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Posts Tagged ‘GLBT Book’

Global warming transformed England into a semitropical country. Advances in genetic engineering cured many diseases, however the human lifespan has been halved as a consequence of extinguishing cancer. Viruses are used to educate children by transferring knowledge. At the age of 10, children’s minds are read by “The Consensus” and their personality and moral values are corrected by viruses.

Milena is a young actress who has never been read and is immune to most viruses. She meets Rolfa, a half-polar bear woman who is also a musician, and falls in love with her. Homosexuality is rare, it is regarded as “bad grammar” and “corrected” with viruses.

Milena has to deal with her own unsocial problems while she attempts to stage a mega-production of an opera composed by Rolfa, based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, and keeps wondering why “The Consensus” seems to support her instead of eliminating her.

The Child Garden is a complex novel that deals with many subjects in a rich and poetic manner. Mainly, it deals with the transformation of human beings and human culture to an uniform society and the impact it has in the individual. And the story is entirely given in the point of view of an individual who is not well connected to the tissue of society – Milena.

The Child Garden deals with some of the problems and losses that arise from solving human problems by means that were once considered a problem. Decreasing the lifespan by curing cancer with the viruses was the crudest example given, but the same could be applied for what is lost when individuality is sacrificed to create a completely unified society.

One issue approached was the solitude that can be created in the unification of a group. When a society is an integrated group of individuals, might feel solitude as a lonely animal – which is nothing more than an integrated group of cells (that is believed to have evolved from a group of unicellular organisms).

It is also worth mentioning the rich way the story is told. There is much to tell in this aspect, but what especially caught my attention was:

  • The use of metaphors, which is luxurious and delicious: 1) especially as they come in colourful images and 2) even if morbid meanings are cruelly expressed through beautiful images (or the opposite).
  • The use of music references in the text, as music playing in certain situations or as characters singing their own words with classical music /opera music. This is particularly special as the music referred not only enriches the meaning of the text, but it may give it a second meaning, an ironic meaning or even alter its meaning completely. The music references are inserted in the text with Wagnerian precision, where not a single note is useless, maybe to give an image of how Rolfa’s music was written in the Divine Comedy to be read together with the text.

The Child Garden is no light reading. It is very dense and complex both in its form and content. After reading it I went back to some of its parts and I surely intend to read it again.

The Child Garden was first published in 1989 and won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1990.

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And the story started in The Chosen continues… Carnelian and Obsidian were thrown out of Osrakum and taken for dead in the course of the plots of the Masters. Carnelian’s good nature and naiveté allowed them to be accepted by one of the tribes in Earthsky, among the people that were “leeched” by the Masters to maintain the luxury of Osrakum. While Carnelian was educated far from the plots of Osrakum by a woman from Earthsky, Obsidian had the true nature of a Master and could not accept a life among lower people.

Although The Standing Dead is the continuation of The Chosen, and the events of The Chosen are essential to understand it, the plot and the thematic take a huge turn. In The Chosen the background unfolds in front of Carnelian, who was taking his first steps in the (poisoned) heaven of Osrakum. In The Standing Dead the main characters – Carnelian and Obsidian – were in a critic situation and were forced to develop themselves, which they did according to their own natures. Carnelian, with his simplicity and kind nature, wished to mingle with the tribe’s people, who were more similar to him than the Masters; and Obsidian, intrinsically Master of the Masters, recoiled to himself to show later his ability to manipulate and dominate people.

The comparison of the societies in Osrakum and in Earthsky is fascinating, as it is the way that Osrakum controls the people of Earthsky by their most individual and human egoism. The deep changes operated by Obsidian in Earthsky are also amazingly credible, especially as the human factor in them is perfectly recognizable. We may find examples of similar changes in World History (even if we are not proud of them).

The relationship of Carnelian and Obsidian also suffered a strange development. As both characters evolved in such different ways, and the strain imposed to them would not allow romantic love, their relationship evolved to a strong and weird partnership as if they were a long married couple. Although this relationship became so strange that it merged the impossible, it is so well (and subtly) described that it becomes amazingly credible.

And the plot continues in The Third God

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Lord Suth was one of the most powerful noblemen in Osrakum, but was forced to exile by his enemies. His son Carnelian grew up in exile with a luxurious household, but without ever knowing the excesses of life in court.

One day a delegation arrived from Osrakum bringing the news of the eminent death of the Emperor, and the need of Lord Suth’s return to supervise the election of the new Emperor – every Emperor must have twin sons, one should be elected Emperor after his father’s death, the other should die during the coronation of his brother.

