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Book review: The n-Body Problem by Tony Burgess

I've just finished reading The n-Body Problem by Tony Burgess, published by Chizine Publications. It's a deeply disturbing story, and I hope that Burgess is seeking professional help.

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This book was very unsettling. It dives deep into a sea of depravity. Burgess enumerates, with disquieting precision, a whole host of vile and disgusting acts. This is a book for a rather particular audience, and I found some parts of it to be rather difficult to get through. At several places in the story, I paused to think that this story is exactly the kind of thing that people envision when they talk about censorship as a means of protecting culture. This story would get book censors excited in all the wrong ways.

Burgess paints the reader a post-apocalyptic world where hypochondria becomes reality, where the whole world is dying, one by one, or in vast groups awaiting a new rapture. The narrative is compelling, tightening in on the protagonist, drawing his world tighter as his personal agency is reduced, until he becomes as powerless as the reader.

Let it be made clear The n-Body Problem is not for most people. If you are easily offended, it is most definitely not for you. On the other hand, if you appreciate dark fiction, can handle obscene content, and are looking for something new, give it a try. The ebook is available through ChiZine, as well as through Amazon.ca, Amazon.com or Kobo.

In the end, the zombie apocalypse was nothing more than a waste disposal problem. Burn them in giant ovens? Bad optics. Bury them in landfill sites? The first attempt created acres of twitching, roiling mud. The acceptable answer is to jettison the millions of immortal automatons into orbit. Soon Earth’s near space is a mesh of bodies interfering with the sunlight and having an effect on our minds that we never saw coming. aggressive hypochondria, rampant depressive disorders, irresistible suicidal thought—resulting in teenage suicide cults, who want nothing more than to orbit the Earth as living dead. Life on Earth has slowly become not worth living. and death is no longer an escape.

I received an ebook version of this book from ChiZine's marketing department.

Under Heaven

Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy of this book from Penguin Canada My first experience reading the work of Guy Gavriel Kay was a borrowed copy of the Fionavar Tapestry. My copy of the book has since wandered off into other hands. Later, I discovered that this author was the Guy Kay whom Christopher Tolkien acknowledged for his aid in the editing of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. While the Fionavar Tapestry, and his 2007 novel Ysabel meld fantasy with modern day characters, most of Kay's novels merge fantasy with historical fiction, and remain entirely in a fictional world.

As is often the case in his novels, Under Heaven takes place at a turning point in history. We are presented with a land that can go in different ways. The sense of nostalgia of the end of a golden age is here, and so is the sense that the future cannot be foreseen.

Kay presents the concept of balance in all things to be a central focus of Under Heaven, and this can be seen throughout the text. Many characters in the novel are paired, as if to balance the forces. When the balance is broken, things begin to fall apart. Tai's initial act of piety, burying the bones of both sides of past battles, is emblematic of this theme of balance.

Someone with more knowledge of Chinese history than I likely has knowledge of the period of history Kay uses as the starting point for the novel. The parallels are there, I'm sure, in the broad strokes.

I enjoyed this story more than I did Ysabel. While I did not find it quite as poignant a story as Tigana, once again Kay has written another historically based fantasy. If you've read and liked some of Guy Gavriel Kay's other novels, you will want to pick this one up.