Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Review: Pavane

Since I started reading through this list of classic SF novels a few years back, I'm pleased to say that with only one small exception (yes, I'm looking at The Cornelius Quartet), I've really enjoyed all of the works of SF I've come across. A lucky few have even cracked my top ten SF novels of All time (I'm looking at you Earth Abides) and a few, including the latest book on my list have introduced me to new areas of the genre.

Pavane, by Keith Roberts is the second Alternate History book I've read on the list, the first being the amazing Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore, and I've got to say that the more I read Alternate History SF, the more I'm liking it.

Rather than a traditional novel, Pavane works as a sequential series of short stories following a (mild spoiler) family line in England from the 1960's to about the year 2000. The key difference is that during her reign, Elizabeth I was assasinated and therefore the Spanish Armada defeated Britain. The following five centuries are dominated by the Roman Church and the innovations in technology we live with today have actually been banned, so that the last half of the twentieth century still has steam engines and mass communication is transmitted by Semaphore rather than telephone, or even telegraph signals.

The stories are all pretty great (although some are definitely better than others), and all in all it does a remarkable job a painting a dark world of what might have been.

A seriously good book and strongly recommended.

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