Carve The Sky by Alexander Jablokov


Carve The Sky is a 1991 science fiction novel by Alexander Jablokov starring Anton Lindgren (Seneschal to George Harvey Westerkamp, Lord Monboddo, Interrogator of Boston, Colonel Division of External Security {Westerkamp wears a lot of hats}) and Vanessa Karageorge (Ordinary Fellow of the Academia Sapientae). Hat tip to Movies With Mikey.

The plot of the novel revolves around the search for a famous and skilled sculptor who’s supposed to have been dead for a couple of years. A new piece by him has appeared and it contains a very special extra-terrestrial mineral. A mineral that might contain the secret to space travel. The Union of Nations wants the mineral. The Technic Alliance of the outer planets and satellites wants it. And nobody knows what the Academia Sapientae wants, but they’re involved. The threat of the Second Solar War looms. It’s a Macguffin hunt. It’s a tour novel.

But what makes this novel special is that it’s so wonderfully decadent, filled with delightful touches. Because of weapons satellites left over from the Orthodox Empire, there’s no high speed travel on Earth. No jets or anything like that. All long distance travel is done by zeppelin and train. A slow decadent pace for a book that goes from Boston to the Pamir Mountains via an art gallery in Paris and a monastery in Istanbul and then to the Asteroid Belt via a stop on the moon for more art and a boar hunt.

It’s on the Moon, in the city of Rutherford which rests in the Crater Clavius, where Jablokov sets the scene that truly informs the reader that this isn’t a usual SF novel. The scene is a wild animal hunt. On the Moon. A regular event where the Justice of Clavius, a member of the nobility, releases a flood of wild animals in the streets and forests that stretch below the surface of the Moon. Boar, deer, gazelles, pronghorn antelopes. All of them being hunted with spears and bows by the citizens. On the Moon.

Jablokov does something that I greatly admire on the level of technique. Many of the chapters start with extracts from books, reports, catalogues, tourist guides. The extracts give a little background to the chapter: lunar culture, Anatolian politics, cult history, best place to get noodles in the Asteroid Belt. This is a very artful way to avoid info-dumps. So artful, that I’m going to steal it for my next book.

Jablokov has written several other very good SF novels. River of Dust takes place in the same universe as Carve The Sky, some of the same characters but younger. Same flavor. Nimbus is a near future SF novel informed by the chaos of the post-Soviet 90s. There’s a very cute bit in Nimbus of jazz playing LARPers who pretend to be living in a world where rock and roll never happened. It’s a typically Jablokovian grace note. He’s a very good writer who, as far as I can tell, fell victim to the collapse of the mid-list. And we readers are the poorer for it.

I highly recommend Carve The Sky. A very good SF novel written with imagination and verve.

Next week… Well, next week, I give in and review a Warhammer 40K novel. That’s right, next week is all shooty-shooty stabby-stabby all the time.

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