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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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English (28)  French (3)  Spanish (1)  Hungarian (1)  German (1)  All languages (34)
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Eschbach has a way of creating worlds that makes them both magical and wonderfully mundane, to where you're exploring a world built by beautiful language while, at the same time, feeling that the people involved are utterly familiar, different as their cares and their world may be. You can say that this story is about passion or art or the meaning of life, or about exploration or revenge or religion or world views, or even about telling stories. It's all of this. It's also about the meaning found in the day-to-day survival of life and of belief, and about determination and hope.

In the beginning, it's something of an old-world fairy tale, and then it is a mastery of space and perspective, and finally, it is something beautiful, somewhere in between.

If you haven't figured it out already from this wandering review, Eschbach's stories rather defy description, but they are wonderful. They are utterly wonderful. And if you read science fiction or fantasy, you should read The Carpet Makers.

Absolutely recommended. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Sep 15, 2016 |
Eschbach is apparently very well-regarded in his native Germany, and has won awards in multiple European countries - but this is his first book to be translated into English and published here. If 'The Carpet Makers' is any indication of the quality of his other works, I hope that English editions of his other books are on the way!
The novel is formed in a series of vignettes or separate short stories - which can sometimes, I feel, be an awkward, clunky way of doing things - I've read 'novels' like that before and felt that they were very 'cobbled together.' I didn't feel that way about this one at all. The 'flow' between scenes was very smooth, and each new vignette gave the reader one more piece of the big picture, forming an extreme tension as the revelation of just how terribly dire the scene being revealed truly is...
The book starts small... with just one family, a family of traditional hair carpet makers, the patriarch spending his entire life to make just one carpet from the hair of his wives and daughters, allowed to have only one son to train to take on his craft...
The scene seems harsh, the society repressive... (and that first 'story' packs a punch and a half!) but as the book goes on, the focus widens, until a galactic scenario is shown, and the book talks not only about one restrictive society, but the horrific pettiness of tyranny...
Knowing the author is German, it is hard not to draw parallels with the sci-fi criticism in this book with condemnations of the third reich, but I'm not sure I would have made that connection if I had not already been thinking about Germany...
Either way, really a wonderful book - emotional, well-written, structurally near-perfectly crafted, thoughtful. Highly recommended. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
A man is creating a carpet made out of his wife's hair. This is his life's work. The carpets are the driver of an intertwined series of scenes which make up the plot. The scenery comes from 50s' SF and the 'villain' is a 50-50 mix of the the Emperor and Sauron. There is a Big Speech about evil by an Eternal 'bad guy' who dies. Yet it does all hang together, just.

The main issue for me was that there was just too much here, too many stories, too many planets... Less can be more. Also the 50s SF got grating. ( )
  AlanPoulter | Jan 31, 2015 |
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. ( )
1 vote 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 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Je me plains souvent du manque d'originalité de livres qui sont par ailleurs passionnants. Cette fois, je dois reconnaître que ce livre est très original et empreint d'une étrangeté poétique étonnante.
added by grimm | editbloGrimm, Grimm (Aug 26, 2009)
 
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:27 -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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