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Pavane | [Keith Roberts]

Pavane

Considered Keith Roberts' masterwork, this novel consists of linked short stories (six measures and a coda) of a 20th century in which the Roman Catholic Church controls the Western world, and has done so since Queen Elizabeth of England was assassinated in 1588. The Protestant Reformation never happened, and the world is kept in a Dark Age of steam-power transportation, with no allowance for electrical power, by a tyrannical Rome.
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Publisher's Summary

Award-winning author, narrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman personally selected this book, and, using the tools of the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), cast the narrator and produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.

A few words from Neil on Pavane: "When Old Earth Books told me they are reissuing Pavane, which was originally published in 1968, I told them: 'I read one story from Pavane when I was nine, and it scarred me…. I read the whole book as a teenager and learned where that story had come from, and the shape of the whole story and I felt the scars heal….' Pavane was Keith Roberts' masterpiece: profound and still remarkable."

Considered Keith Roberts' masterwork, this novel consists of linked short stories (six measures and a coda) of a 20th century in which the Roman Catholic Church controls the Western world, and has done so since Queen Elizabeth of England was assassinated in 1588. The Protestant Reformation never happened, and the world is kept in a Dark Age of steam-power transportation, with no allowance for electrical power, by a tyrannical Rome. Pavane shows the harshness of life in this society and details the generational struggle for independence by the citizens of Dorset, England. It's through this series of moving tales that Roberts interweaves a discussion of Destiny and History that take the book out of the ordinary. And the author's great love of his native country makes this the most English of novels, and one of the finest in fantastic literature.

To hear more from Neil Gaiman on Pavane, click here, or listen to the introduction at the beginning of the book itself.

Learn more about Neil Gaiman Presents and Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX).

©1968 Keith Roberts (P)2011 Wildside Press LLC

What Members Say

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3.7 (278 )
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  •  
    Betty Laramie, WY, United States 12-15-11
    Betty Laramie, WY, United States 12-15-11 Member Since 2000
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    "Dense & rich - not a light listen"

    I knew in the first 10 minutes of this recording that I would not be able to do anything requiring multi-tasking while listening. The story is so deep and so full of the facts of this alternate universe, that it needs full attention.

    It is written as though the author didn't just consider the surface change of this non-reformation world, but the skeleton and tissue of it's history - each of the separate stories centers on how the characters would live and react in a world dominated and restricted by the one and only church. The reader does a superb job of conveying the feel of this world and its characters. Overall it is a dark world, but ends on a message of hope and the alternative world feels solid and real.

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer DALLAS, TX, United States 03-01-13
    Amazon Customer DALLAS, TX, United States 03-01-13 Member Since 2012

    I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.

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    "It's the Characters that Outline the World"

    Neil Gaiman Presents, and George R.R. Martin praises it right on the cover. Two powerhouse names like that can't be wrong when they stand in agreement, and it's that very reason I selected this book. These are names I trust.

    This is an older novel and reads like one, but that's certainly no turn-off. What's a bit jarring is the format and presentation. A Pavane is a style of music, and the format was presented in here in literary form as 6 movements and a coda. The basic idea is that this is an alternate history where Queen Elizabeth I was assassinated, and in the mid-20th century, the Roman Catholic Church is still in supreme dominance as a result of having killed the Reformation. It's a steampunk styled world ruled by superstition and fear, but far more authentic feeling than most steampunk. It feels less like fantasy and more like a legitimate alternate reality. Sounds epic, right? Yes and no. You don't get an epic here. What you get is a personal account. Each of the stories contained here link one to the next through the eyes of the characters. Instead of a big worldview epoch, you get a human quality to the world as these people see it - what it's like to live in this world from within a few different walks of life, with the same emotions, strengths, and frailties that people are prone to have in our world as well. It's a master class in characterization. As a result, it burns slow, but it burns evenly, as surely as a higher quality candle. It doesn't illuminate the entire world, but it does illuminate the corners of it we visit through these characters, and it casts larger shadows of suggestion into that world. It definitely leaves you wanting more. More's the pity that there is no more save for what we take from the suggestive nature of asking the two most powerful words in the English language: "What if...?"

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jefferson Jonan-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Japan 01-23-12
    Jefferson Jonan-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Japan 01-23-12 Member Since 2010

    I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.

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    "A Fascinating, Painful, and Beautiful Dance"

    Keith Roberts vividly imagines the world of his alternate history novel Pavane. Because Queen Elizabeth was assassinated, for four hundred years the Catholic Church has dominated the world, including the American colonies and England (Angle Land). Because the Roman Church has been repressing science, technology, and freedom, in the 20th century hauliers pilot giant steam-powered locomotives pulling wagons of freight over roads, signallers send messages through a complex series of semaphore towers, soldiers wield crossbows and swords as well as muskets and pistols, and priests perform exorcisms to banish Satan from sick people. Mother Church rules from Rome with a heavy hand, imposing heavy taxes and torturing the bodies of sinners to free their souls. Some people are chafing under the Church???s rule, and the Church is quick to stamp out any spark of rebellion.

