- File Size: 763 KB
- Print Length: 270 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Achronal Press (February 19, 2011)
- Publication Date: February 19, 2011
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B004OL2XOW
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,438,577 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Print List Price:||$40.80|
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Exaltations Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
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This book's ambitious premise is commendable, and I also really enjoy reading experimental narratives. One of the reasons why I read speculative fiction is to push the boundaries of how I perceive reality-as-it-currently-is. With this book, I was expecting to look at stories and storytelling under a different light.
Exaltations has an epic worldview to match its impressive scope. I liked how it made little distinction between mythological, historical, and biographical stories because over time, they really do become the same thing. The inclusion of mythologies and persons outside of the Western world added a breadth and depth to its vision. The Chinese ancestress and the celestial bureaucracy that she belongs to are especially well-conceived, and there are plenty of allusions to stories from other cultures including Indian, Scandinavian, and Greek.
I have mixed feelings about this book. The ideas, characters, and settings in of themselves are interesting-but I'm not as thrilled with how they were written. Exaltations is full of riddles and power-wrestling between characters both physical and metaphysical, which by itself could be fascinating--but it wasn't engaging for the most part.
The characters are interesting (even the metaphysical ones), but they all seemed so static and invulnerable. It's sort of like they could be outmaneuvered in the one scene, but none of that mattered, because they could be reconstituted in anew in the next. That would be fine if the focus wasn't on how they were trying to struggle out of story A or story B, but that struggle is the focus and the cause for all the action. The characters live on in an eternal limbo of changing scenes without any of the events changing them as characters. My favourite scene was when Fate created a different reality where their individual conflicts ended up badly for them, and I wish there were more scenes like this where the power of abstract forces could be felt on the individual level. Again this could be subjective as I tend to like character-driven fiction, but I thought that in order to explore how stories affect human experiences, the cause and effect is best shown and not merely talked about.
There are many sections where the bodiless story-characters discuss riddles and Big Concepts. They outline unique spatial models to visualize the relationships between ideas, stories, and lives, but they didn't get me to think about those concepts differently. I was really hoping to have my ideas challenged, but instead I felt like I mostly read wordplay.
There are brilliant scenes and ideas, and I highlighted a number of passages to further ruminate over, but I can't say I was satisfied with the entire experience. I love the subject matter, the characters, and the concept of reading a story that's being fought over by different writers... but ultimately I didn't connect much with most of the scenes in the book itself. I'm perfectly willing to entertain the idea that I just didn't "get it" or had the wrong approach with this read, and so I'm settling for a somewhat non-committal three stars.
If you find the book's description interesting, liked the sample, and aren't afraid of an experimental narrative full of scenes where bodiless speakers discuss Big Ideas with the Important Concepts capitalized--then give it a go. I'm interested to see what others think of this book, and I hope that they will find it more engaging than I did.
Note: a free review copy was provided by the author
The cover art itself is some of the best I've seen for a self-published work: a current century man in the company of some historical characters that seem to be coming to life out of a mosaic. The book's dust jacket is a fine glossy stock. The author and book name on the spine are a bit tiny. But the inside flaps are flawless and include a color photo of the author along with the publisher's imprint and a few illustrations. Removing the jacket reveals a nicely bound black book with the author's name and the book title embossed in gold on the spine. Such detail and quality must come with a price tag though. The book is listed at $40.80 on Lulu.com!
The story itself follows Peter Refton who is a "hunter of human lives." But Peter is not a killer. He's a biographer and somewhat of a time traveler as he journeys to different worlds in history and literally collects the life stories of several lesser known people who might have been responsible for shaping our history books. There's the brave knight of reformed Charlemagne's army, a wise man who was responsible for China's expansion and control, a lovely sorceress, and twin warriors.
The storyline is a maddening twist of Stephen King's The Drawing of the Three and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. When the tables are turned and it's Peter's life story that becomes the huntee, he uses his character collection to help him defeat what is known as the "Quest." Although I'm not a big fan of reading fantasy, Garfinkle shapes a plot that is definitely worthy of the handiwork that went into putting such a beautiful book together. He doesn't clutter the story itself with too many minor details that end up making many stories of this genre top 500 pages. His words are very tight and precise and push the story to its limits almost as fast as his main character moves through time...
The Story had promised them all knowledge, but he did not have all knowledge to give. The lies of the story echoed throughout the far-flung group Quest had tried to snare. They all head and knew that a voice was speaking deception to them. They would hear it and know it as a faithless spirit.
Although the book suffers from the same mistakes that haunt many self published books such as spelling, spacing, and phrasing, there is one detail to the body of text that I found distracting. The book is divided into traditional chapters but then the chapters are also divided into various passages. Several passages throughout the whole book are introduced with headings like [ACCEPTANCE] or [REJECTION] or [ACCEPTANCE AND REJECTION]. To me, they made me think I was actually reading a biography manuscript and that these were editor's notes. They served no real purpose to the story itself for me and only took up space.
With a good polish and tightening the body of the book, I think Richard Garfinkle would have a real winner with Exaltations.