||"dawnbreak in the west"|
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
I got Matthew Kressel's King of Shards in the mail last Saturday and I am still working through it. I posted a placeholder partial review at Ace's / Muse's book thread. Since then I've read more into the book, and looked up some interviews that Kressel has given - the one to Dudycz Lupescu being a standout.
Basically the Shard multiverse isn't the Jewish Narnia; it is a Jewish-Liberal Narnia. Which is no Narnia at all.
Part of what keeps the demiplanes ("shards") mired in the Middle Bronze Age, says Kressel, is that such planes accept slavery and despotism. I am on board with the former; in our world, machines do much of our work, such that slavery isn't even needed, and those machines were developed in states without a tradition of slavery. However the book relates another tale in which a city slaughtered a group of agitators who dindunuffins except ask for democracy. Kressel missed a fine opportunity to illustrate how a democracy might be corrupted in a corrupted Shard.
That is, if you're a non-liberal cynic, that's a miss. Kressel himself is a stolid idealist; his protagonist, Daniel, starts out working a homeless shelter in Manhattan. So Kressel won't have Daniel challenge his companion - fine. But Kressel cannot even imagine what the many more-cynical characters in his book might say. (Perhaps he should have consulted Lydon.) Guh! Democracy good! TIKKUN OLAM, BITCHEZ
[UPDATE 10/6: Here is what really would have improved the lives of the Gehinnomites: an industrial-revolution. But that, like, takes - math, and stuff.]
And then there's Daniel himself, the lamedvavnik who serves as the epic hero. Judaism does allow for a heroic / epic fantasy about a devoted, wise minority keeping the cosmos alive. In fact, we already have at least one of these tales, in the genre of apocalyptic / dystopian science fiction: Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. (The Lamed-Vav thesis even has some sociological support, in the Pareto Principle.) But the lamedvavnik in Kressel's narrative doesn't support the worlds in any way except by the Content Of His Character. He's a fine fellow, and I'm sure that his shelter is wonderful, but this ain't Rearden Metal. Kressel has failed to convince me that Daniel is a Secret King.
Add to this, as I noted in my pre-review at the HQ, that I'd already docked some points against Kressel for mistakes elsewhere here. I was wondering if Kressel was just a standard-issue nitwit. After pondering for awhile I retract that. Instead I must impute these authorial slips to moral incuriosity. Kressel is not of the Thirty Six himself, and he isn't wise enough to recognise such a one if he sees one, and he doesn't have the work ethic even to fake it.
All this means the book's whole premise is broken. I recommend that Jews look elsewhere for their CS Lewis.
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