Enjoyed the book. Good characters, interesting story line.
However it kind of fizzled out...almost like he was planning a series and then decided to wrap it all up in this one book instead.
reading a GGK novel is not unlike getting a new pet. the beginning may be a bit disorienting and alien which turns quickly into satisfying and compelling relationship , but ultimately must invariably lead to a sense of loss and sorrow as the book ends/the pet dies. You may get a new pet / read a new book but will never be able to return to the same world again.
In under heaven (as in other GGK books) the reader is thrust into an alien society (Tang- dynasty china is very alien to a 21st century westerner) but leaves the book looking into his own world through the eyes of the protagonist and wondering as to why things today are as they are.
I fear that the next book i will read will have a very (and possibly impossibly) high bar to clear. Make sure you have a non-fiction book in your library so that you will be able to clean you fiction taste buds after reading under heaven
I am so excited I picked up (or rather downloaded) this book! Sometimes I find that I am looking for something new — a new author, a new genre, or something just off the beaten path. This one certainly fit the bill — all the way round. This is one of those books that you start to read and just loose yourself in, forgetting the world around you. The story is both interesting, and unique — something that I didn’t feel like I had read it a thousand times before under different titles. And Kay really has a gift for character development and depth. Set in ancient China, this book is different all the way around, and well worth the read.
Under Heaven is a riveting and stunning novel evocative of life during the period of the Chinese Tang dynasty.
Kay weaves a magical tale of political intrigue, personal honour, and cultural structures peopled by characters the reader can really care about.
The novel deftly underlines the ages-long problems and inequities created by a patriarchal system that dishonours women.
An interweaving of the supernatural adds a touch of delight to a story that could almost be standard historical fiction.
Guy Gavriel Kay is an artist with words, painting an epic and gorgeous canvas of an ancient Asian-influenced landscape. His reference to the grasslands of the Steppes and the inclusion of the painted cave evokes mankind’s pre-history and will resonate with readers who have experienced Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series.
I will have to listen to this novel again and again, not only to enjoy the story but to enjoy the beautiful poetry of Kay’s language.
After believing that among his fiction he could reach no higher than Tigana, I must say he hit the mark again. GGK is a continuing pleasure.
I think this is one of the best books I have listened to. After finishing it the first time I immediately listened to it a second time, and know that I will listen to it again.
Under Heaven is tightly crafted and superbly written. The audio version is narrated with great skill by Simon Vance. He gives a lovely flavor of the pace and the poetry of Mr. Kay's story. If you enjoy a tale that will take you to another place and time you will enjoy this book. Mr. Kay's plot is like a large, complex and beautiful puzzle. As the last few pieces are placed the whole picture makes sense. Very, very satisfying!
This book sounded suspiciously like the writer was randomly making up the entire plot as he went along. Which is fine if it were a draft, but instead, what you have is hundreds of pages of him trying to figure out what's going to happen next and not being sure and in the meantime telling us the same things over and over.
Case in point: A) Scene in which something happens (which includes 1 part action and 9 parts endless discussion about the characters' thoughts and history--but not in a meaningful way (basically like reading a writer's notes as they try to figure out a backstory for their character...NOTES). B) Following...a scene in which people talk about the thing that just happened, telling you in detail about what happened as if you didn't just read what happened. C) Scene in which a character thinks about what happened (along with everything else that has happened up to this point) in great detail, as if we hadn't read up to this point. Pages and pages of stream-of-consciousness. (Information and more useless, repetitive information, as if the writer has forgotten that he's already written this stuff a bunch of times.) Oh yeah, and if there's a chance to randomly discuss a character's sexual history and preferences in silly, salacious romance novel detail (seriously, this is the second book I've heard by Kay, and he relishes repeating his cheesy, gratuitous sex scenes as if he's a female roro-writer who happens to also be chauvinistic). (Oh, and he also has a penchant for describing gruesome torture/violence in the same way. I'll spare you his favorite way to indicate that some individual or power is sadistic...the same thing happens to the person and their corpse...in more than one of his books, which take place in different thinly-veiled fictional countries. I'm not easily offended by violence, but I'm really put off by gimmicky, gratuitous indulgence, and that's how Kay writes about sadistic details.)
Anyway, 2/3 of the way through the book, very little has actually happened. There is plenty of potential in the story elements--if the writer actually had thought things out--but instead it stalls and stalls and languishes and languishes. I had to force myself to keep trying to listen, hoping it would get better. (And even though the narrator makes it more palatable than the book itself, I once fell asleep while listening, went back to hear what I'd missed...and found that I'd missed about 20 minutes of nothing.) I should mention that I generally liked the other book of Kay's that I 'read' (Tigana)--in spite of its similar writing flaws, it at least had a well-thought-out plot and well-thought-out characters, along with meaningful conflict. All of which are missing here. It's almost unbelievable that books like this are published unedited when they'd be ripped apart in a freshman creative writing class.
The sad thing is that in spite of potentially interesting elements, the book is just simply boring and meaningless. I tend to be a patient reader, and I have enjoyed many slow-paced books. That is, books with a deliberate pace that enhances the story. Not slow due to poor writing and a thin plot. A good editor would have made this writer cut out more than half of his bloated, repetitive, shallow details, and perhaps the story would have taken shape to the point that he could have crafted something compelling. Instead, he's convinced me to not waste time trying out any of his other books (and to believe other reviewers who have pointed these things out elsewhere). If you're not convinced by this warning, at least do yourself a favor and listen to the sample here. See if it compels you, and keep in mind that this opening exposition goes on and on and on before anything happens. You will be told about this and that for ages before any character is allowed to do anything. I should also note that the reason you generally only see gushing reviews/positive ratings for a lot of books here is that if you return a book you hated, you're not allowed to write a review. Hence, you're going to hear mainly from those who liked it, even if they're a minority. Be warned!