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The Fecund's Melancholy Daughter Paperback – 31 May 2011
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Top customer reviews
The once great city of Nowy Solum is slowly decaying from the inside out. After the Gods deserted the city, the citizens of Nowy Solum took to a new, more bitter and self-involved way of life. Within the confines of her great castle, the city's chatelaine spends her days and nights partaking in drunken orgies. Her father, the castellan, having been moved to the castle's dungeons long ago, now spends his time dissecting and modifying the local creatures for what could only be a questionable goal.
Outside the walls of the castle the people are made up of mostly poor and hardworking folk, as well as a large proportion of kholics, whose outcast status has led them to performing the most hideous and unwanted of jobs. For they are not like the hemos. Instead their blood is as black as coal, and their faces heavily tattoo from soon after birth.
When the chatelaine spots a beautiful kholic girl with her twin brother, she is instantly besotted by the kholic girl's unquestionable beauty. Taking the girl - Octavia - away, the chatelaine dotes heaviy on her; slowly but surely working on a new forbidden relationship. But her twin Nahid won't let his sister be simply snapped up just like that. Not even if it was by the chatelaine herself. Together with his hemo girlfriend, Name of the Sun, they succeed in a drug-induced revenge by removing one of the chatelaine's prized pets from her chamber - her cherub.
With the chatelaine's life quickly falling apart, news of a giant God making its way to the city gates is yet further misery to be bundled upon her. And sightings of the three women Gods (bless them) flying over the city is bringing its limited days to a final point. Finally, a limbless child by the name of path makes his way to the city in a sling over his father's shoulder. A child whose destiny is etched in the city's final days.
Gods will do battle. The heavens are open. The mighty will undoubtedly fall. Debauchery and corruption are losing their stangelehold on the once great Nowy Solum. And in the depths of the castle's dungeons, the great monster known as the Fecund is labouring over more life. There may be no hope left in the world. Only time will tell...
Hayward's tale launches head-first into the puzzling dark fantasy world that he has so intrinsically created here. Like a Salvador Dalí masterpiece transposed into words; the re-jigged and imaginatively formed world draws vague similarities to some of our own by-gone eras. The city of Nowy Solum echoes of the early life of cities such as Edinburgh - with its manic and grimy streets, a vast underbelly which is home to the poorer from its society, and ultimately the cramped, oppressive and claustrophobic nature of the city's construction. Indeed, the world that Hayward has elaborately created is not too dissimilar in feel and essence from that of Stephen King's epic fantasy world of the 'Dark Tower' series.
For the novel's construction, Hayward plays with a whole host of seemingly chaotic threads of storyline; intertwining, overlapping and masterfully dancing them around each other. Ultimately, these threads and subplots will of course converge into one. However, along the way, the reader is thrust about this haphazard and dauntingly surreal storyline with almost reckless abandonment.
Barley a page goes by without the reader having to decipher and ponder upon the novel's contents and its current direction. The great strength and clinging enjoyment of the tale is in its puzzling and wildly elaborate nature. Hayward's imagination is truly let loose throughout the length of the tale. The result is a living, breathing, and constantly shifting story that alternates between its many threads, mesmerising the reader with the constant outlandish acceptance of its own dreamlike premise.
Characterisation is staggered and more suggestive than carefully developed. This doesn't underplay the progression or involvement of the story in any way, but instead, leaves the reader to fill in the gaps and play around with the mystery of the characters to a larger extent.
The creation of the so-called 'Gods' is a magnificent jest on religion and a clever social commentary on the misguided conception of the idols man (hemos in this case) establishes, and the whole madness behind the tradition of worship. Intentional or not, the smugness behind the reality of the Gods is certainly well deserved.
The ending is as manically chaotic as the rest of the novel had been. The tale finales quite spectacularly in its own way; although there are a few loose threads that seem to have been swept aside to make way for the more dramatic and audacious storyline to come to its final fruition.
The novel runs for a total of 244 pages.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
If you haven't already, check out his previous tome, Filaria. Wonderful, interesting, well-written material. It stays with you, which is what one wants in a novel.
My reading habits seem to be evolving. Again. I'm veering away from most fantasy and immersing myself more in science fiction. I'm increasingly restless, requiring books that command my full attention. I've become quite the masochistic reader-- reveling in narratives that make my brain hurt, expanding it beyond familiar and comfortable limits. Perhaps the brain is like the stomach, increasing brain food intake results in a gain in brain capacity.
