that’s what I got. It’s less black and white, than Dragonlance, and more about a greater ethical dilemma, which is good. And it presents a great idea for a world – a world that, from what I remember from reading it long ago and reading up on it on Wikipedia, will be even more fleshed out in the following books into a great little cosmology. A special place in my heart is reserved to the Gegs, who may best be described as hobbits meet the industrial revolution minus unions, plus worship of the machine. If the world hadn’t been so shallow, I would have wanted the campaign setting immediately!

But it IS shallow. And that is what is keeping me from picking up book two, what prevents me from immediately following Haplo into the World of Flame. I will probably do it before too long – but it will be to discover the world and cherish the good ideas, not to savour a truly good book.

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Soulless – an Alexia Tarabotti novel

Take Jane Austen, transplant her to steampunk Victorian London and throw some vampires and werewolves into the high society setting and you’ve got the world of Soulless, the first book in Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, featuring Alexia Tarabotti as the strong-willed female protagonist

Soulpunk

Miss Alexia Tarabotti has no soul. In a London where soulful vampires and werewolves are the cool kids in the class, with many fine men and women aspiring to immortality, having no soul is mostly a minor inconvenience for Alexia. What is more of an inconvenience is that she has with two beautiful half-sisters from her mother’s second marriage, which leaves Alexia as the weird spinster sister, who has even inherited a slightly tan skin from her Italian father. Alexia, however, is nothing if not practical, and is coping admirably with her fate.
Her life takes a surprising turn, however, when miss Tarabotti accidentally kills a shockingly ill informed vampire trying to feed from her. This turn of events brings Lord Maccon, Her Majesty’s chief supernatural law enforcement officer back into Alexia. Lord Maccon is a distressingly uncouth fellow, being a Scotsman, and a werewolf alpha to boot, and he and Alexia have no desire to spend more time than necessary in each other’s company. Unfortunately, Lord Maccon is also in possession of a powerful animal magnetism and a preference for women with southern complexion and wide hips. And of course, the dead vampire is not the only peculiar thing to happen to miss Tarabotti, necessitating more encounters with the Scottish Lord.

Austenpunk

The genre is quite unequivocally steampunk. Dirigibles rule the skies, weird aetheric devices are state-of-the-art, and weird pseudo-scientific theories on the origins of vampires and werewolves abound.

The Steampunk genre is a curious fish. In most iterations, it is a genre that says: what would Victorian times be like if the laws of physics were radically different, allowing for very different, much flashier science, with the resulting very different social dynamics. At a glance, it might seem like a kind of historical science fiction, but that’s not really where it’s at. It’s usually more proper to call it a kind of Science Fantasy, a genre that covers fantasy stories with technology playing a significant part. Star Wars is of course the prime example of this, with its fairytale setting and it’s magic – sorry, force – wielding knights.

The Parasol Protectorate doesn’t go to those kinds of extremes. In many ways, it keeps the weirdness relatively low. The supernatural and the weird science is there, but it never takes over completely. There’s still room for the other part of this weird hybrid creature, stitched together in the literary lab of Dr. Calliger: namely Austenesque society comedy/drama. Particularly the first parts of the book are very much in the veins of Jane Austen, though with a comedic touch and a modern view of sexuality. The latter is particularly revealed as the book goes on, and Miss Alexia finds herself in some scenes that Austen would never have presumed to engage in, involving naked men and (gasp) physical intimacy!
The sexuality certainly has its place in the book. One of the interesting points in the book is the clash between repressed Victorian society and the more basic instincts of the supernatural characters. I would, however, question the gratuity of it. While this reader enjoyed the description of Alexia’s almost scientific exploration of the art of kissing, certain scenes towards the end of the book add little to the story, and might unkindly be speculated to be the author’s secret erotic fantasies in literary form. And while the Austenian tone works well to underline Alexia’s social hardships, the end of the book is drawn long by purely social scenes that seem to add little development to the story. The last parts of the book might easily have been cut short by several pages without losing any plot development. A shame, because the pacing of the book up until that point had been very good.

