Well-crafted, unorthodox take on the story of Isaac and his kin.

THE SONG OF ISAAC

The dramatic extrapolation of an ancient story.

Bassett takes up the tale of the biblical Isaac, or Ishak, in his young adulthood. A sensitive, intelligent boy struggling to find his place in the adult world, Ishak is a familiar character to those versed in his Old Testament story. However, Bassett takes the slight personality traits only hinted at in the Bible and expands them into a fictional world of the ancient Near East. In Bassett’s version, Abram becomes a violent prophet, prone to rage and leading his people by a mixture of extreme gravitas and occasional cruelty. His wife Sarah is a bitter, conniving woman succumbing to old age. Servant Eliezar is good-hearted but basically weak. And son Ishmael has the natural leadership qualities to rival the father who once sent him away. Together these and many other characters play out an epic story against a backdrop of intrigue, violence and magic. Indeed, even in Abram’s realm this is not the monotheistic world one would expect, but rather one steeped in the reverence of ancient gods such as Enlil, and the fear and hope in all things supernatural, including Abram’s God, but far from exclusively so. Even Abram himself, though a prophet and dedicated to the God who speaks to him, is surrounded by a mystical, magical worldview that he both deals with and feeds from. Bassett has a unique writing style that makes the reader more clearly imagine an ancient oral storyteller rather than a modern fictional account. He is also able to turn a clever phase here and there (“the miasmic exhalations of two old women, brined in resentment and secret vice.”). Some readers will balk at the license Bassett takes with the biblical account and his rather unflattering portrayal of Abram, father of three great world faiths. However, as a piece of fiction the book is readable, believable and entertaining.

Well-crafted, unorthodox take on the story of Isaac and his kin.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2010

ISBN: 978-1441587053

Page Count: 346

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2010

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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