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The Camelot Papers Paperback – July 1, 2011
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About the Author
Peter David is a prolific author whose career, and continued popularity, spans nearly two decades. He has worked in every conceivable media: Television, film, books (fiction, non-fiction and audio), short stories, and comic books, and acquired followings in all of them. In the literary field, Peter has had over seventy novels published, including numerous appearances on the New York Times Bestsellers List. His novels include Tigerheart, Darkness of the Light, Sir Apropos of Nothing and the sequel The Woad to Wuin, Knight Life, Howling Mad, and the Psi-Man adventure series. He is the co-creator and author of the bestselling Star Trek: New Frontier series for Pocket Books, and has also written such Trek novels as Q-Squared, The Siege, Q-in-Law, Vendetta, I, Q (with John deLancie), A Rock and a Hard Place and Imzadi. He produced the three Babylon 5 Centauri Prime novels, and has also had his short fiction published in such collections as Shock Rock, Shock Rock II, and Otherwere, as well as Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Peter’s comic book resume includes an award-winning twelve-year run on The Incredible Hulk, and he has also worked on such varied and popular titles as Supergirl, Young Justice, Soulsearchers and Company, Aquaman, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, X-Factor, Star Trek, Wolverine, The Phantom, Sachs & Violens, The Dark Tower, and many others. He has also written comic book related novels, such as The Incredible Hulk: What Savage Beast, and co-edited The Ultimate Hulk short story collection. Peter is also the writer for two popular video games: Shadow Complex and Spider-Man: Edge of Time. Peter is the co-creator, with popular science fiction icon Bill Mumy, of the Cable Ace Award-nominated science fiction series Space Cases, which ran for two seasons on Nickelodeon. He has written several scripts for the Hugo Award winning TV series Babylon 5, and the sequel series, Crusade. He has also written several films for Full Moon Entertainment and co-produced two of them, including two installments in the popular Trancers series, as well as the science fiction western spoof Oblivion, which won the Gold Award at the 1994 Houston International Film Festival for best Theatrical Feature Film, Fantasy/Horror category. He lives in New York with his wife, Kathleen, and his four children, Shana, Gwen, Ariel, and Caroline.
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The framework for THE CAMELOT PAPERS are the recently-discovered journals of Viviana, a slave whose keeps a journal of her day-to-day activities in Camelot. For Viviana, Camelot is filled with perils. Initially they come from the brutish king Uther and the animosity of Rowena, who runs the kitchens. Things become more complex -- and potentially dangerous -- as Viviana becomes an observer of, and sometimes participant with, the rulers of Camelot.
Arthur seems nice, but also forgetful (and sometimes stupid), and he is ill-prepared when Uther is poisoned and Arthur is suddenly king. Merlin is a behind-the-scenes manipulator who continually plots and plans -- and who has Arthur's unquestioning trust. Guinevere finds herself reluctantly married to Arthur and sees him as a way to advance her own agendas. (She's also more comfortable wearing mannish clothes than the dresses expected of a queen.) Guinevere's sister Morgan seems nicer than most and more affectionate to Arthur than his queen -- but could Morgan have her own secret interests? Modred, Morgan's adopted son, is a creepy little boy who seems to appear and disappear from the shadows -- and he is a creepy manipulator in his own right. Lancelot is a mighty warrior, a lecherous womanizer, and a man with his own secret. And there's the filthty, mute stable boy who catches Viviana's interest. All these characters seem very far removed from Gawain, Viviana's ideal and imagined embodiment of the best of the knights.
THE CAMELOT PAPERS is an intriguing look at the potential reality behind the legends of Camelot. Viviana is the ideal character to report on what happens, whether she's forgotten about as an "unimportant" servant or spying on the characters through the castle's secret passages (which are also traveled by Modred). She also grows as a character, going from someone interested in surviving to trying to improve things for others: the people she knows, and later her whole country. While Mr. David makes the parallels between the past and present a little heavy-handed towards the end of the book (including a war based on faulty intelligence, with no foreign support, to avenge an attack on a parent and with the spectre of a hated opponent who is never seen used to justify torture and atrocities), his does an excellent job creating a web of political intrigues. He also makes it easy to imagine that these very human characters could wind up inspiring the Arthurian legends that we all know now.
From the cover of THE CAMELOT PAPERS, I expected a Monty Python-esque romp through medieval legend. Instead, we get an outsider's view at the inner workings of a kingdom where legends were born -- from politicians maneuvering and plotting.
If you read this book expecting a light-hearted romp, be prepared to be disappointed. If, however, you read this book as an exploration of public and private perceptions and how they can all be manipulated as told by a master storyteller, you will be delighted!
The book is told from the point of view of Viviana, a slave who is brought to Camelot while Uther is still king. Viviana is a rarity of the time, in that she is literate and keeps a journal of her life. It's this journal that are the "Camelot Papers" of the title, and it's through her writings that we see the truths that became the legends.
Most of the staples of the Arthur legends are here, from the king himself, his sword, Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere, the Round Table, Morgan & Mordred, Galahad and the rest, but in a much more down-to-Earth fashion. It's a lot of fun reading the book and getting those "Ahhhh, that's where X came from" moments. PAD has some very clever ideas behind the truth of The Sword in the Stone, Excalibur's origin, Merlin's "wizardry" and the like.
The heart of the book, however, isn't this new spin on the familiar tales, but re-telling their origins while at the same time using them as a lens to examine our modern political situation, especially G. W. Bush's years as President. It's not a direct parallel; PAD doesn't beat you over the head with these themes or use the book as a polemic. These sociopolitical themes are explored quite strongly in some areas, much more subtly in others, and I believe are handled very well. The book demonstrates how even the best of intentions can be warped and spiral out of control.
This leads to my one main complaint about the book, which is the cover. Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful piece of art that executed very well, but it led me to expect the book to be a bit different. Based on the cover, I was expecting it to be humorous take on King Arthur and the Round Table having to endure the trials and tribulations of a tabloid press, perhaps run by Editor Morgan la Fey and her chief reporter Mordred.
Instead, it's a bit more serious of a book, a "true account" story, with the "Camelot Papers" being something akin to the Pentagon Papers, revealing the truth behind the myths. The book is very well done, I still enjoyed it very much, but it's not quite what I was expecting.
The book has PAD's trademark humor, solid characterization, fun nods to the traditional Arthur stories, a good mystery, and I stayed up two hours after I should have been in bed to finish the last two chapters. The book has a satisfying conclusion, but is open enough where we could see more of Viviana's true tales of Camelot, which I would really enjoy seeing.
If you're a fan of the Arthurian legends, political satire, and not-quite traditional fantasy, you should enjoy this book.