Punk Deluxe

The book in general is very good. It is a light and easy read, and it successfully balances the Austenesque with steampunk so that societal intriguing can take over when supernatural action runs out of steam – and vice versa. The characters are very well portrayed, particularly the main characters, and very few are portrayed in an entirely one-sided manner. Unfortunately, the villains fall in the latter category, being treated to very little “screen” time, being added almost as a pretext towards the end of the book. Hopefully, this will be different in the following instalments of the series.
And so, I fully recommend Soulless. It’s not a perfect book, but it is witty, entertaining and fresh, without being too much of any. It’s even a book I might recommend to some non-steampunk friends as a good book regardless of the fantastic elements.

[Movie Review] Avatar

Movie Poster for Avatar

The movie poster for Avatar, featuring the Na'vi princess.

Since it came out, James Cameron’s Avatar has been hailed as a masterpiece, the harbinger of a new era of film-making. A film to bush the boundaries, and to boldly go where no film has gone before.

And it is. The story is epic, the animation and camerawork is grand, and the idea is genius. There is no doubt in my mind that this film will be the film of the year. It will win at every feasible award show, and its Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic ratings will skyrocket. All this, because (at least, it might seem so) that’s how the film was made. Would you expect anything less from the maker of Titanic?

Dancing with Pocahontas in space.

In a future world where humanity are colonizing planets far away in space, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) wakes up on Pandora, a moon circling the planet Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri system. He’s there to pilot a so-called “Avatar,” an organism, made by combining DNA from the indigenous Na’vi with DNA from a human. The human providing the DNA can then take control of the organism thus produced.

Except Jake wasn’t meant to be an avatar pilot. His deceased identical twin brother was. Jake is a crippled ex-marine, while his brother, like the rest of the avatar-team, was a scientist.

Jake is not particularly enthusiastic about the project – nor is the leader of the Avatar project, Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), thrilled about having him and not his brother. The tough chief of security, ex-marine colonel Quaritch, on the other hand, is thrilled to have a marine on the inside of the wuss scientist team, who can tell him all about the Na’vi – such as how to get rid of them most efficiently.

Of course, Jakes attitude to the whole thing changes when he meets the Na’vi and is accepted into their tribe where the scientists have all been rejected. It can come as no great shock that Jake will soon face the consequences of the humans’ advances on Pandora, and pick a side in the inevitable conflict between Na’vi and humans. Guess who he’ll choose…

2D in 3D

Avatar is, in most ways, an amazing accomplishment. The digitally produced sceneries are breathtaking, not least when viewed in 3D. The alien biology of Pandora is very original, while still seeming believable and coherent. The human technology seems just as well constructed. You get the impression that Cameron has gone out of his way to listen to scientists and take their views and ideas seriously.

The composition of the film is just as impressive. The pacing of the hectic and the subtle, the bad and the good – it works. The plot is believable, yet still contains surprises.

Most of the characters work just as well. Jake is a brilliant protagonist – we can relate to him, and while he starts out with several issues he needs to resolve, he is still likeable, especially as we see the good sides of him come out. Sigourney Weaver’s character is the same: a scientist with a bad attitude, but a heart of gold.

But it’s not all just peachy. First of all, the Na’vi seem too much like stereotypical Indians – many of their lines could have come out of Dances with Wolves, or similar, white-man-goes-native style films.

Secondly, the villains are two dimensional and somewhat unoriginal. The middle manager, doing anything for profit and the Marine colonel with a thirst for battle are both characters we’ve seen in loads of films. Especially the marine colonel urgently needs something to properly distinguish him from the million movie characters like him. Why on earth is he so battle thirsty? Why has he decided the Na’vi are bad? We are never told.

Just as some characters seem shallow, certain facets of the plot seem a bit tired. Why another film where a giant corporation tramples all decency and human compassion? Another one to put on the pile with Alien (all four of them), Blade Runner, I Robot, Robocop, Terminator – should I continue? Couldn’t we for once see a film where the men with the money see the error of their ways and help find a common ground? And why another film about a white man who meets the noble wild, learns of their ways, and leads them to victory against his former allies? I saw Dances with Wolves, thank you very much – I have no need to see it again in space.

