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Pavane (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 9 Nov 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (9 Nov. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857989376
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857989373
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 186,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Book Description

The definitive alternate history - an engrossing future that never was.

About the Author

Keith Roberts (1935-2000) Keith Roberts was an English author and illustrator, who did more than most to define the look of UK Science fiction magazines in the sixties. He won four BFSA awards for his writing and his art, and edited the magazine Science Fantasy (later Impulse) for a time. He was also nominated for Hugo, Nebula (twice) and Arthur C. Clarke awards. He is perhaps best known for his seminal alternative history novel, Pavane, praised by George R. R. Martin: 'No alternate history novel of the past thirty years comes close to equalling Pavane'.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I can really only echo the sentiments of the other five-star reviews here. This is simply a beautiful work; another gem from Gollancz' Masterworks series, although one which reads more like fantasy or historical fiction than SF.
The novel is told through a series of six 'Measures', vignettes of story and mood focusing on a different character each time. While each works separately, taken together they form a tapestry linking thematic and narrative concerns - producing, ultimately, a beautifully-conceived and wonderfully effective tale of twentieth century England stifled by an all-powerful, anti-progress Catholic Church.
The alternate England is a triumph of understated, economical world-building (something that many of today's fantasy novels could learn from, perhaps). It is filled with enduring images - the Signallers' towers, the steam engines, the land held in winter's icy grasp - made all the more striking and memorable because we are shown them through the eyes of convincing and distinctive characters.
My only criticism would be of the 'Coda', which feels superfluous, and far too neat. Otherwise, this is a moving story of a transforming world, all the more effective for being incompletely explained.
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Format: Paperback
Alternate history novels are sometimes regarded as a sub-genre of science fiction, but in some respects this book is the exact opposite of a work of sci-fi. Science fiction is normally set in an imagined hi-tech future, whereas "Pavane", like Kingsley Amis's "The Alteration" or Ward Moore's "Bring the Jubilee" is set in an imagined alternative low-tech present, less technologically advanced than our own society. It would, of course, be quite possible to write about a high-tech alternative present, based on some such premise as "If the Roman Empire had survived we would today be colonising the planets", but this is less often done. If one wants to write fiction about the colonisation of outer space it is easier to do so within the framework of orthodox science fiction and to set one's story in, say, 2511 rather than in an alternative 2011.

Keith Roberts's alternative world has many similarities with that imagined by Amis in "The Alteration". Roberts's point of departure occurs in 1588; Queen Elizabeth I is assassinated, resulting in a civil war and a successful invasion of England by the Spanish Armada. Protestantism is eventually destroyed, both in Britain and in Europe, and the Roman Catholic Church rules supreme over Western Christendom, including the European colonies in the New World. "The Alteration" also deals with a world where a reactionary, intolerant Catholicism has triumphed in Europe, although in Amis's world Protestantism still survives across the Atlantic in the "Republic of New England".

In the world of "Pavane", England remains a semi-feudal society, dominated by the Church and a powerful aristocracy.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really don't understand why this book got such rave reviews as THE alternate history novel. It isn’t really even science fiction. I really tried to get into it but I couldn't even finish the first chapter, about a haulier driving a steam road train through a 20th century mediaeval England which apart from a few details could have been a trucker driving through any primitive country. Sorry, I sent it back.
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Format: Paperback
Just wanted to encourage anyone thinking of buying this book to definitely get it! I've been reading my way through the S.F. Masterworks collection and this is one of the best I've read so far.

Roberts writes vivid, descriptive prose, with a poetic and almost romantic sensibility which many sci-fi writers should take note from. This book is wonderfully controlled, and its measures were paced beautifully, leaving me racing through the book whilst actuallly trying to hold myself back to appreciate at greater length the quality of Roberts' writing. The characters are full of life, yet are situated within a larger social context upon which their actions cause progressively greater ripples of disruption. One of the things I love about sci-fi is that good sci-fi novels so often comment upon the interaction between individuals and socio-cultural contexts on a huge scale, whether global, inter-planetary or truly cosmic in their scope (I definitely suggest reading Olaf Stapledon for the latter). The freedom that sci-fi gives its authors means that some really interesting and progressive ideas can be discussed and logically worked out to provide the reader with a really intriguing thought experiment.

Pavane fits that mould to some extent, but crucially never loses its interest in the concerns of the individual; concepts are fully worked out but never become overly sober or dominant because the prose is so passionately evocative. Whilst Pavane is a novel of revolution, the conflicts between religion, state and individual are never wrongly simplified, and the book left me wondering about what it really meant for some time afterwards.

My only complaint is that I wouldn't mind the book being longer, I would have happily read it for ages.
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