The journey of Carnilean and his father back to the court in Osrakum begins, bringing back all social ways that were neglected in exile and that Carnelian never knew about.

The society in Osrakum is highly stratified, with an aristocracy made of big and beautiful people who live in luxury and have an obsession about blood purity and lineage, which is directly related to social status. The aristocracy is served by slaves, who are smaller and uglier people taken as a tax from tribes that consider the aristocracy as divinity. The slaves are treated as objects that could be used and discarded at will.

Another feature of this society is the use of masks. Aristocrats wear masks that must be taken out as soon as the highest one shows his face. If the difference of rank is too big, it is a crime for the lower ranked aristocrat to look at the face of his superior, and the sentence for this crime is death. A slave that sees the face of a Lord must die immediately.

The Chosen is the first volume of The Stone Dance of the Chameleon, and it mainly consists of the return of Lord Suth and Carnelian to Osrakum. The narration is centered in Carnelian, who is so familiar with that world and that society as the reader. The story itself just begins by the end of the book, when Carnelian meets and falls in love with Obsidian, and the election takes place. Although most of this volume seems like a contextualization, it does not become boring as there is always the feeling of excitement as this fantastic – and sometimes nightmarish – world is created in front of Carnelian (and the reader). It is a kind of big scale social experiment.

The Chosen is followed by The Standing Dead and The Third God.

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Will Rabjohns was the most controversial wildlife photographer in the world, who had made his reputation by cruel photographs of the life of endangered species.

While shooting polar bears in the Artic he was attacked by a female bear that left him in coma for several weeks.

Will revisited his childhood in his coma, at the time when he met a couple who had a major influence in his life as an artist and as a man. Will’s parents lived with the trauma of the loss of their favorite son and so Jacob Steep and Rosa McGee offered Will the love his own family denied him. However, this was no ordinary couple: Rosa and Jacob were centuries old, didn’t remember their childhood or even knew who they were. They wandered together around the world, Rosa lusting for sadistic sexual pleasure and wishing to have children, and Jacob taking pleasure on the death of animals (especially if they were the last of a species) and killing his and Rosa’s children.

Although Will was separated from Rosa and Jacob, a mysterious bond between him and Jacob was created.

When Will woke from the coma he started a journey to discover the nature of his bond to Jacob and Rosa, and the role all them would play in the destiny of Life.

Sacrament is rich in symbology, which is used to tackle two main subjects at the same time and to draw a parallelism between them. The first is the boom of animal extinctions caused by Man, the “disease” of Life in Earth. The second is the boom of death among gay people caused by AIDS. Will Rabjohns, as a photographer and a gay man, watches and portrays the disease, struggle to survive and near extinction of wildlife/gay people.

The characters in Sacrament are well drawn and filled with pure raw energy – life and death energy. The symbolic elements give a vivid color to the novel, especially in the most melancholic parts where it could have turned dull. There are also some funny and dark humored moments and thoughts. For instance,  Jacob Steep, whose hobby was to kill the last specimens of a species, was strongly annoyed by homosexual people. Even if he managed to wipe out every homosexual from the Earth, they would still be born and “slyly” recover their numbers.

However, sometimes the symbology seemed a bit forced, or that it was getting out of control. Also, the references to God did not help.

Even with its flaws, Sacrament is highly imaginative and interesting to read. A special praise must be done to it: the plague of AIDS in the American gay community during the 80’s inspired thousands of novels (to nausea), but in Sacrament the approach is different enough to make it worth reading.

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1983. Nick Guest, a medium class literature scholar, is spending some time in the Fedden’s Notting Hill mansion, as guest of their son Toby, his Oxford mate and secret crush. Nick is “adopted” by the family and becomes acquainted with high society people, as Gerald Fedden is one of Thatcher’s Tory Ministers.

1986. Nick remains friend of the Fedden’s but begins an intense relationship with the wealthy decadent Lebanese Wani Ouradi.

1987. Scandal related to the Fedden’s causes the fall of Nick.

The Line of Beauty is a portrayal of Thatcher’s society and the rise and fall of a gay Mr. Nobody in the high society of the time. The coming of age of Nick Guest as a gay man in the “age before the internet” is quite well portrayed, as well as the decadence and hipocrisy in the Tory high society of Thatcher’s Government.

The prose is written with a great care for the stucture and aestetic, but I was disappointed. Maybe the praise (and prize) it received put my expectations on The Line of Beauty too high. It is not the material of a classic and it brings nothing new in GLBTS literature. However, it is defenitely a very good (and vivid) portayal of a time in Britain’s 20th Century History.

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