    Pavane is a narrative dance of six Measures (short stories) and a Coda (epilogue). Beginning in 1968, each Measure depicts a crisis and change in the life of its protagonist (three male and three female) and combines with the other stories to make a novel which depicts a crisis and change in their world. Roberts??? writes stark and beautiful Dorset hills, heaths, and coasts, fascinating crafts and professions, and piercingly human characters. He also weaves through his pavane a mysterious thread of the fantastic: the Old Ones (???fairies???), who inhabited England before the Normans and Catholics, are still in the land, though they have mostly retreated into the darkness.

    Pavane reminds me of A Canticle for Leibowitz as much as The Man in the High Castle but is very different than both. This audiobook, which Steven Crossley does a marvelous job reading, moved me and made me think, but the Coda (despite ending with the sublime beauty of glowworms held like stars in hands) felt like a dance step too much for the pavane, because it unconvincingly re-choreographs the six measures.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katherine St. Johns, FL, United States 03-03-12
    Katherine St. Johns, FL, United States 03-03-12 Member Since 2009

    I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!

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    "A beautiful collection"

    Pavane, by Keith Roberts, is a beautiful collection of six connected stories written in an alternate England where Queen Elizabeth was assassinated and Philip II won the throne of England. The Protestant Reformation never occurred and Europe, as well as the New World, fell under the control of the Pope. Now it???s 1968 and because the Roman Catholic Church has held back technological advances from the people, the English still live in a feudal society complete with candlelight, castles, moats, monasteries, and much superstition, though the Church has allowed some steam-powered vehicles and the use of semaphore telegraph lines for communication. The Church has electricity, people know they have been repressed, and there are rumors of revolution.

    The title Pavane comes from the Spanish-style dance which has six steps and a coda. Likewise, after the short prologue, the book contains six stories and a coda. The stories span a couple of generations and occur in chronological order:

    ???The Lady Margaret??? ??? Here we meet Jesse Strange who carries freight on his steam engine, which is named ???The Lady Margaret??? after the barmaid he???s secretly in love with. On one of his business trips, during which he stops to see Margaret, he meets an old friend from college. On his way home, he???s attacked by bandits. Jesse, a competent and hard-working man, is the patriarch of the characters we???ll meet in the last two stories.

    ???The Signaller??? ??? Rafe, who is fascinated by the semaphore telegraph stations that span the country, has his wildest dreams fulfilled when he earns a spot as an apprentice in the Guild of Signallers. In this story we learn that the faeries are still active in England ??? the Roman Catholic Church has not been able to eradicate them.

    ???The White Boat??? ??? Fourteen-year-old Becky wants to be free and she thinks that the mysterious white boat she occasionally notices on the sea may be her ticket to a better life??? until the Church notices it, too.

    ???Brother John??? ??? The monk Brother John is commissioned by the Inquisition to use his artistic talents to document tortures and confessions.

    ???Lords and Ladies??? ???Jesse Strange, now a rich man, lies dying. As the priest intones last rites, Jesse???s niece Margaret remembers her recent humiliating experience with a young local lord and wonders if the faeries would treat her better than the priest???s god does.

    ???Corfe Gate??? ??? Lady Eleanor, daughter of Margaret in the previous story, defies the Church. Lord Henry, who represents the Pope in England, is sent to bring her down. With the help of Sir John, her seneschal, Eleanor prepares to stand firm. During her struggle, she suggests that history is like the pavane.

    In the Coda, Sir John???s son visits Corfe Gate decades later and reads a letter from his father who explains what happened after Eleanor???s revolt. Sir John???s justification of the Church???s actions seems odd and tacked-on. Or perhaps Keith Roberts was going for an A Canticle for Leibowitz-type feel. Either way, it leaves the reader scratching his head and wishing Roberts had just stopped after the last story.

    Overall, Pavane is a beautifully written book with well-developed characters, skillful use of language, and vivid imagery ??? dark brooding castles, hulking gothic churches, powerful steam engines, lines of clacking semaphores, horrid tortures at the hands of the Inquisition. These images will stay with me.

    I listened to the audio version of Pavane which was produced by Neil Gaiman Presents. Gaiman introduces the book and explains why he loves it and chose to add it to his audio line. The narration by Steven Crossley was excellent; I recommend this version.
    Originally Posted at FanLit.

    15 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B. Wills Laramie, WY USA 12-15-11
    B. Wills Laramie, WY USA 12-15-11 Member Since 2000

    malfan

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    "Dense & rich - not a light listen"

    I knew in the first 10 minutes of this recording that I would not be able to do anything requiring multi-tasking while listening. The story is so deep and so full of the facts of this alternate universe, that it needs full attention.

