Posts for October 2003

2003-10-01: Perl quine

I was reorganizing some files and putting my signatures under CVS, something I'd been planning on doing for a while, and ran across a saved explanation of the signature that I use in the Perl groups. It's a quine, a program that prints itself.

Figuring that the explanation does no one any good hanging around in a file in my home directory, I've now posted the explanation on my web pages, in case anyone is interested.

2003-10-25: Kushiel's Dart

Review: Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

I read this book some time back, before I started reviewing books as I read them, but it didn't seem right to review the sequel before reviewing the first book.

Besides, this is the best book that I've read this year.

I must admit a weakness for books told in the first person if the narrative voice is well-realized, consistent, and richly individualistic. All of this is definitely true of Phèdre, who is one of the most compelling characters that I've ever met in a book. Her story of her life draws the reader into both a rich and detailed world of intrigue and a rich and detailed swirl of complex emotions, and is simply one of the most beautifully told stories I've encountered.

The world of Kushiel's Dart is one of those remarkable fantasy worlds, too rare by far, that features almost no outright magic and certainly nothing as pedestrian as wizards with spells, but nonetheless is full of deep background tapestry of mythology and a rich sense of otherness that shades everything that happens. The gods are not only real, but impressive, mysterious, and original, woven into a background that mixes, combines, and reinterprets pieces of Christian and Jewish mythology into something truly fascinating. There is ability and power in the world, but subtly woven into complex characters in a way that supplements rather than supplants their inherent humanity. In short, it's sense of wonder and spiritual depth done very, very well.

Equally impressive is the frank and open treatment of sexuality, deeply woven into both the world and Phèdre's life. She is a courtesan in a world in which that profession is honorable and valued and a masochist through the touch of a god, both are integral to her character and are developed slowly and fully throughout the book, and neither are ever played for cheap titillation. In fact, nothing in this book is cheap; the feeling of rightness and depth to the world supports suspension of disbelief better than all but a few novels. The handling of the standard trappings of BDSM is nothing short of brilliant, imbuing them with a sense of ritual, formality, and context that's as different as night from day from the normal fictional treatment.

I'm raving, I know. I truly loved this book. The comparison that comes to mind is to Guy Gavriel Kay, which from me is a very high compliment. I think this book is the equal of all but Kay's best, comparing favorably to Tigana or A Song for Arbonne and falling short of The Sarantine Mosiac by only a hand's breadth. I cared deeply about the characters in this book in the same way that I do Kay's, and the last half of the book was impossible to put down.

A slightly slow start and a very few weak stretches are the only thing holding this book back from a perfect rating. It may take you a while to get used to the language and style, but this book is very much worth it. Highly, highly recommended.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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