The inevitability of academy

But when you’re watching the film, these things are minor, and very forgettable, annoyances. You’ll be far busier being amazed by the glorious images and the riveting story. This film is a shoe in for the technical Oscars, pushing the boundaries of computer assisted filmmaking, and doing wonders in sound and music. And while I can’t see any of the acting meriting awards, the director and scriptwriters are likely to receive nominations, at the very least.

Because this film is a milestone. It pushes boundaries of what can be done with computers, and sets new standards for all coming films to aspire to. And, what to me seems just as important, it sheds light on some neglected parts of what science fiction can do.

All in all: there are few, if any, excuses for not watching this film. Go on, don’t be shy. But do take it for what it is: a grand, masterfully produced, Hollywood blockbuster, tailored to be just that.

Oh, and if you don’t know anything about Avatar – take a look at the trailer:

To be honest, it pretty much says what I just said above…

Reading Group: Den Spejlvendte Virkelighed (The Mirrored Reality)

The Mirrored Reality (Den Spejlvendte Virkelighed) is a scenario, written by Michael G. Schmidt for Fastaval in 1995. It was nominated for the Otto for “Best Scenario,” and has been chosen by Morten as the next scenario for the reading group.
Last time, I chose a very rigid structure for my review. Looking back, that turned out to be a bad decision – the review turned out in a very chopped up way, and I had a hard time drawing a coherent picture of the scenario. This time, I am reverting to a more free form (appropriate, since it is more freeform), though I am keeping two of the “boxes” from last time: “What can we learn?” and “Who should play this?”

The Mirrored Reality

Fear. It’s about as basic as it gets. Animal and man alike dance to its tune, playing the age old game of fight or flight. But for us, the primary fear is not the fear of being eaten. Rather, it is the fear that the world might not work – that the world we think we know is a lie; that we really live in a universe where we don’t know the rules.

Because fear is rooted so deeply within us, it also fascinates us more than anything else in the world. We seek it out, though preferably when it’s safe, in books and movies – and in role-playing games.

The mirrored reality is a game that wants to provoke fear in the player. It does this in two ways: by presenting you with a world that conforms to the norms of neither player nor character, and by evoking terrible images of violence and degradation far beyond the bounds of comfort.

The game is set in the universe of the role-playing game, Kult. In this universe, as in quite a few other (WoD and Unknown Armies spring to mind) the world we see is an illusion, enforced on us by some other entity. But this reality is beginning to fall apart – and the players are some of the unfortunate souls who happen to fall into the cracks.

The Mirrored Reality is set in a generic American city, with a rather generic set of characters, each with their own personal trauma – the Jock, the Beauty Queen, the Pizza Deliveryman, the Artist, the Religious Nut and the Average, Suburbian kid. All except the Pizza Deliveryman are college students. The game starts by showing the characters in their idyllic normalcy, on their way to a movie. But soon, they are thrown in the way of a strange, horrifying set of events, revealing secrets and tearing away the fundament of their life along the way.

Seen descriptions

The scenario is built up as a string of scenes. Each scene is described with a very lyrical version of how that scene might play out, plus a number of pointers as to npcs, subplots and so on in each scene. The pointers, when they are there, take up the bottom third of the page, the description of the scene taking up the rest.

There are many ways of describing scenes. Sometimes, you have a fairly thorough script, with bits to read out and “if the players do this, this happens” guides. Sometimes you have a very general set-up, and maybe a few pointers as to possible outcomes.

The Mirrored Reality takes a different approach – what we might call the “subjective description.” The scenario gives no precise, objective description of the events of the scene. It only hints at what the scene contains, instead giving a subjective portrayal, letting the GM share the experience she should attempt to convey.

This is an admirable attempt. It is not, however, one I’d be quick to copy. It leaves the GM with only a hazy idea of what should happen, and requires a large amount of preparation and improvisation from the GM to pull off. Most problematic is the fact that most of the scenes never tell you how to transition from one scene to the next. Why, for instance, do the characters suddenly decide to go visit the Deliveryman’s mother? The game just assumes that this is the natural thing to do at this particular point in the game.

No-choice adventure!