    It is written as though the author didn't just consider the surface change of this non-reformation world, but the skeleton and tissue of it's history - each of the separate stories centers on how the characters would live and react in a world dominated and restricted by the one and only church. The reader does a superb job of conveying the feel of this world and its characters. Overall it is a dark world, but ends on a message of hope and the alternative world feels solid and real.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Parksville, BC, Canada 12-10-11
    Carol Parksville, BC, Canada 12-10-11 Member Since 2008

    voracious reader!

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    "Troubling and Enigmatic"

    A story in 6 parts. Strange, facinating and troubling. Where Neil Gaiman often has the fantastical within the "normal" i.e. Neverwhere and Coraline, this is an alternate history of what could have been. England and the rest of the world under the sway of the Roman Catholic Church; Spain controls the New World. The 20th Century with steam power only and an ongoing feudal system. A somewhat disconcerting premise. It is a book that I will continue to think about and will listen to again.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HeatherTwist 02-19-12 Member Since 2005
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    "History rediscovered"

    I've read and listened to a lot of alternative and "real" history, and this is one of the best. Yes, it is hard to listen to sometimes, partly because it makes you THINK about history. About the changes that were needed to say, invent the airplane.

    But also, it is so rich and detailed. The workers make you think about most jobs, the routines you go through every day, to make your job work. I listened to this just after "23 things they don't tell you" about Capitalism, which affected my feelings about this work too. About how the framework of your society, affects your personal decisions.

    Pavane is not a work I would have selected, based on the description. I AM hooked now though, on Niel Gaiman's sense of taste. The only think I like better are the books he himself narrate.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Bellevue, NE, United States 01-03-12
    Michael Bellevue, NE, United States 01-03-12 Member Since 2005
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    "Thank You Neil"

    This is a book I would have never listened to or read if Neil Gaiman hadn't recommended it. I am a big science fiction and fantasy fan but still had never heard of Pavane. And reading the descriptions here in Audible and on Amazon didn't really pull me in. But I tried it based on Neil's recommendation.

    For the first 10 minutes I thought I had made a mistake. A few days later I came back, tried again from the beginning, and was hooked. I'm a big fan of the alternate history genre and this is not your usual alternate history novel. But in this case that is a very good thing.

    My first real science fiction reading just happened to be 70's English "New Wave" like Michael Moorcock, Brian Aldiss and J.G. Ballard. Pavane reminds me a lot of the best New Wave writing I remember from my youth.

    Not for everybody but fantastic for those who can appreciate it.



    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 06-08-13
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 06-08-13 Member Since 2010

    I will listen to NO boring book. Old Fav's,Card, King , Hobb. New Fav's, Hill, Scalzi, Sawyer, Interested in Lansdale, Crouch, Konrath

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Pre-steampunk"

    Years ago, while reading an anthology I came across "The Signaller" by Keith Roberts. This was over ten years ago and the story has haunted me every since. I had never heard of KR, but I did find a old book called "Kite World" by KR. I never got around to reading it, but I will listen to it since I can get on audible. Gaimen recommended this book, so I went with it first. To my surprise "The Signaller" ended up being the second story in this book. It was still just as haunting.

    This is a book of short stories or novellas. The First two "The Lady Margaret" and " The Signaller" are five star stories. Roberts prose is beautiful and very descriptive. I usually don't like descriptive type books, but Roberts is so good at it, that he puts you right into the story. When he talks about a cold night with a full moon in the sky, you shiver, even if you are reading the book on a beach in July. He gives the best description of the death of a loved one I have ever heard. When someone you love dies, it is like the pulling of a thread from your life.

    Why, only three stars? The five stories that remain are not near as good as the first two, matter of fact it was painful to get through them. The prose was not as good, the stories not as compelling, they sucked.

    Warning: Roberts does not believe in happy endings and he will break your heart.

    This is not steampunk, but kind of a precursor to steampunk.

    In trying to figure out if this is worth buying, let me say figure on getting about 2 and half hours of really good writing and the rest you may want to skip.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jonathan Amherst, MA, United States 11-07-11
    Jonathan Amherst, MA, United States 11-07-11 Member Since 2007
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    "LeCarre not Baldacci"

    This is a story that unfolds slowly, with no dramatic event(s) at the end of every chapter as is so common in modern pulp fiction. I enjoyed it very much; but then, I enjoy John LeCarre novels - work that some find ploding. It is not Baldacci. (Whose writings I enjoy but would not need or want to reread). The meaning of the word 'pavane' well sums the development of the story.

    Pavane is much better characterized as alternative history than science fiction. There are no gizmos that don't exist in today's world. But ... there is a bit of fantasy.

    PS I use the term "pulp fiction" in the best sense. Hawthorne and Dafoe were pulp fiction writers of their time.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
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  • Frankieg3
    Walton-on-the-Naze, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Pavan an excellent book"

    I read this book many years ago and it was fantastic to go back to it and remind myself of the end. The traction engine parts are so correct I could smell the steam and hot metal. The narator is excellent. I would highly recommend this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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