Friday, May 13, 2005

Another point for Mr. Card

A book showed up on hold for me here at work last week. It's by a German writer named Andreas Eschbach and it's called "The Carpet Makers." When I saw it on my desk I had no idea why I had put this book on hold. Then I saw the foreword. It was written by Orson Scott Card. Aha! I thought, it's all coming together. Ever since Card recommended "Wildseed" by Octavia Butler in his book "How to Write Fantasy and Science Fiction" I have been inclined to view his book recommendations as reliable. (By the way he mentioned Butler's novel in his book because he considered it to have one of the best openings of any SF book he had read.) I must have read on Card's webpage that he had written the foreword for the book and placed it on hold a while back.

This book starts out describing a planet whose whole society is based on the creating of hair carpets. A single carpet is the life work of a carpet maker. A carpet is assembled by hand and the hair that makes up a carpet comes from the heads of a carpet maker's wives and daughters. Caravans come through town annually and huge prices are paid for carpets. The caravans take the carpets to a spaceport which then transports the carpets to palace of the emperor. It turns out that this planet-wide society created by Eschbach is just the beginning of the story. It starts on this backward medieval planet recovering from a deluge and spans out to encompass a mystery surrounding a fallen imperial emperor and the revenge of his predecessor. It seems that Eschbach asked himself this question when he started the book: What could someone do with unlimited power and wealth if his desire for revenge was also unbounded? Heck, it even shows how culture is arbitrary and how what you believe to the core of your soul to be real can be as false as believing that a man lives in the sky and watches over you. This book is a great example of how great science fiction is far more than hairy-assed wookies and laser guns. Great SF, like all great fiction is about us. I think Octavia Butler said that once.

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