Friday, May 14, 2010

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

wow. wow. wow. wow. Kay does not disappoint. well he has. in the past. but definitely not this time. wow. not this time at all. i just finished Under Heaven a few minutes ago. wow. he is back in fine form! fine form indeed!! sigh :))))) ..... sooo good!!

he is such an amazing writer! simply fucking amazing!!! i find myself rereading sentences. catching my breath as i read them the first time, a spike of emotion felt inside. some sentences are simply beautiful, or shocking, or even acutely insightful. and you feel floored. by their beauty, by their revelation, by their insight. wow.

and then the story. the great, intricately spun story he creates. spun. yes spun. i’ve heard that word used in conjunction with story writing and have dismissed it as literary affectation. but he truly spins and weaves (his website is accurately named!!) the most elaborate and detailed, and yes, even delicate of stories. so many interconnections, so many pleasant surprises, so many nuances.

and since he bases his stories on key historical periods, he performs massive amounts of research prior to writing. and i’ve noticed in this book especially, but also in the Sarantine Mosaic, he has formed some opinions and understanding of how history is recorded, which he oh-so-cleverly discusses within his novels as beautiful asides.

this time it was 8th century Tang Dynasty China, “shifted a quarter-turn to become [Kay’s] Kitai” to quote a Globe and Mail reviewer who so accurately described Kay’s way of creating settings. you can read more about the plot there. i’m not here to summarize but to fawn over Kay’s gloriousness!!! hahaha! :))))))

i wasn’t sure how keen and excited i was about his new book. Ysabel was great, but not Kay-level great. The Last Light of the Sun was also a bit disappointing. neither were like Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan, The Sarantine Mosaic or A Song for Arbonne. those are simply masterpieces. god that word is not enough to describe them!! they are the equivalent of the seven wonders of the world when it comes to books!! they have the beauty and complexity of humanity’s most treasured creations!!!

so i approached this book with some wariness, but after talking with a friend and fellow Kay fanatic we both agreed pretty soon into the book that this was IT. this one was back to greatness! greatness!!! yay!! sigh. :))))))

ach. what else is there to say. i find myself gazing at the book with fondness as it sits here beside me. absently stroking it with my finger tips. yeah it is THAT good!!!

something else i realized as i was reading this book. i am absolutely, positively fascinated by the complexities of human interactions that occur in court intrigue!! i dont know if we have anything equivalent today in our governments, but i think not. historical courts had a subtlety we are lacking today, maybe for the better that we do. but i am completely fascinated by that and love reading about it!!! Kay offers it up beautifully but so does Jacqueline Carey in her Kushiel series, and so does one of my favourite books, Illusion by Paula Volsky. oh... also just watched a great movie that shows that intricacy as well. it’s called Curse of the Golden Flower and it’s a chinese/hong kong production with Chow Yun-fat in it, and is inspired by Tang Dynasty China (yea... i watched it coz of Under Heaven!! haha!) altho from what i read, not quite historical, more fictional. but it totally portrayed the complexities and secrets of court life!! Gong Li as the empress was fantastic!!

i guess the final, most specific thing i’ll say, which almost all his books have.... that climactic, utterly heart-wrenching moment. a truly, truly heart-wrenching moment. he does this so well. something tragic happens to a character you know, respect, maybe even love. and you are of course devastated. but its not simple sadness you’re feeling? its... hmmm... world-changing. you can’t help but see what this means for that world. what it means to you as part of that world oh-so-temporarily. the impacts that tragedy will have, both negative and positive. and yet the inevitability of it as well in some ways. and even the acceptance of it at times. and so it all comes into this embroiled mess of emotions you feel, the profound sadness, the shock, the realization of what it means, and of how it came to be. and you are sad yet calm somehow. and sit there in simple awe.

[ ps. i’m gonna add a link on the top there to some of my past Guy Gavriel Kay raves!! :))) ]


Anonymous said...

LK, you are so right. Kay is a king among authors. I haven't read Last Light yet, but everything I've heard so far has led me to believe that it's a masterpiece!

Lady Knight said...

glad you agree Kay is king!! :)))) and do you mean you havent read Last Light of the Sun? coz altho good it wasnt Kay-level great i'd say? but this latest one... damn!!!! it is good!! :P

Kelly said...

Ida, I agree 100% with you! ;) Especially about how he always has this amazing climactic moment in his books, a part where you're blown away by the complexity of emotions that you're feeling while reading it. I just wish he could write faster! I want more!!! :)

Lady Knight said...

yea exactly!!!! good description!!! his climactic moments kill you with the complexity of emotion!! altho maybe we should be glad he doesnt write more :) coz i really think quality would drop? i've read too many prolific authors that either sucked or hmm... jacqueline carey i'm reading right now... altho still awesome writing, the plot has become a bit generic? not the specifics but the general arc. so i will just re-read Kay's books over and over again! haha!

Shayne said...

Sorry I'm so late in replying, I finally got around to reading Under Heaven about a month ago and absolutely loved it - it is definitely up there with Tigana as one of GGK's best. I also agree that court intrigue is fascinating and also had to re-watch Curse of the Golden Flower after finishing Under Heaven.
I found that a lot of Under Heaven had a lyrical quality to the writing, and that even when he wasn't repeating the poems that characters were speaking or writing, that the way he wrote, some of the passages were poetic in nature, they flowed so well and were so vivid in terms of the picture they gave you. It was just incredible.

Lady Knight said...

omg i'm super glad you're replying even late! coz i love discussing the book and hearing others thoughts!!! :)))) so yeah eh... defn an amazing one eh!? sigh. :) and thats soooo cool you find court intrigue fascinating too! and glad you've seen Curse of the Golden Flower too! yay! .... and great description/point... there was a lyrical/poetic/flowing quality to the writing! i couldnt find those words to describe it but i defn felt it!!! ahhh... sooo good.... :))))