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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Shaman: A novel of the Ice Age
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on 17 February 2014
Having made his mark in science fiction Robinson is now writing historical fiction. I have read Galileo's Dream before, which i really enjoyed, so was looking forward to this one.

This story is set in Palaeolithic times, when the glaciers set the northern boundary and is centred around a character called Loon, a 12 year old, learning to be a Shaman, and his small tribe of twenty of so people. At the very beginning he is set off on his 'wander' where he is released naked and has to rely on his training an intuition to survive for a number of days; part of the training of becoming a Shaman. He survives, and his training progresses.

At a meeting of tribes he meets with girl, who returns with him to his tribe where they marry. At the next gathering she is snatched back by her tribe and Loon follows. He is captured and is taken back to be used sa a slave. His mentor Thorn decides to try a rescue of Loon and Hega from the tribe.

Overall the story isn't too bad. It has reasonably well formed characters and moderate plot development. Robinson manages to convey really well just how tough it was for humans then, and just how close to starvation that they were on a regular basis. Where the book failed for me was the dialogue. Whilst humans have been capable of complex communication for thousands of years it seems like the dialogue was from the middle ages at times. Closer to 2.5 stars; and didn't take long to read.
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on 18 January 2014
I was prompted to read this by a glowing review in a national newspaper, and while I did enjoy it up to a point, I was not entirely convinced by the picture of Ice Age Europe that Robinson describes. For a start, he hasn't got his fauna quite right - there have never been racoons in Europe - and although I liked the portrayal of the tribe and their daily struggle for survival, there were things that didn't quite ring true. For instance, I don't think the small children would have been parked in a 'nursery school' playing in the sand - they'd have been out there with their parents, learning the vital lessons essential to a hunter gatherer society. And some of the characters' attitudes seemed more 21st century American than Paleolithic. I think Michelle Paver's 'Wolf Brother' series, although written for older children rather than adults, gives a much more convincing depiction, or try the graphic novel 'Mezolith', which is both accurate and beautiful.
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on 3 August 2017
I've read a few Kim Stanley Robinson books and whilst I like them I usually find there are sections which drag a little. I was gripped throughout Shaman and its one of those books you could be up all night reading. Perhaps not the most thought provoking book, which isn't too say its shallow, but it is a great narrative.
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on 2 June 2017
The author obviously knows nothing about shamanism what so ever - adolescent nonsense.
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on 1 April 2015
One of the greatest achievements of human curiosity is out search to understand a past that left no history, no written documents and very few artefacts. It's impressive enough when archaeologists scrape away the layers of dirt to reveal ancient tombs, bones and broken pottery and it is even more impressive when the scientists move in and date these objects. Little by little an image is created of what life was like back way back when. We are, of course, really lucky; in caves we find those fabulous paintings, so lifelike and full of life. We might not understand why they were created but we can conclude that these men of the past were just like us... and not like us. And that's what Kim Stanley Robinson gives us with "Shaman" - an image of people just like us but not like us living way back when ice and snow dominated. And what an image!
We start off by following the initiation wander of our hero Loon, abandoned, naked, even without the basic means of survival, in the cold lands. We share the hardship, adventure and fears of this experience. We shiver and hunger and our hearts race in this alien yet familiar world. I fell in love with the book at this point. I felt it became a little episodic (still good but not enough meat there to get one's teeth into) after Loon returns to his tribe and continues his training as a Shaman under the hard but likeable Thorn, but what we really get is a series of snapshots setting the stage, showing us what normality looks like. We watch Loon fall in love with Elga at the eight eight meet and share in the excitement and stressful adventure that follows later. Robinson manages to evoke the cold, fear and hunger, the wonder, even, of a world that is as familiar to its denizens as our own, yet despite that familiarity remains dangerous - these people are living on the edge of hunger and starvation so much of the time. I loved this book because of the way it enabled me to enter that ancient past, to share a moment with our unknown ancestors and appreciate what giants they were.
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on 6 November 2016
I’m really in two minds about this book. It’s obvious that the writing is skilled, in a technical sense. Indeed, it’s difficult to find fault with it. But I felt it was lacking from a story-telling point of view.

First thing’s first, there were some minor irritations. Names for animals and objects were sometimes completely made up, with no explanation of what they were, and even Google failing to elucidate the matter – what is an “elg” anyway? Another really weird thing is that the author used dashes to indicate dialogue, not quotation marks, which made the difference between dialogue and narrative actually very confusing consistently throughout the book and was not a good technical choice at all. I was hoping that some of this would be clarified in an author’s note at the end elucidating certain authorial choices and discussing the historical evidence that inspired the story, but there wasn’t one.

