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The Chalk Giants (1979)

The Chalk Giants (1979)
3.09 of 5 Votes: 3
0586041575 (ISBN13: 9780586041574)
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The Chalk Giants (1979)
The Chalk Giants (1979)

About book: Keith Roberts’ The Chalk Giants is not so much a novel, but a collection of linked novellas. This linkage, in the edition I read, is slight, involving a returning fertility goddess. How these links are harmonized, is a bit muddy. On one hand, it may be better to take the stories as stand alone efforts, but what you lose with that approach is Roberts’ sense of History as a Wheel of Time, endlessly repeating itself (even with the nuclear possibility). And if you take a step back, you will see the rise and fall of religions, kingdoms, and peoples. It’s not a pretty sight, as death and cruelty are commonplace. There’s also a fair amount of sex, including rapes, and strong hints of incest. However, such outrages are never done in a gratuitous way, but are a part of Roberts’ often brutal but realistic fictional landscape. Where the elevation comes, is in Roberts’ use of language, which is often darkly poetic. You will find in these stories fully developed characters, which includes abusive priests, heroes, a philosopher king, a mad king, a calculating court fool, and a returning female figure that can be both kind and cruel. The range of the stories is impressive, opening with the Post-Apocalyptic “Monkey, Pru, and Sal”, followed by the Gilgamesh-like (“God House” and “The Beautiful One”), the Norse (“Rand, Rat, and the Dancing Man”), and closing with the very Lear-like “Usk the Jokeman.” The Chalk Gods definitely follows an historic arc that is both tragic and beautiful. And the beauty is found in the characters – for whatever their shortcomings, they are never less than human. Roberts is a writer I want to read more of. One note on editions: My edition omits a framing story (and I believe another story as well), involving a man dreaming of a coming nuclear apocalypse. So beware the 1973 Berkley Putnam edition. I thought about rating this book 4 stars because of this, but the quality of what I did read was so high, than anything less than 5 stars seemed wrong.
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