The lacking transitions is even more of a problem because the game is so highly linear. If this game had been a “Choose your own Adventure!”-book, most paragraphs would read something like: “Whatever you do, go to paragraph whichandwhatever.” A few of the scenes have subplots to spice things up, but they are mostly “scenes-in-the-scene” that the GM can apply to one or more of the characters. And none of them seem to lead towards the next scene.

In the beginning of the text, Michael G. Schmidt states that this scenario is for people who know the genre, and who therefore don’t need to be dragged around by the nose. That is an admirable sentiment. It just isn’t the kind of game I see when I read the text of “the Mirrored Reality.”

Of course, there may be reasons why it’s written that way. In the beginning, Michael G. Schmidt also states that horror is a very personal thing, and that he expects the GM to choose a direction with the game that suits that particular GM. That might also mean that he expects the GM to fill out the gaps in the game. But he doesn’t say so specifically – and he doesn’t give helpful suggestions along the way, to help less experienced GM’s. The subjective scene description seems like a good idea, but it can’t stand on its own. That makes for confused GMs. There is even one scene, and a fairly important one at that, in which I simply don’t understand what is supposed to happen, at all (scene 8, for those who are reading along).

Laying it out

That is not to say that this game is bad. It contains many potentially powerful moments, and with the right group, it could probably make for a great evening of roleplaying.

The layout is also amongst the better. The text is nicely laid out, in decent fonts, and spiced up with evocative pencil sketches. Unfortunately, the text contains a lot of typos and spelling errors that add considerably to the obscurity of the text.

There are two aspects of the layout I am particularly pleased with.

The first is the small band that runs at the bottom of the pages, which I mentioned earlier. It contains little titbits of gamestuff relevant to what is going on on the rest of the page, and thus, it breaks up the very linear structure that many scenario-texts have. A scenario, by nature, contains a great deal of alinearity. But too many scenarios present their material in a mostly linear form, instead of breaking up the form to accommodate the content. The Mirrored Reality does this quite well.

The second thing is the players’ descriptions of the characters. They are made to be folded along the middle, and placed in front of the player (it doesn’t say so specifically, but this is how I read the layout). One side contains information to the player, the other contains the other characters’ views of that character. I like the idea that everyone 1) will have their character’s name and picture in front of them while playing, and 2) that everyone knows roughly what everyone thinks of the others. I can see how that might help the interaction between the players.

All’s well…

All in all, there is a potentially powerful story in play here, even if the presentation of it is less than perfect. The story presented contains both the hair-raising horror of the Lovecraftian, transcendent, unfathomable terrors from beyond, and the heart-pumping, stomach-churning fear of human atrocity.

But really, despite what the game may say, it is not the Lovecraftian, but the human side of it that will have players in its grip. We may be scared by beasts and terrified by the unknowable. But that which can really send send icy water down our spine is the malice that can hide in human hearts. Even in the Mirrored Reality.

What can we learn:

  • Layout is important – it can work with or against your text. Try to make the document support the nonlinear structure of your game.
  • Speaking of which, if you make linear games, make sure that your GM knows how to make the transition from one scene to another. And, of course, that the players will accept the railroading.
  • Subjective descriptions are an interesting concept to work with – but make sure you still tell the GM how to run the scene.

Who should play this game?

  • A group that can accept the premise of the game: that there is one, and only one, way through the game.
  • In Model terms, Immersionists are the most likely type of players to truly enjoy the game, I feel.
  • The GM should enjoy, or at least accept, fleshing out the game and setting the mood according to her style.

And there we have it. Done in far better time than last time, though I think I’ll let it mature a bit before posting it, so it will come out around the same time as the others’.

Just a historical note, towards the end: after my review of Laaste Døre, Kristoffer supplied some helpful info on the historical context of the game, something I am completely oblivious about – I started roleplaying around ’97-’98, and I didn’t participate in Fastaval until 2006. I had questioned why Thomas Munkholt had included such a loose system as he had in Laaste Døre. Apparently, the year from 1994 to 1995 would have made a world of difference, being the year when “system-less” (what is the proper English term? Someone told me that freeform is something different) roleplaying really came through in Denmark.