So let me turn to the story. I was quite interested and engaged during the first section of the story, where Loon is sent out to wander the wilderness alone as some sort of coming of age rite. There was survival action aplenty, and because he was totally alone and the environs were against him, it made for pretty tense and gripping stuff. However, I felt that it lost steam after that. Loon and his pack go about their lives as normal, and whilst interesting from a background and setting point of view, I’m wondering when the plot will show up. Then, around the three-quarters mark, it does so. Okay, so I was pleased that the plot finally showed up, but I wasn’t exactly excited by it. The chase survival plot is very well-worn in the Stone Age fiction genre. Savage Eden did it, The Uprights did it, and much more high profile films Quest for Fire and 10,000 BC did it. I could have got on board with it, if I cared about the characters. But I didn’t. The secondary characters felt barely sketched to me, and as for Loon, I just had no sense of his struggles and his fears, his hopes and dreams, his relatable thoughts, to feel close to him in any way. I just didn’t feel compelled to root for him. I felt disappointingly detached the whole way through.

And that pretty much sums up my thoughts on the book. It wasn’t that it was bad – although there were a couple of irritating niggles – I just felt disengaged because there didn’t seem to be much of a plot for long stretches, and when it did show up it was a trope and one in which I had no real incentive to care about the characters. I just felt disconnected from most of the book.
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on 2 October 2013
This chilling novel combines science fiction, speculative fiction and historical genres for an altogether unique read. Kim S Robinson's awe-inspiring vision on how we lived thirty thousand years ago is simply breathtaking, and might I add most accurate too. I am fascinated with the natural world and the beauty of Earth's wonders and landscape, including animal/ plant habitats and history of life. This book presents an incredible insight into our past like never before, told in such a compelling and readable way that you are transported right back in time. The bleak, harsh environment sent shivers running down my spine as I could clearly envisage what it must have been like during an Ice Age. The wonders of prehistoric Earth are astonishing, (which I have also explored in other non-fiction history books and works by Sir David Attenborough).

Shaman is a coming-of-age story about `Loon' (a Shaman's apprentice) during the Ice Age. Within this desolate winter land, Kim S Robinson explores what it really was like to survive in a terrible world filled with dangerous life and Neanderthals. Reading this book was a truly unforgettable experience, as vivid and captivating as if I was watching a TV BBC documentary about Planet Earth. How the author interprets the lives of his characters from the past is engaging, and it is obvious how much lengthy research has gone into this novel.

I would highly recommend this novel to not only readers of speculative fiction, but to readers of all genre, as it is written so as to reach out to a wide-readership and all kinds of taste. Deeply mesmerizing, intense and brimming full of rich detail this is a story to remember and one that I wont be forgetting in a hurry! In essence Shaman enlightens readers about our origins and the foundations of life itself, by professing how tough and hard it was to survive all those years ago. This is a book like you have never seen before and so I urge you to grab a copy and take that leap back in time...

*I won a hardback copy of Kim Stanley Robinson's novel "Shaman" through a Goodreads, first-read giveaway*

(I would like to thank the publishers Orbit and the author).
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on 4 June 2016
Great book. By stripping away everything familiar to our modern lives and pulling in to the level of individuals in a wilderness, the book manages to focus on what it is to be human and on the core concerns of life, most of which we all still face. OK, how to avoid being killed by Neanderthals is not a day to day concern of mine, but love, sex, family, life purpose, loyalty, are all here and they stand out in a kind of clean crisp relief in this 'primitive' world. But also addressed, and indeed for me the abiding themes, are the things we consider perhaps distinctly human - story telling, ritual, tradition, a grasping for spiritual understanding. What comes across very powerfully is how critical these things are to life and to being human.
Quick tip: after you have read the book, take a look online at pictures of the real Paleolithic cave paintings at Chauvet in France.
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on 1 December 2013
A fine tale of life in Ice Age Europe, evocative writing and good character development, humour, excitement, and adventure. But... raccoons? Blue jays? Muskrats? Hummingbirds etc? Oh dear. I found the poor research very jarring occasionally, so one star off for that.
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on 1 April 2014
I was drawn into this book right away and found it gripping throughout. The characters are memorable and there are wonderful scenes that will stay with me. Kim Stanley Robinson has done his homework - the cave paintings in the last chapter are real ones, in the Chauvet cave in France. They've been carbon-dated to 30,000-32,000 BCE. I love his imagining of how they were created. The book sparked my interest in the animal life in Europe back then and I found a 2006 study of interactions between the last Neanderthals and early modern humans in Swabia, Germany. The animals listed include brown and arctic hare, marmot, wolf, red and arctic fox, cave bear, cave lion, lynx, polecat, marten, hyena, mammoth, wild horse, woolly rhino, giant deer, roe deer, red deer, reindeer, bison, ibex and chamois.
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