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Carnival Mass Market Paperback – November 28, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
In a future after AI "Governors" programmed by radical environmentalists caused the depopulation of Earth, leading to colonization of a variety of other worlds, the Governors and the Earth-dominated "Colonial Coalition" are trying to re-integrated these worlds. Many years after a botched mission to one such world, New Amazonia, they have sent two diplomats to try again - and in particular to negotiate access to this planet's mysterious free energy technology.
The Coalition diplomats are Vincent Katherinessen and Michelangelo Kusanagi-Jones, secretly lovers who have been apart for years after their careers crashed. But New Amazonia's leaders will not negotiate with any but women or what they call "gentle" men. Homosexuality is generally taboo in the Coalition, and women are usually not allowed positions of power, so Vincent and Angelo are the best available choices. New Amazonia, we learn, is ruled by women. Men are kept as slaves, though in better conditions (for the most part) than say blacks in the American Antebellum South. Heterosexual males are matched in Trials: battles, often to the death, with the best chosen to be members of household, where they live in a sort of purdah. "Gentle" males are allowed slightly greater privileges.Read more ›
Slow to start, dense and thickly plotted, but then the characters and worlds click into place and it becomes wonderful! The plot moves a long but it is the world building that works best for me - looking at gender roles and alternate ideas of taboos and cultures. I loved it. Happy find!
I enjoy SF that explores unusual social setups, so my initial reaction to a book about a pair of male homosexual agents representing Old Earth to a female-ruled society on New Amazonia was positive. However, if an author spins a new society, it is his or her responsibility to make it credible. Neither society was very believable for many reasons, e.g., on New Amazonia the males are dominated by the women to the point of slavery. Yet these same males are bred for combativeness so that they will perform well in the ritual combats. Is it believable that such males will tolerate this dominance?
None of the characters is sympathetic or interesting or fully developed. I didn't care what happened to any of them. This makes it difficult to sustain interest in the book.
Finally, the book just does not seem to be well written. The author too often introduces new ideas or terms or refers to previous events without explaining them. This was so striking that several people in our SF discussion group asked if this was a sequel to another book because so much was left unclear. A good SF writer is able to set up suspense in a way that intrigues rather than annoys and to fill in any background necessary to help the reader envision the world that is created.
In sum, unbelievable world-building, unsympathetic characters, and bad writing. That is why I say the cover was the best part!
Except, that is, on the planet called New Amazonia, where women rule and duel (heterosexual males are called "stud males" and are no better than slaves; homosexual males are called "gentle" and have more rights). The Coalition wants the planet's mysterious source of cheap energy so--not having women (which the New Amazonians would of course prefer) to throw into the fray--they send two gay men (former lovers at that) as ambassadors (make that spies) ostensibly charged with returning art taken from the New Amazonians, but actually to obtain, by hook or by crook they will, the source of the planet's cheap energy.
The two spies, Michelangelo Kusanagi-Jones and Vincent Katherinessen, each have their own agendas, as do the women who are members of New Amazonia's government, most notably Lesa Pretoria--a security chief for the government--who has her own view of things.
The story takes place during the planet's carnival, a word that, as a headnote tells us (and this proves important), is derived from the Old Italian carnelevare, which means "farewell to the flesh.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Dense, intense, complex, and passionate are adjectives I'd choose to describe the many aspects of this amazing novel; in other words, utterly delightful! Read morePublished 3 months ago by Ja Nin
Kusanagi-Jones and Katherinessen come to New Amazonia on a complex ambassadorial/espionage mission, further fraught by their troubled personal history and the sights they have set... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Juushika
I love Bear's "New Amsterdam," so I was looking forward to reading "Carnival." At the start, I wasn't sure I would enjoy it ~ Bear is one of those authors who drops... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Mary K.
I bought this book used and I consider myself lucky. As the other reviews point out the world is not believable. Many unexplained terms. I just didn't care about the characters. Read morePublished on May 14, 2013 by Lee G Martin
The main weakness of the novel for me, was that the exaggerated reversal of the sex roles was too far fetched and the contribution of the resultant social order in moving the plot... Read morePublished on February 11, 2013 by jeannie tryphonopoulos
As with all the books rated here, none of them disappointed and suppliers were great too! I like books with good character development and dialog, SoO these are all well worth... Read morePublished on January 16, 2013 by Richard K. Schoellhorn
Elizabeth Bear's `Carnival' (Bantam Spectra, $6.99, 395 pages) is everything I like about science fiction. Read morePublished on November 24, 2012 by Clay Kallam
Vincent and Angelo are diplomats sent to New Amazonia to return stolen artwork but secretly have their own agends. Read morePublished on April 15, 2012 by Serene Night
Although Ms. Bear shifts between given and surnames a bit for one character for reasons which escape me, this was a great novel. Read morePublished on August 2, 2011 by Gary Bunker