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Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America [Anglais] [Poche]

Robert Charles Wilson

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Amazon.com: 3.5 étoiles sur 5  51 commentaires
80 internautes sur 90 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 masterful novel of a post-collapse feudal America: "If Jules Verne had read Karl Marx, then sat down to write Decline and Fall 24 juin 2009
Par Cory Doctorow - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Robert Charles Wilson's Julian Comstock: A Story of the 22nd Century was pressed into my hands by my editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, seconds after I told him that I absolutely, positively could not take any more books with me because I was totally snowed under, a year behind on my reading. "Read this one," he said. "It's worth it."

It was worth it.

The early jacket copy for Julian Comstock reads, in part, "If Jules Verne had read Karl Marx, then sat down to write The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he still wouldn't have matched the invention and exuberance of Robert Charles Wilson's Julian Comstock." Damn right.

Julian is the story of a world sunk into feudal barbarism, 150 years after Peak Oil, plagues, economic collapse and war left the planet in tatters. Now, America (grown to encompass most of Canada, save for deeply entrenched Dutch and "mitteleuropean" forces in the now-verdant Labrador) is ruled over by a mad hereditary president, whose power is buoyed up by the Dominion, a religious authority that represents the true power in a nation where the new First Amendment guarantees the right to worship at any sanctioned church of your choosing.

The president's nephew, Julian Comstock, has been squirreled away to "Athabaska" to escape the attention of his uncle, who has already assassinated Julian's father, fearing a coup. In the bucolic Alberta farms, Comstock befriends Adam Hazzard, the charming, naive and eloquent narrator of the story. Hazzard is the son of a bondsman who is attached to the feudal territory of the local lord, and is an outcast due to his adherence to a disfavored sect of snake-handlers.

The president is determined to eliminate the threat that Julian poses to his throne, so he issues a general order of conscription for young men to go to the Labrador front and die before the Dutch. But Julian and Adam escape the local press-gang and enlist elsewhere under an assumed name, so that Julian will not be singled out for suicidal duty. As he distinguishes himself in battle, Adam chronicles his adventures, and the two embark on a grand, rollicking, gripping adventure that overturns the entire nation.

Politically astute, romantic, philosophical, compassionate and often uproariously funny, Julian Comstock may be Wilson's best book yet -- and that's saying a lot of a man who has already collected a shelf full of awards for books like Spin.
38 internautes sur 41 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 I rarely say "must-read", but I'll make an exception for this one 30 juin 2009
Par Stefan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Robert Charles Wilson's new novel "Julian Comstock" is set in a vastly changed 22nd century USA - after the end of the age of oil and atheism has ended in disaster. Technology is mostly back to pre-20th century levels, and the population has been vastly reduced due to social upheaval and disease. Society has become fully class-based, divided in a Eupatridian aristocracy, middle-class lease-men, and indentured servants. The country - which now stretches across most of the North American continent - is involved in a lengthy and brutal war with the Dutch over control of the recently opened Northwest passage.

In this setting we meet the novel's extraordinary hero, Julian Comstock, the nephew of the dictatorial president Deklan Comstock. Julian is a free-thinker with a deep interest in the apostate Charles Darwin (whose heretical theories are anathema to the Dominion of Jesus Christ, one of the three branches of the government with the president and the senate). Julian is forced to flee his country hide-out with his friend Adam (the amazing narrator of the novel) and Sam Godwin, who is Julian's mentor since his father died in battle - his father being Bryce Comstock, army commander and brother of the president, who was sent into a hopeless conflict by Deklan, fearing his brother's growing popularity would endanger his own tyrannical rule.

While all of this may sound grim, the tone of this story is often actually very light thanks to Adam, the narrator, who combines a certain naivete with a generally positive outlook on life and a willingness to see the good in everything. Adam often doesn't fully understand what is happening, and sometimes his general decency forces him to brush over certain things. At other times, his strong conscience puts many things other characters do in a very stark perspective. Part of the beauty and the fun of "Julian Comstock" is seeing it through the prism of Adam's growing understanding.

This novel pulls off something extraordinary: it is written in the style of a 19th century novel, but set in the 22nd century, AND somehow manages to deal with issues that are relevant today. The skill with which Wilson pulls this amazing trick off is simply dizzying. While some of the content might be controversial, I find that Wilson does a great job of extrapolating from current events to an all too plausible future without explicitly taking a definite position.

It's been a while since I've a read a novel that so deftly combines so many different elements. The characters have amazing depth, even if you don't always initially realize this due to the narrator's style. The story moves at a brisk pace that makes it impossible to put down. There are moments of high comedy and moments that are so immeasurably poignant and moving that I simply can't stop thinking about them. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough, both to SF fans and to anyone who loves a good book.

