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By Force Alone Hardcover – August 11, 2020
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Praise for By Force Alone:
“Drawing on everything from wushu movies to The Wire by way of Tarkovsky and Tarantino, By Force Alone is wild, surprising and entertaining, and a hugely immersive read.” ―M.R. Carey
“It's an immense remix of the myth, done with an extremely ruthless eye. Lavie is an extremely clever writer, and, for all the book's genuine wit and humour, it is very very cold and it very much knows what business it is about. It is not to be fucked with.” ―Warren Ellis
“Utterly bonkers, utterly brilliant - a brutal, witty & slightly insane deconstruction of the Arthurian legend by way of Goodfellas, this is absolute bloody (and sweary) joy on the page.” ―Russel D. McLean, author of The Good Son and Ed's Dead
"By Force Alone is a comet that blazes a brilliant new path through dusty old territory. Bold and inventive, it smashes Arthurian myth to bits, sweeps up the brightest, weirdest, most enchanting pieces, and reshapes them into a wildly original tale.” ―Lisa L. Hannett, author of Bluegrass Symphony and Lament for the Afterlife
“A twisted Arthur retelling mixing the historical and the magical with a very modern eye. Brutal and vicious and funny, a Peaky Blinders of the Round Table.” ―Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of Children of Time
“The Romans have had the good sense to abandon Britain, leaving gangsters in charge picking over the carcass of civilization and generally behaving like bad bastards. Everyone is a bastard here, from Guinevere to Arthur to Merlin; I have never come across a more despicable bunch of characters, this is surely an indictment of Lavie Tidhar's warped and degenerate brain. Without a doubt this is the best Arthurian tale ever written, it has ruined the entire mythology for me.” – Saad Z. Hossain, author of Escape From Baghdad! and The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday
"A bloody, bravura performance, which Tidhar pulls off with graphic imagery and modern vernacular." ―The Guardian
"As eclectic as the Sword in the Stone and as ruthless as A Game of Thrones, this retelling of the whole Arthurian legend stands alongside the very best." ―The Daily Mail
"Tidhar saturates this epic adventure with profanity, dark humor, sword-sharp twists, and unexpected moments of pathos. Readers who hold King Arthur dear to their hearts will be gratified by Tidhar’s attention to detail amidst the innovation. This dark, imaginative take on a classic is sure to impress.” ―Publishers Weekly
Praise for Lavie Tidhar:
“Lavie Tidhar[‘s] mad imagination ... is hilarious, insightful and terrifying all at once.” ―Ben Aaronovitch
“He is a political writer, an iconoclast and sometimes a provocateur ... remarkable and ambitious work.” ―China Mieville
“Would probably have been enough to get Tidhar burnt at the stake during the Middle Ages... Violent, action-packed, paced like a runaway freight train, politically incorrect and socially unredeemable [and] hugely entertaining.” ―Gardner Dozois
“A game-player of a writer who uses the spectrum of science fiction canon for his pieces... Lavie Tidhar is a clever bastard.” ―Warren Ellis
“Lavie Tidhar is one of the most distinctive voices to enter the field in many years.” ―Alastair Reynolds
“[Tidhar is] Young, ambitious, skilled and original.” ―Christopher Priest
“Hypnotic … [his] writing is beautiful.” ―Jeff Vandermeer
“There are SFF writers. There are good SFF writers. And there is Lavie Tidhar...There is no one like him writing in genre today.” ―Ian McDonald
“Groundbreaking… radically unique… genius literary invention.” ―Norman Spinrad
“A dazzling tale of complicated politics and even more complicated souls. Beautiful.” ―Ken Liu
“A brilliantly etched phantasmagoric reconfiguring of that most sizzling of eras the twilight 20th . . . a torrid tour de force.” ―James Ellroy
“[Tidhar] has already staked a claim as the genre’s most interesting, most bold, and most accomplished writer.” ―Locus
“Tidhar scatters brilliant ideas like pennies on the sidewalk.” ―NPR Books
“Stunning...very funny...remarkably poignant...[Tidhar] reminds us that even ― especially ― under the most terrible of circumstances, stories are all we have. And in the right hands, they can be a formidable weapon.” ―The Washington Post
About the Author
Lavie Tidhar is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of Osama, The Violent Century, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize-winning A Man Lies Dreaming, and the Campbell Award-winning Central Station, in addition to many other works and several other awards. He is also the author of the Locus Award nominated Unholy Land and debut children's novel Candy.
Lavie works across genres, combining detective and thriller modes with poetry, science fiction and historical and autobiographical material. His work has been compared to that of Philip K. Dick by the Guardian and the Financial Times, and to Kurt Vonnegut's by Locus.
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I particularly enjoyed this imagining of Merlin, though in fairness he is typically my favorite. I was also really struck by the Lancelot/Author/Guinevere dynamic. Guinevere was pretty awesome in her own right.
The writing itself also has a crispness to the style, in both the language and the rhythm of the sentences. The pace moves quickly, also adding to tone. It all plays together in a perfect orchestration to bring you a gripping retelling of a much love legend, like none you've read before.
Who doesn’t know the story of Arthur and his knights of the Round Table? His love for Guinevere? Lancelot, Gawain. Merlin! I thought I do. But it turned out there are still some stories to tell. Wow wow wow
I’m struggling with this review because I adored this story. I’ve read books about Arthur’s legend before but compared to By Force Alone those books seem less real, just less.
Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot, Gawain and Uther are known to us but Tidhar shows their true faces somehow. Am I making sense? Probably not. They are vicious, brutal, selfish. How I love them all!
Read this book.
This book is bonkers in the best possible way. Tidhar tells his version of the Arthur legend in a way that has never been told before. The tone is at once dark, grim, subversive, profane, silly, fantastical, winking at the reader, and yet compelling. That is an exceedingly difficult balance to strike, and I'll admit it took me more than a few chapters to really get the hang of it, but once I "adjusted" to that mix, I really enjoyed it.
Layered on top of that tonal stew is his great sprinkling of historical references in such interesting contexts. I'm sure there were more than a few that flew over my head, which didn't detract from my enjoyment, but some that I caught were so specific (Honi the Circle Maker from the Talmud) and others so funny, crazy and broad (a reference to where Jesus ended up, Moses being a wizard, etc.) that it just added spice to the dish.
I won't spoil anything, but there are so many eclectic elements to this book, it manages to push the reader forward to discover what he'll add next.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that this book should not work. At. All. It's incredible that Tidhar managed to do it, and do it so well. If the above description appeals to you, then I highly recommend reading it. Just give yourself some time to adjust to Tidhar's style.
This was my first Lavie Tidhar book but by no means my last; He certainly is a gifted writer full of ideas, quick turns of phrase, humor, thematic depth and allegory.
However, he has so many ideas and critiques/satire to drown the King Arthur mythos that the novel can't quite decide what it wants to be. Atmospheric? Tarantino pulp with a penchant for Taika Watiti comedy? Straight satire? A gangster take on Arthurian legend?
All in all there is much fun to be had and moments to shake your head in disgust over how romanticized these legends are. You have a kung fu Jewish Lancelot (a highlight) and musings on entitlement to being a king (well drawn)...its just the balance that is hit or miss, as evidenced by those two examples alone.
I have tons of quotes that I enjoyed in the book; A clear indicator that I got something from it. It's just missing that magic bit to pull it all together. Recommended.