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Q Paperback – 6 May 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (6 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099439832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099439837
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 100,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Something of a publishing sensation elsewhere in Europe, Q is a convoluted historical thriller by a consortium of young pseudonymous authors, who, it has to be said, are a little too in love with their own cleverness. Q is the working name of a papal spy trying to keep a lid on the Reformation, particularly on the Anabaptist radicalism which is its form most dangerous to the social order, and for decades he watches, and occasionally gets in close and betrays. The man sometimes known as Gert is his opposite--all the more so because he hardly knows of Q's existence--the idealist who is caught up in the same events: Luther's sermons, the rise and fall of Thomas Muntzer, the disastrous People's Republic of Munster.

Parallels are being struck all over the place with radicalism in the 20th century--part of what makes Gert a memorable voice is a combination of zeal, pragmatism and survival instinct that keeps him one step ahead of the Inquisitors for 30 years and enables him to, for example, do serious damage to the Holy Roman Emperor's favourite bankers. In the end, Gert and Q are left with more in common than the past they share--the rules are changing and the board is being cleared, and there is time for one last crucial intervention... This is ingeniously plotted, and full of vividly realised scenes of 16th century life; if it has a fault, it is that we live through every day of three tumultuous decades, every sermon and theological treatise, in exhausting detail. --Roz Kaveney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"It bracingly reanimates an era of frenzy that longed to burn the world clean" (The Guardian)

"The mud and blood, visions and ideals of 16th-century Europe come back to gruesome, glorious life" (The Independent)

"Big and bloody and breathtaking: a crush of colour and crowds, exotic locations and war." (The Times)

"Imagine Umberto Eco's knack for the swashbuckling thriller-of-ideas crossed with an artful touch of the Le Carr's - it boasts pace, colour, excitement and suspense to spare- Q works like a charm as a sordid, splendid period romp." (Independent)

"If ever there was a novel that deserved to win prizes, accolades and plaudits, it is Q - A rich, inventive and immensely powerful book - Q is a great novel, one that tells us about ourselves and how we came to be here." (Scotland on Sunday)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Ashen Glow on 8 Aug. 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a history teacher fascinated by the European Reformation, I looked forward to combining business with pleasure over my summer holiday. I have always enjoyed the way in which historical fiction, from Rosemary Sutcliff to Umberto Eco, stimulates both the imagination and the intellect. The writers of Q have achieved more still: parallels with the modern world bring sixteenth century radicalism explosively to life - secret print shops instead of the internet, the Holy Office rather than the "security" services and the interference of politicians familiar in all ages. Only once is the writers' agenda on the censorship of ideas clumsily invoked ("...who knows, they might one day abolish [the Index of censored books] altogether...").
I am unsure how a reader without knowledge of the 40 years after Luther's protest in 1517 would sustain their interest in the complexities of the text. I hope that the book won't be merely for the historically initiated, but I fear that it will. The authors certainly do themselves no favours by the layout: an unnecessarily spread out 600 plus pages make the book more daunting than it should be. The opening too is off-putting, jumping about pointlessly from one early event to another. However, by the time the narrative settled down into a more straightforward format in Part Two, I was hooked.
The horrors and disappointments of the Kingdom of Munster in the 1530s are brilliantly, even cinematically, depicted as the central narrator, a man of many names, sees his dream of a communal society (as they often do) descend into mayhem and carnage reminiscent of the end of Apocalypse Now.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Depressaholic on 11 Mar. 2006
Format: Hardcover
Given the subject matter and nationality of the authors, it is almost impossible not to compare ‘Q’ with the work of one of my favourite authors, Umberto Eco. Reading Eco has given me a taste for historical fiction whilst seemingly rendering almost everything else in the genre trivial. At last, in ‘Q’ I have read something to rival Eco in historical detail and (almost) richness of ideas. ‘Q’ is historical fiction at its very best, and a thoroughly enjoyable read.
‘Q’ is set against the backdrop of the religious upheavals taking place in central Europe during the sixteenth century. Martin Luther has denounced the Catholic church, and a multitude of preachers and prophets have arisen, each spreading the message about his own version of the new religion. The main character, Lot (actually just one of many names he has in the book), is infused with the fervour of the times, and joins several of these groups (Thomas Muntzer in Frankenhausen, Jan Matthys in Munster, anabaptists in Holland, smugglers of heretical religious books in Venice), witnessing at first hand their bloody struggles and violent suppression by the combined forces of Catholicism and the new orthodoxy of Lutheranism. Lot’s hope for a world in which religion is delivered to the people is repeatedly dashed by its manipulation as a tool of power by the rulers in Rome and Germany. Lot eventually begins to see a shadowy hand behind his repeated defeats, a spy disseminating false information within the groups and reporting their activity to others outside them. Wherever Lot goes in Europe, he finds his actions hampered by this mysterious man, known to him only as Qoelet, or Q.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Oldbiker on 17 July 2008
Format: Paperback
As others have said this book does take a bit of effort to get into but having grown lazy on a diet of contemporary Crime Thrillers I was looking for something to stretch my mind a little more.Unlike others I'm no fan of Umberto Eco and ironically,given the comments of others about "Blisset's" book,"Name Of The Rose" is one of the few books I've failed to finish once I'd started it.Foucault's Pendulum was better but for the ridiculous ending.
I'm not a "history geek" as another reviewer put it but I am interested in history and learned a lot about the Reformation in Europe,the various plots,alliances and most of all the desperate power struggles and suppression of radical thought.Yes the authors were sending a message but I found it thought-provoking rather than an imposition.I had no trouble at all keeping up with the various characters and various threads of the story but I can understand why someone without a real interest in the historical events around the story would just as quickly lose interest in the book.I guessed who "Q" was with a good 100 pages to go as I suspect most who read it will.After that it petered out to a degree and the ending seemed drawn out and not a little ludicrous,the book is co-authored by 4 people and the latter part of the book shows why possibly 3 might have been a better idea,more Wilbur Smith than Umberto Eco.On the whole I enjoyed it but the ending came very close to spoiling what had been a good read....a bit like Foucault's Pendulum really.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Martin D Graham on 7 July 2003
Format: Hardcover
I admit Q does present a bit of challenge at first, especially if (like me) you have limited knowledge of the history of Renaissance Europe. But for the reader with an open mind and who's willing to learn, this novel is an embarrassment of riches with cracking prose a fast pace and (believe it or not Olly) a great plot. It took a while for me to get my head round the story but come on - it's more Umberto Eco than James Joyce! The only reason it was confusing is because of my lack of basic historical knowledge, but the picture is fairly clear after the first 100 pages or so.
Perhaps part of the problem is that in Britain our only knowledge of Renaissance history is Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Little are we told (either in school or in the history prgrammes that now swamp the TV schedules) that, prior to Napoleon, British history is if anything a sideshow to the main event in Europe and often not even that.
This is a huge, sweeping epic of a novel that explores, among other things, the religious fervour which swept the continent in the decades after Luther's Protest, the brutality of the Inquisition, the in-fighting that gave rise to a separate Protestant church, the nature of class struggle and revolution, the rise of mercantilism and the manner in which politics was practised in a pre-democratic era. All this and more is weaved into the fabric of a gripping plotline and is told in a narrative style that brings alive the sights, sounds and smells of a continent dragging itself out of the Middle Ages.
Read on Olly, you've missed one of this year's best publications!
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