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Freedom and Necessity Paperback – April 17, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books; 1st edition (April 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765316803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765316806
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,420,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The early 19th century was a heady time of repeated challenges to the assumption that the social order as it stood was supernaturally (divinely) ordained. A particularly sticky web of politics and romance traps Susan Voight and James Cobham in a dense, thrillingly suspenseful plot connecting a reforming democratic labor movement, Chartism, to a secret society, the Trotters Club, whose corrupt members intend to exploit a magical ritual for their personal, complicated purposes of vengeance and power. Layers of truths and falsehoods mislead and confound the protagonists in their dealings with each other and the conspiracies; they come to understand that only honesty can save them. Although the perversion of the natural power of sorcery fails because it is unnatural, the social order, unnatural or not, is more resistant to justice. The swift pace, surprising developments, and appealing characters make it nearly impossible to put this book down. Though the women's rights movement is glancingly acknowledged, the conventionally romantic fulfillment is a little disappointing. Is there no other end for intelligent, financially independent women than maternity and love-partnership (as binding, or more, as legal marriage) with a man? --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Where can you read about Marx, Engels, and Napoleon Bonaparte, plus numerous other historic characters in one book? In this new fantasy novel by Brust (Agyar, LJ 2/15/94) and Bull (Finder, LJ 2/15/93), that's where. Although the body of James Cobham has not been found, he is assumed to have drowned in an accident in 1849. Two months after the accident, his cousin, Richard, receives a letter from James annoucing that he is alive and in hiding, but he can't recall the past two months. Richard writes back, advising James to stay in hiding because he suspects foul play. The correspondence unfolds among several characters and reveals James's mysterious past. Resembling the works of Tolstoy and Dickens in the plethora of characters, Stoker in the and Mary Shelly in the presented exposition, the novel brings together intrigue, adventure, politics, and magic in a complex epic that astonishes the reader. Although the format is occasionally cumbersome, the story is interesting enough to keep the reader turning pages. Recommended for libraries with strong sf/fantasy collections.?Georgia Panos, Johnson Cty. Lib. System, Leawood, Kan.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

The character's are wonderful and very alive-seeming.
There were a few times when I know I missed a few points, and forgot a few events but I'm sure that will make it more enjoyable when I read it again.
Lianne Mintz
This is also someitmes a very touching and erotic love story between two very complex, adult characters.
Martha E. Nelson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 14, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
some hard going, but that's why people do it.

Most of the hard reading in this fabulous book can be attributed to neither Bull nor Brust, but rather to 19th century German philosophy. Anything is easy reading compared to that! Nevertheless, the letters and news clippings which tell the story require some work as they are written in 19th century English - and 19th century English is quite different from modern English (is this a surprise to anyone?). Despite the somewhat difficult reading, it is well worth it - Hegelian philosophy and all.

Regarding the negative reviews, this book is definately not for everyone. If you have never read anything written prior to the latter half of this century be prepared to work hard - this doesn't come with Coles Notes to help you through like so many people needed to get through Shakespeare in high school. You are reading English that is 150 years old (or, rather, styled after English that is 150 years old) - it is understandable but not comfortable for a 20th century English speaker.

I agree that billing this as fantasy is a misnomer, but Brust and Bull have been pigeon-holed - much like you'll find Bob Dylan in the Folk section at too many record stores (Shot of Love = Folk?). Regardless of the genre it has been assigned to, it is a fantastic book - period. Not an OK Historical, great Fantasy - just a great book regardless of the genre. It's just that too many books, even historical fiction, are written in modern English which make them easier to digest.

The 19th Century letters and news clippings add a feeling of reality - there's not some omnipotent Narrator detailing everything that happened. I think it is a great way to tell the story and Brust and Bull pull it off with great flair.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Paula Berman on March 25, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I note that most of the reviewers who gave this low ratings begin with "Epistolary novels are boring" or "I don't like Victorian settings". So look: this is a story told through letters and journal entries and it is set in the mid-1800s. Got that? If you can't stand either of those, this may not be the book for you. It also delves into philosophy (hence the title) and the politics of the time, and by the way it contains the best love letter *ever* and the best romance story since Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night. There are a few loose ends that could have been better tied up, and I really wish Bull and Brust had done a better job with the alternate universe subplot; as another reviewer has pointed out, the Golden Bough-type myths are hinted at but it is never clear whether there's anything to them in the world of the story, or whether Kitty's experiments are anything more than hallucinations. The story is not weakened if the magic some characters believe in is mythical, but a bit more exposition would be nice. Otherwise, just brilliant.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Angus Macdonald on February 24, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Okay, I stole that line from "A Common Reader", but it seems appropriate!
Espistlatory novels, works written in the form of a series of letters and diary entries, are rather old-fashioned. They were very popular back in Victorian times but rather less so nowadays. To many they seem contrived. But consider this: this is a novel set in the Victorian Age. What better way to pay homage to the time then to attempt to copy the style and the verbage of that time? This is one of the many glories, great and small, of this novel and I raise my glass to Brust and Bull for it.
The cast of the novel is fairly large by modern standards but much curtailed for Dickens and his ilk; there are essentially four main characters (James Cobham, a ex-Chartist part-time anarchist, Kitty Holbourn, devoutee of the arcane, Richard Cobham, James' cousin and erstwhile lover of Kitty, and Susan Voight, 'an houri in practical shoes and sensible stays'). The plot revolves around several points, but primarily it is a mystery -- James falls from a boat, is assumed drowned, and yet finds himself very much alive and working in an inn as a stablehand several months after the event.
Working in and out from here are possible faery sightings, would-be Satanists, or at least individuals bent on human sacrifice, a possible government conspiracy, a traitor in the Chartist movement that may have led to the unravelling of the abortive revolutions of 1848, and even a wonderfully drawn appearance by Friedrich Engels. The characterizations are sharp, the descriptions clear, the manners superb; I never heard a false note in the cadences of voice and manner through the book, no sense of the 20th century imposing itself on the 19th.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lisa on February 20, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I stumbled over this book by accident - an accident which I now consider to be blessed. This is one of the greatest literary experiences I have had in years. "Freedom and necessity" has one of the greatest plots I have ever come across, a breathtaking mix of historical events, love and adventure. It's beautiful, horrifying, hilarious, intelligent and simply unputdownable. The character's are wonderful and very alive-seeming. The book can be read for its language alone, which is in my opinion absolutely marvellous, showing that these are two high quality writers. The disposition, finally, is also amazing, interesting in its unusual style and probably very demanding for the authors. Now, I would be giving this book 5 stars if I was not to critisize a little. The idea of telling the story through letters, diary entries and newspaper articles is very inventive, but can also get a bit confusing - clues are given at a time when you're not aware that they are actually clues, forcing you to go back to that page when they get an importance. And at least I who have not got English as my mother tongue, found many of the extracts of German philosophy somewhat hard to grasp, which is sad since they have a rather important significance. But overall this is a very recommendable book, especially if you are interested in history, particularly 19th century England and English. And even if you are not, the plot by itself is enough to make it splendidly enjoyable.
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