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The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach
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The Carpet Makers (1995)

by Andreas Eschbach

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5393118,630 (4.05)27

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English (25)  French (3)  Spanish (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
I'd rate this book 3 and 1/2 stars, if that were an option. The Carpet Makers is admirable for several reasons, avoiding some common pitfalls to Science Fiction books but also stumbling a few times near the finish.

In a clear parallel to the stitching of a carpet, the book weaves together a plethora of individual stories focusing on separate characters to form a tableaux of a massive interstellar empire. The book starts with the actual carpet makers, before switching to the merchants who transport the carpets, then a freethinking teacher in a carpet making city, then the off-world observers of this planet, and so forth. So gradually that you barely notice it Eschbach expands the scope of the story , slowly revealing a more expansive vision of the carpet-centric universe through the stories of individual characters. When the book ends you feel you know this universe and its inhabitants, a feat science fiction writers often fail to pull off in books twice this size.

This technique of stitching together the narrative via small scale stories has both strengths and weaknesses: it allows us to see almost every stage of the carpet making process in a way that isn't just info dumping, to witness the different beliefs of vastly different characters (some devout, some rebellious, some just wanting to do their jobs), and to tell an epic that nevertheless feels personal. On the other hand, this technique means that some characters disappear from the narrative and you never discover their fate, like dangling threads. Also, the switching between characters means you get relatively little character development, and a few characters are decidedly one-note. This weakness is tempered by Eschbach's ability to establish characterization quickly and rather brilliantly at times, such as in the first chapter which ends with a great segment showing us how violently a carpet maker will hew to tradition and do away with anything that threatens the carpet making lifestyle. In general the writing of The Carpet Makers is nothing too special, but the way Eschbach establishes the characters is sometimes impressive.

As I mentioned before, The Carpet Makers dodges some common problems in science fiction- it focuses on the mental and emotional aspect of living in this universe and not just the physical aspect, it is set in the period just after a galactic war instead of in the middle of one so that it can explore the complexities of running a universe instead of just fighting over one, and finally the book restrains itself from having a chapter from the perspective of the emperor. The emperor only appears as a stunningly impressive figure in the memories of the featured characters- a wise choice, as any direct depiction would have been unable to match the heights the narrative had built him up to.

In contrast, the eventual reveal of the purpose of the hair carpets fails to live up to its narrative buildup. When I learned the solution to the mystery, I found it to be thematically interesting but not as impressive as I had imagined (and as the book had led me to believe it would be). Also, the reveal was delivered in a way I found rather unsatisfying, as it is the sole reveal through an info dump in a book that is otherwise impressively free of them. That the info dump was foreshadowed does little to help.

I would recommend The Carpet Makers for the world it builds and the themes and ideas it explores, even if the solution to the central mystery was underwhelming. Still, in the long run it is the ideas that stick with me the most, and with that in mind The Carpet Makers was well worth reading. ( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
Grand in scope this story is told at the individual family level. It's one of those stories that takes hold of your imagination in the first few pages and never let's go - even long after you've finished. Excellent read ( )
  DaveCapp | Oct 22, 2014 |
This book has to get five stars from me because it's the first book in quite a while that I would've stayed up late into the night to finish, even if I was exhausted. From the first chapter, it weaves a compelling mystery and builds a whole new world. The writing itself is beautiful; the translation is excellent, with no sense of a gap between me and the text, which I often do get with translations. I think I'm going to have to parcel it up and send it on a round of my friends to read.

I'm not actually saying it's flawless. The structure, however, keeps it strong: each chapter is a self-contained story, which adds a link in the chain to eventually get to the heart of the mystery. But once I got there, after all that build-up, it felt unsatisfying -- but that didn't take away from the power and mystery of the rest of the book. And the epilogue was another strong link in the chain, a perfect way to finish the story.

Usually, I'm interested in characters, in any given book. That's not the case here, and I didn't even feel a lack because of it. It's a totally bewildering, bewitching book.. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
Okay, so there's this planet, see, whose entire economy is based on these carpet makers who each spend their entire life making one carpet out of the hair of their wives and daughters. And they send the carpets to this sort of god-emperor in space...but then it turns out that there isn't an emperor any more, and maybe there are other planets making these carpets, and I won't tell you how it all turns out, but it will BLOW YOUR MIND, MAN.
( )
  JenneB | Apr 2, 2013 |
At first this seems like a simple, but unusual, story of a planet whose whole purpose is the creation of carpets made of hair to sell for their Emperor-God. The carpets are made from the hair of the carpet makers wives and daughters and will take their entire life to create just one. As the story unfolds you gradually learn all is not as it seems and something quite sinister is happening.

This was a mesmerising tale which kept me glued to the pages so much I read the whole book in a couple hours. I just had to know what the truth was and I have to say I didn't see it coming. The twist was pulled off superbly.

There were some negatives though. The way the book was told was very disjointed and often jarring and disorientating from one chapter to the next. You'd never know how much time, if any, had passed until later on. I also felt there were a few plot lines that were never resolved. They just disappeared.

Overall though this was a great book. I highly recommend it. ( )
  Shirezu | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Knot after knot, day in, day out, for an entire lifetime, always the same hand movements, always looping the same knots in the fine hair, so fine and tiny that with time, the fingers trembled and the eyes became weak from strain -- and still the progress was hardly noticeable.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765314908, Paperback)

Since the time of pre-history, carpetmakers tie intricate knots to form carpets for the court of the Emperor. These carpets are made from the hairs of wives and daughters; they are so detailed and fragile that each carpetmaker finishes only one single carpet in his entire lifetime.

This art descends from father to son, since the beginning of time itself.

But one day the empire of the God Emperor vanishes, and strangers begin to arrive from the stars to follow the trace of the hair carpets. What these strangers discover is beyond all belief, more than anything they could have ever imagined...

Brought to the attention of Tor Books by Orson Scott Card, this edition of The Carpet Makers contains a special introduction by Orson Scott Card.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:25 -0400)

"Since the time of prehistory, carpet makers have tied intricate knots to form carpets for the court of the Emperor. These carpets are made from the hair of wives and daughters; they are so detailed and fragile that each carpet maker finishes only one single carpet in his entire lifetime." "This art has descended from father to son since the beginning of time itself." "But one day the empire of the God Emperor vanishes, and strangers begin to arrive from the stars to follow the trace of the hair carpets. What these strangers discover is beyond all belief, more than anything they could have ever imagined."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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