Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Review: The Rebirth of Pan

And for my next IPST review, we're coming face to face with the writer who started the whole thing up as a response to writers who post materials to the web being called scabs, one Jo Walton. Specifically, it's the review of the full length novel The Rebirth of Pan. This novel had never been published - nor ever actually gotten into a state where it could probably be considered publishable. It's a mishmash of odd ideas and shatteredPOVs jumping back and forth from first person to third person omniscient. It jumps time and characters more or less random and I sat confused while reading the first half of the story. MS Word tells me that it clocked in at around 85K words, less thanScalzi's Agent to the Stars, yet it took me longer to finish reading this story. Mainly due to the confusing ideas and jumping POVs.

Yet for all of that, I found myself liking it.

This is a very character driven novel, and while there is a wide cast of characters - there's not exactly one that I can point to and say "that one is the protagonist." I guess you could say that there's a group of five characters or so that are the protagonist characters - but that doesn't quite explain the feeling I got while reading the story. Basically, it was a feeling that all the characters we got to see were.... well second string. They were the sidekicks rather than the hero - and I think that this might be an effect of the fact that we're not given aPOV to anchor ourselves to, and instead find ourselves awash in the confusion of the POV jumps.

Likewise, it's hard to find an overarching plot for the story. And this relates almost directly to the lack of a strong protagonist. After all, if you don't have a dedicated hero - how can he be on a quest? Of course hard to find is not the same as non-existent. The plot is dedicated to the rebirth of Pan - which is the only one of the Greek gods that was reported dead at the beginning of the Christian age. Pan was the god of herdsmen and the fields, and was often seen playing the panpipes.

Settings are myriad and diverse - ranging from a forgotten Irish home in the middle of a rainstorm to a boat in the middle of the Aegean Sea. Her writing in this regard is great.

Of course, where the story works best is its theme. From a philosophical standpoint I can't agree with the stances that Ms. Walton is taking here. Yet outside of that, she does raise an interesting scenario in the thought that every millennium or two the world has to be 'reborn' so to speak and that each of these rebirths are designed to teach humanity something important. For the record, what Jesus taught was compassion.

Overall, the book was not that good. It was choppy. It jumped around between characters and points-of-views.

Yet for all the problems that were inherent in it, I enjoyed the writing. While I can't quite recommend this story, I'm hoping to go get one of her other novels (I'm considering The Farthing, but if anyone else has a better suggestion, I'm open to it).

This gets a 0.7 out of 4.


Bill G said...

I wouldn't recommend beginning with Farthing if you want to experience Jo's novels. Not that Farthing isn't a good novel, it is, but because if it were the only novel of hers that I'd ever read I might not ever read anything else by her. It ends very sadly.

I'd recommend you either start with The King's Peace in which Jo does a beautiful job of reinventing the King Arthur story, or Tooth and Claw, her Victorian novel about proper Victorian dragons.

Stephen Wrighton said...

Bill G:
Thanks for the recommendations - regarding both Farthing and which ones to start with. Of the two, Tooth and Claw sounds more interesting. Unfortunately, it's not carried by Books-a-Million.

Ah, but fortunately, there's a copy at my public library. :)

Tom said...

Stephen, I think Jo writes beautifully. Anything of hers is worth the reading. I commend her wonderful poetry, along with her Arthurian duo.

You can't possibly go wrong, mate.

Stephen Wrighton said...

Tom - I could tell that just from The Rebirth of Pan. I went to the library today and picked up Tooth and Claw, I'll start reading that tomorrow.

Thanks for the recommendations and for stopping by.

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