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The Fourth Circle Hardcover – September 1, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1892389657
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892389657
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,608,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Time and space are fluid and perspectives are intriguingly alien and off-kilter in this cosmological first novel from Serbian author Zivkovic. Built from multiple intertwined plots fleshed out in short chapters rich with impressionistic images, it attempts the difficult feat of conveying a parallel world through the experiences of characters largely unaware that alternate realities exist. Two principal story lines—one involving a Buddhist techno-whiz who creates a female computer program, the other concerned with a medieval novitiate who witnesses the mystical resurrection of a master whom he believed dead—anchor a narrative that also admits episodes in which Archimedes, Stephen Hawking, Nikola Tesla and other scientific luminaries find ways to slip the bounds of the time-space continuum and inadvertently travel to a common meeting place. Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and Conan Doyle all make appearances in the final chapters to deduce a dizzying, if talky, rationale for what exactly is going on. Zivkovic does a superb job of communicating the befuddlement, confusion and awe of individual characters as they wrestle with mysteries that exceed the understanding that their time, place and intellectual capacity permits. He also suggests a coherent cosmic blueprint that incorporates the novel's many episodes yet still remains intriguingly beyond full comprehension. Not all the mysteries are laid bare at the novel's somewhat abrupt end, but readers will enjoy the tale's epistemological gymnastics and the interplay of real and imaginary personalities.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Four great scientists--Archimedes, van Ceulen, Tesla, and Hawking--gather at an ancient Buddhist temple deep in a jungle to meet computer scientist Srinavasa; his sentient computer program Rama; and the latter's child, sired by an ape. Elsewhere, a radio telescope awaits a specific signal, spherical beings go about their lives, the pack travels to see mysterious presences during the month they call Thule, and a medieval artist's assistant embarks on a journey into what he perceives as the circles of Hell. Then Sherlock Holmes receives a mysterious note--a perfect circle--and must join forces with his nemesis Moriarty to close the Fourth Circle. As the prologue, which is also the ending, informs us, Holmes' task is not one of obtaining answers but one of asking new questions and making contact across the varied worlds of the novel. Zivkovic distinguishes the book's discrete narratives stylistically and links its semicircular development back to itself seamlessly, opening the door to speculation about what happens next, which turns out to be a perfectly satisfactory conclusion. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Peter Williams on April 7, 2004
Zoran Zivkovic is a writer of astonishing talent. After having read his superb "Library" novellas in the VanderMeer/Aguirre-edited "Leviathan 3" anthology, I was eagerly awaiting this release from NightShade. And I was not disappointed.
I won't attempt to give a plot synopsis here, especially as plot, per se, is not the salient feature of The Fourth Circle. What is prominent is Zivkovic's mastery of the multiple character perspective, i.e., the manner in which he develops his characters (there are many) and gives each a distinctive voice. That, and the way he wraps the varied story threads into a finally cohesive, yet mysterious whole.
The narrative, however, kept me at a slight remove from total involvement in the story, which leads me to give it four stars rather than five. Quality fiction, regardless.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on December 21, 2004
It's rare that one finds a disconnect between the talent of a writer and the quality of his story. As a general rule, one expects that a gifted writer will produce great novels and vice versa. Unfortunately, in the case of "The Fourth Circle" the reader is treated to a novel that is supremely well written, but which is somehow empty at its core.

Told through seemingly unrelated narratives that are parsed out over seemingly random intervals, "The Fourth Circle" is an ambitious attempt to offer a cosmogony, a structure and perhaps purpose for the universe. While taken as individual units, each story is beautifully structured and written, but as a whole the book is somehow less than the sum of its parts, which is ironic given its lofty ambition.

The ultimate problem is that there is no comprehensive denouement; the reader is drawn into the story of a pregnant artificial intelligence, Sherlock Holmes' last case, the life of alien six armed beings and more, but ultimately the links between these narratives, which define the whole structure of the novel, are lacking. Whether this is because Zivkovic is being intentionally enigmatic or because he just wrote himself into a corner is uncertain, but I think most readers would agree that the payoff, such as it is, is severely lacking.

Which is a shame, because as I have stated above, Zivkovic is a writer of great talent. His phrasing and word selection is impeccable, and he is a master of capturing the mood. From levity to disgust to a sense of otherworldly wonder, his work is imbued with emotion. Moreover, each individual vignette stands nicely on its own, with a particularly impressive entry detailing the exploits of a medieval painter and his humble assistant.
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Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, however after having finished it, I feel as if it is still settling inside of me. The original was written in a different style for each character, with different fonts and such, which I would have highly enjoyed, as that is how I used to play around with characters and conversations on my old dos based computers before modern graphics allowed much more than bold and italic. Sadly, that is not the case with the English version of the book. Still, I found it simple enough to locate the characters within each of their stories and work out the complexity of the universe that was being built around the physical entity in my hands.

This is a book about alternate realities, and being a fan of parallel universes and such, I simply absorbed everything that I could. The writing was unique, as were many of the ideas. The characters are altered versions of people that we know today, Archimedes, Nikola Tesla, Stephen Hawking, and even the universe of Sherlock Holmes makes an appearance. In fact, it is Holmes who brings the final "case" to its conclusion. The multiple story lines about each character mentioned, along with several who are not recognizable (including living spheres and a pregnant computer) converge in the end. Unfortunately it all happened in such a way that, to me, felt as if there was an ending that was not quite missing, but also not altogether there. That is a reflection on the entire story, of course, but in order to truly understand the feel of this book, you simply have to read it and experience everything for yourself.

This book about the Fourth Circle comes together to make said circle, but do not think it will run circles around you as a reader. This was a book that I will most likely enjoy reading several times over in order to get the true complexity and yet simplicity of what is happening around everyone involved.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert Gorman on October 29, 2004
While well written (the prose that is) this is one of the emptiest novels I have ever read. It has no meaning, no depth and in a nutshell is no fun. The author states that after writing the first sentence, he "didn't have the slightest idea what would follow." Well there are a lot of words well strung together, but no meaning. Save your time, don't bother with it.
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