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Middlemarch: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Reviews and Criticism (A Norton Critical Edition)
Bert G. Hornback, George Eliot
The Magic Mountain
Thomas Mann, John E. Woods
Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel García Márquez
Hyperion - Dan Simmons Framed narratives while on pilgrimage to religious site suggestive of [b:The Canterbury Tales|2696|The Canterbury Tales|Geoffrey Chaucer|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1261208589s/2696.jpg|986234], but no real influence. Whereas Chaucer's pilgrims generally do not tell their own stories, the focus in Hyperion is the tale of the teller. The caveat, though, is that each teller's tale is intimately wrapped up with a tale of another: the priest must tell a second priest's story; a soldier, another soldier's; a poet, a patron; a teacher, his daughter; a PI, her lover; a diplomat, a rebel. So, the tales of others are passed along, but only to the extent that the persons embedded in the tellers' tales relate to the teller. The tales are furthermore focused on aspects of Hyperion and the object of the pilgrimage therein; that's not chaucerian, either. And of course there's no proto-bourgeois Hoost in this non-novel to guide the proceedings, nor is there much in the way of humorous infighting between the tellers via their tales (cf. the Summoner v. the Friar in Chaucer, say).

"Non-novel" because it really is a collection of six novelettes that overlap in various ways. Some of the tales are proficient (priest's, soldier's, detective's), and several are affirmatively annoying (consul's, poet's)--but the scholar's tale is very affecting (though I'm not sure if it's cheap sentimentalism or not). But that overlap doesn't make for a sustained narrative. Yeah, the setting gets developed, allowing one to piece together a lengthy political backstory, pushing toward a nasty conclusion.

Some tedious explorations of scifi technology (though it is very cool that one guy has a "home of thirty-eight rooms on thirty-six worlds" (196)). Pedestrian commentary on religion via the figure & church of the Shrike, which is actually not doing it for me, except when the scholar refers to it as the golem (298) which makes it more interesting than it otherwise happens to be. (Poet refers to it as the Frankenstein monster (223)--not seeing that, though the reference is explained.) The object of the pilgrimage is the Shrike's house, the "Time Tombs," a lackluster name, apparently referring to backward arrow of time at that point. Okay, then. Lotsa pointless references to poet Keats. Plenty of bad art theory (from the poet, mostly).

Nifty concept is "time-debt," arising out of travel at relativistic speeds--but the non-novel manifestly fails do anything with that concept other than use it to refer to the effect of everyone else aging while you stay the same.

Pleases me perversely to note that one character has vagina dentata (172). Also like that this story fits into my general thesis that if robots or AIs are part of the story (as opposed to merely being a component of the setting--a fine distinction), then the point of the story will eventually be a robot/AI rebellion.

Reveals that they blew it up, the maniacs, by not-at-all foolishly building a quantum singularity on Earth, and--surprise!--it got loose. Villains of the piece are loony spacemen and some surly computers. Overall, the non-tale framing portions account for about a less than a fifth of the book; that's not sufficient to drive the narrative forward, though there's plenty of generic setting development in there--so, when the pages run out, it's kinda difficult to see the point. Maybe that's cleared up in the sequel. Dunno.

Recommended for fans of dislinear plotting and non-contiguous prose, those involved in Post-Destructionist music theories, and Visigoths crouching on the ruins of Rome's faded glory.