Like FILARIA, this tale exists in a multilevel world, functioning independently but ultimately interconnected. The perceived gods reside beyond the clouds and have not made an appearance for many years. The tree dwellers reside above the clouds, thinking the worst of whatever exists below. The city of Nowy Solum is a world beneath the clouds. The narrative shifts back and forth between levels through key residents. There are also a few time shifts.
Nowy Solum is ruled by the chatelaine, though she really has little interest in ruling and more zeal for the pursuit of debauched pleasures. She rules only because her father passed on the responsibility preferring, instead, isolation and freedom to conduct his atrocious experiments. Nowy Solum society is divided between the red-blooded hemos and the black-blooded kholics, the latter group tattooed at birth, ostracized and relegated to perform the dirtiest, menial tasks, a type of untouchables. Nahid and Octavia are noteworthy kholics, not entirely suited for their station in life but victims of it nonetheless.
Path is severely disabled, incapable of most simple tasks, until a vision caused him to start evolving into something new and urged him to leave everything familiar, ending in Nowy Solum with little left of who he was.
The people of the tree settlement are faithful people, with established rituals and strict rules for living. Padre hornblower is a man of stature, a religious elder chosen by one of his gods for an impossible task. Pan Renik was exiled by the tree dwellers, forced to scrounge a meager existence, forever lamenting his misfortunes, until the day an opportunity literally landed in front of him. His spontaneous action sets events in motion that will change not just his corner of the world.
The gods who have not been seen for many years and consequently reduced to mythological figures are suddenly making their presence felt, heralding their likely reappearance. They may just give the people a glimpse of their true nature.
There is so much eloquence in this book. I constantly had to resist highlighting or I'd have ended up with more highlighted text than not. There is a lyrical quality to the way Brent Hayward describes places and time and thought processes. He is a poet, a philosopher, a sophist.
I won't pretend this is an easy book to read, a book you can speed through or skim. Even reading carefully, I often had to pause to discern and digest what I just read. This science fiction offering with definite fantasy and new weird elements deals with social inequality, discrimination, the excesses of the powerful, the whims of the gods, the deification of the unfamiliar, the dangers of divining the desires of gods. It explores identity, how people are often defined by the gratuitous nature of birth and how it limits the possibility of self-determination. Some boundaries are more fluid than others. Some actions really do reverberate throughout existence.
I appreciate how Hayward uncompromisingly writes the book he wants to write. He creates his own comprehensive mythology. I cannot imagine he's unaware of the challenging nature of his books. It likely makes them less accessible but also more rewarding the moment the blueprint he has carefully laid out for you becomes visible. He is a reserved storyteller, withholding the nexus until the very last moment. He jumps back and forth between settings and characters with unwavering trust in your ability to keep abreast. Each thread of the story is unique and fascinating though seemingly disparate and unconnected. When all the moving parts have been independently introduced, Hayward assembles them into a cohesive, fully functioning mechanism.
I cannot deny the masterful writing. It didn't, however, have the emotional impact of FILARIA. For the most part, I admired the story as if from a distance, an almost sterilized or clinical appreciation. Right about the sixty percent mark though, I started to feel more of an emotional connection to the characters, engendering sympathy. There was a revelation that sparked emotional involvement. The ending had a poignant finality but it also left much room to ponder the future of the characters as well as their world. The weighty societal issues and matters of faith that permeate this story are certainly conducive to further reflection.
Considering the foregoing, there really isn't much more anyone can demand from a story. I am looking forward to the next challenging Brent Hayward book. My brain needs to recover in the meantime.
"Forever ajar, hinges crusted with buboes of rust, wood gone soft and black and pulpy, the door was a swollen affair. Dank vegetation from inside the cell spilled out through the narrow opening and, in many places, through the rotten wood itself, to die there, in the unlit corridor."
It's full of the sort of moody melancholy that accompanies stories of moral rot and dessication, where despair is echoed by a sky that never clears and a sun that is a fable, never seen. The untouchable kholics and the red-blooded hemes of the city of Nowy Solum, and their the old gods-actually human-derived starship brains driven mad by the transition to metal bodies-are about to clash and change the world. This is a science fiction tale told mostly as fable. Once a high tech world falls, what is tech? If any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, then perhaps the fall of such a civilization's ashes can be told as a fable of gods, fading into legends that the human heart often falls for.
The entire book is a fever dream of a corrupt society on the very brink of a needed collapse that never quite comes. The "gods" come instead, fight their petty wars, and leave things more broken than they found them. Except...now there is a break in the clouds, clouds that were a byproduct of of their madness.
Therein lies the appeal, I think. Like Hayward's debut, Filaria, this is ground-breakingly odd fiction that challenges the intellect and distills images in the mind's eye so indelibly that it's nearly a shock to enter the waking world again.
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