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About the Author
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Chris Roberson is one of that bold band of young writers who are taking the stuff of genre fiction and turning it into a whole new literary form - a form for the 21st century. A talented storyteller, he has a unique ear, a clever eye, an eloquence all too rare in modern fiction.
Roberson is another author to watch.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In End of the Century, Chris Roberson takes us on an Arthurian quest for the Holy Grail. While that would be plenty for most writers, Roberson isn¿t content to stop with only one story; he also tells the story of a search for a serial killer in London around the time of Queen Victoria¿s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and of Alice Fell, a sixteen-year-old following a vision that may simply be a symptom of epilepsy in 2000. The three stories have a number of factors that seem to be similar, particularly the big fellow who goes around attacking people with a sword that can slice through anything, accompanied by dogs with blood-red ears and teeth. Only in the last 75 pages or so do things start to come together in a startling way.The book begins in 498 Anno Domini, when Galaad arrives in Caer Llundain, home of the Count of Britannia and victor of Badon, the High King Arthur. This is no Arthur of legend, but a man who led his countrymen in battles against the Saxons and now presides over his people as best he can, settling disputes and trying to make sure that the Saxons ¿ who weren¿t really defeated, precisely, but merely fended off for the time being ¿ don¿t take away the hard-won peace. He and his fellow knights are bored with the business of governing, but understand its necessity. Still, they are ripe for an adventure, and Galaad offers a great one: he has had visions of an island surrounded by water with a castle of glass in which a lady in white is kept prisoner.Actually, we don¿t learn all of this the first time Galaad appears in the narrative. He simply arrives in Caer Llundain and manages to get inside the city gates in the first chapter. A few pages later, we¿re transported to 1897 AD (the nomenclature for the date changes each time a new date is introduced, to comport with the century¿s practice), where Sanford Blank and Roxanne Bonaventure, scandalously enjoying each other¿s company without the presence of a chaperone, come across a newspaper account of a stolen diamond. Before they can explore the issue much further, however, the Metropolitan Police arrive to escort Blank to the Tower Bridge, where his assistance is required, though the police will not tell him why.After that short introduction to those two characters, we find ourselves in 2000 CE, where Alice Fell has just arrived in London after a flight from New York. She¿s a smart kid; when asked by the customs agent upon her arrival if she has anything to declare, she briefly considers responding, ¿Nothing but my genius,¿ though she can¿t quite remember whether it was Orson Welles or Oscar Wilde who said that first. Alice manages to gain admittance to the city, much as Galaad did in the first chapter ¿ and back we go to Galaad¿s time.Roberson juggles all of his characters and their seeming disparate stories with great skill, slowly dealing out the similarities in the different time streams, slowly building the personalities of his various characters, slowly building a plot that is going to explode at the end of the book. It is most enjoyable to skip among the centuries. I particularly enjoyed Roberson¿s vision of fifth century London, and the realistic portrayal of the historical Arthur ¿ assuming that there ever was a historical Arthur. The smell and feel of that time and place are brought so much to life that the reader starts to feel the cold and smell the dirty bodies. This portion of the book is so grounded in realism when the story begins that it is almost a disappointment when the story of Galaad, Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table takes off into the realm of the unknown. Almost, but not quite.Blank and Bonaventure are interesting characters, too, even if the ambiance of the nineteenth century isn¿t quite as cleanly drawn. There is something obviously peculiar about both of them, and it doesn¿t stop with Blank¿s resemblance to Sherlock Holmes ¿ or even his resemblance to Oscar Wilde, which becomes apparent only late in the book. They both seem to know muc
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)When it comes to the subject of genre projects, I like to think of there being two main types of artists out there: at the top you find a small number of so-called "A-writers," people like Neal Stephenson and JJ Abrams who are able to elevate their material beyond the usual genre tropes and thus appeal to a large general audience; and then there are the much more numerous "B-writers," the ones cranking out the majority of projects in that genre, who are not necessarily that bad (not necessarily) but for sure are the ones helping to more and more cement the rules of that genre, not break them. And let's face it, most of the time this isn't such a horrible thing, which is why the ten-point scale I use here at CCLaP is designed the way it is (for those who have never gotten to read the ridiculously long guide to CCLaP's scoring system I wrote a couple of years ago); it's why books that score only in the sevens and eights here might actually be fantastic, simply that they will appeal only to existing fans of that genre, while for a title to get a nine or above it simply must in one way or another transcend its natural stereotypes, and not just be well-written.Take for example End of the Century, the latest title by science-fiction veteran and multiple genre-award nominee Chris Roberson; because it's not a bad book at all, not by a long shot, and will be thoroughly entertaining to anyone who's already a fan of, say, Buffy or Xena or any of those other Saturday-afternoon genre television shows. But much like these shows, the novel is simply a little hacky, with a plot that is too easily guessed and dialogue that is often subpar. In many ways, after all, this is precisely how we define fans of a particular genre in the first place (otherwise slightly insultingly known as "fanboys" and "fangirls"), is by how willing they are to overlook things like weak dialogue and easily anticipated plot developments, in order to wallow in the fetishistic touches of that genre they love so much; and this book is no exception, more than making up for its general-lit problems with a whole cornucopia of string-theory-this and steampunk-that, and all the other little details that SF fanboys are always on the lookout for. And this is simply bound to please some and frustrate others, which is also the whole point of having genres in the first place.In fact, this is not only the steampunk story just mentioned, but actually four stories rolled into one: a medieval tale, a Victorian tale, a contemporary "cyberpunk" tale, and a thread concerning a shadowy time-traveling secret society that ties all these interwoven sections together. And yes, if this sounds exactly word for word like the concept for Ian McDonald's much superior Brasyl, put out last year by the same publisher (all the way down to similar indestructible glowing "quantum swords" only a few molecules thick, which I don't mind divulging because there's one right on the freaking cover), that's because it is; in fact, such a story structure is rapidly becoming so popular within the world of SF that you could almost count it as a new subgenre unto itself, which I suppose we could call the "tri-history tale" today for convenience's sake.And like all tri-history tales, the whole point of End of the Century is to get caught up in all the witty details on display, the various clever shoutouts to the existing pillars of these particular story types; for example, the steampunk section revolves around a Sherlock Holmes pastiche named Sandford Blank, who in this case lives on York Street instead of Baker, who plays the flute instead of the violin, who's known for his bowler and silver-tipped cane instead of a deerstalker and briar pipe, whose companion is an attract
In 498 a bizarre vision sends Galaad journeying to Caer Llundain. In 2000, American teenager Alice Fell suffers from epilepsy; during her seizures she has strange dreams that send her to London in 2000. In 1897, Detective Sandford Blank and his partner Roxanne Bonaventure investigate brutal serial killings.
Fifteen centuries apart yet all three people share much in common. There are three eras including Camelot, late Victorian and contemporary as diverse individuals struggle with visions that make no sense to any of them.
Compelling from the onset, but not easy to follow especially when the timelines ¿converge¿, END OF THE CENTURY is a complex somewhat convoluted thriller that brings the past, present and future together in the space-time continuum. The bewilderment of the prime players make each feel genuine as they struggle to understand what is going on yet they sense the time has come but not what or why. With a story line that is fascinating but paradoxically not fast-paced, set aside plenty of time to read this engaging multifaceted thriller.