Reading this scenario, I can believe it. This game in about as “system-less” as they get, throwing flowcharts and structures to the wind to focus on the subjective experience of the players.

Something wicked this way comes – book review (sort of)

I just finished reading Ray Bradbury’s novel, Something wicked this way comes. This is my attempt at a review – attempt, because I am very confused about what I think about the book.

The story of the book is fairly simple, but is expanded by Bradbury’s style of writing – to which I shall return shortly, as it is what I am primarily confused about.

The book follows Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, two boys born one minute to and one minute past midnight on Halloween eve (symbolic names? Nooo – do you think?). Will is the light one, Jim the dark one – something Bradbury makes very clear. One night, they hear a sound and sneak out to see an ominous train arrive with a travelling carnival, complete with many creepy circus freaks. Soon, they discover that the carnival is more than it appears to be – for one thing, the carousel makes you older or younger by riding it. In the end, the boys square off against the circus freaks with the help of Will’s old librarian father.

As I said, the story in itself is fairly straightforwards. The writing, not soo much. The writing is never straightforward or to the point, instead wandering off in poetic metafors and lifewisdom. Take for instance this passage, from when the boys watch the train with the carnival on board:

The train curved away, gonging its undersea funeral bell, sunk, rusted, green-mossed, tolling, tolling. Then the engine whistle blew a great steam whiff and Will broke out in perls of ice.

Way late at night Will had heard – how often? – train whistles jetting steam along the rim of sleep, forlorn, alone and far, no matter how near they came. Sometimes he woke to find tears on his cheek, asked why, lay back, listened and thought, Yes! they make me cry, going east, going west, the trains so far gone in country deeps they drown in tides of sleep that escape the towns.

Those trains and their grieving sounds were lost forever between stations, not remembering where they had been, not guessing where they might go, exhaling their last pale breaths over the horizon, gone. So it was with all trains, ever.

Yet this train’s whistle!

The wails of a lifetime were gathered in it from other nights in slumbering years; the howl of moon-dreamed dogs, the seep of river-cold wind through January porch screens which stopped the blood, a thousand fire sirens weeping or worse! the outgone shreds of breath, the protests of a billion people dead or dying, not wanting to be dead, their groans, their sighs, burst over the earth!

Tears jumped to Will’s eyes. He lurched. He knelt. He pretended to lace one shoe.

(Something wicked this way comes, chp. 12, pp. 46-47)

…and this is in no way a particularly longwinded example. Note that all this takes place in a short instant, and that the character in focus here – Will – is noted for his innocence, and probably wouldn’t think like this. Having action sequences done like this tends to take away the speed of the action.

On the other hand, there is a certain intensity to it, sort of like with slow motion. Each small thing that happens is focused on, and we are left gasping for air, as the suspense is held to the bursting point.

One thing is pacing, another is clarity. With such a longwinded text, it should be easy to follow the events of the text, always knowing what is going on – right?

Wrong. The text often hints, often covers things up in flowering phrases, often taking long detours away from the subject matter. All this frequently makes the text confusing, leaving you wondering what actually happened in the scene.

In some cases, this may actually be what the author wanted, however. Sometimes, it doesn’t promote a feeling of confusion, but a feeling of mystery. The book is a book of mysteries and larger-than-life children facing larger-than-life enemies. This mystery and significance of the book’s world is often linked tightly to the writing, which opens up for poetic interpretation. This is quite important: the book deals with things that cannot happen – yet I would claim it is not really a fantasy novel, making a new world based upon the old, but with new rules. Instead, it’s a symbolic text, turning the carnival into a symbol for things in human existence. The fact that we don’t quite understand what’s going on makes the supernatural more ominous, actually giving it an added importance.

The above is probably a bit confusing to read – like I said, I don’t quite understand what’s going on in the book. (Besides, I am a bit tired, which also affects my ability with words). So I’ll try to sum up, so that I have at least given a clear recomendation:

Reading this book, I was sometimes bored – but all the time, my interest in the tale drove me on. If you can stand, or even enjoy, the sometimes cryptic writing, the book is an interesting read which I at least have not regretted reading.

On the other hand: If you want something concrete and/or fast paced/action packed, this is not the book for you.