One note: I found it odd that the author included some quotes in Dutch and French but didn't include a translation, especially since the book has many footnotes. This was probably done because the narrator doesn't understand either language and the author didn't want to break the consistency of the narrative, but as someone fortunate enough to understand both languages, I can tell you that some of those sections are very funny and, in several cases, very relevant to the story. I think a brief appendix with the translations would be a great idea for future editions.
18 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Interesting ideas, but not his best book 10 juillet 2009
Par Nathaniel Mishkin - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
I really liked Wilson's other books (esp. The Chronoliths and Blind Lake), but Julian Comstock was a bit of a slog for me. I found the general premise to be interesting, but the characters were pretty two-dimensional (as opposed to the characters in his other books, which I found to be pretty well fleshed out) and the dynamics of a society structured along the lines imagined and with the history given seemed insufficiently plumbed. I would have liked fewer words spent on battle details and more spent on those dynamics.
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Frustrating, but good 30 septembre 2009
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
As with any science fiction book, one has the science part and the fiction part of the story to contend with. The story itself is very, very well written and Robert Charles Wilson has a feeling for writing the many in this genre do not have. His personal point of view narrative could have come straight out of a nineteenth century adventure story. If there's anything wrong with the story itself it is that it is overly long and drawn out and I almost didn't finish it because I was getting so seriously bored towards the end of the novel. It could do with better editing, I think. But otherwise, absolutely good. Some sections of the story use the first person naivety device to step around topics such as homosexuality and a poor grasp of foreign languages (both the french and the dutch phrases in the book have errors in them - I speak both), but it is a clever tool to use to present a characters biases and thoughts as not being ones own.

The science part is where I had the real problems with this book. I could vaguely imagine that the USA could fall into a religiously dominated, backward state if modern civilisation were to fall, given how much of the USA seems to be in that camp anyway, but I can not believe that they would end up using almost the same language as was used in the nineteenth century. I find it even harder to believe that the rest of the world would do the same and forget almost all technological advances simply because there were no more oil left. The example from the book of the Americans using machine guns and the Europeans not having any strikes me as simply ludicrous. While the pointed details of global warming are interesting (the main character grows up in a warm Athabaska, Washington DC is a tropical jungle swamp and the Americans are fighting Dutch refugees from a sunken Netherlands in Labrador), I had to laugh at the thought of society falling back to coal use in the face of having no oil. What happened to solar and nuclear power? Did people forget about electricity? Many points, and somewhat frustrating.

All in all, a nice read though.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 A story worthy of more depth 27 février 2011
Par sporked - Publié sur Amazon.com
Achat vérifié
Julian Comstock is an interesting story set in an interesting neo-Victorian future with a host of interesting characters, but its biggest flaw is that somehow we only ever get to see the topmost level of it all. Wilson is a talented (and prolific) author with a superb eye for narrative detail and an easy skill with developing minor characters, and that ability is definitely evident in this book - but you have to read between the lines to get to it, and he's so coy about showing the bones of the A-plot or any major character development that by the end of the book it's easy to dismiss the whole thing as a superficial adventure story with no real substance.

That's the tragedy of it all. Our heroes are a motley bunch, each with their own clear voices and well-defined personalities, and all of them with their own host of dramatic conflicts - but Wilson chose by far the least interesting of them all as narrator, and Adam is so cartoonishly naive and simple that all the real dramatic meat of the story ends up being coyly alluded to through the filter of a running gag about Adam not understanding what's going on around him at the most basic level. Calyxa, Sam and even Julian himself all go through major character development, but we only ever get the barest glimpse of it, and the novel is full of Chekhov's Guns that never go off in the underwhelming third act - most notably Julian's homosexuality, which is laid out as a major taboo in the setting and alluded to constantly (and in increasingly ham-fisted ways), but is only ever used as a running gag about Adam's obliviousness. The killer thing is that all of these various character subplots actually happen, and impact the story in marvelously sophisticated ways (like Julian's increasingly dire mental state) - but we only get to see them in the distant background, through offhand references by a frustratingly dim narrator.

Thankfully this doesn't extend to the novel's A-plot, which is a well-paced and fun adventure tale about Adam's adventures in the war with the Dutch to control the global warming-opened Northwest Passage around Canada. And even with its flaws, this book is an entertaining, quick-paced and easy-to-follow look at a dystopic but ultimately optimistic future where the end of easy resources isn't the end of humanity; though the future portrayed is definitely not an easy one, it's also not doomed, as so many post-apocalyptic style cultures are. And it had me literally laughing out loud in several places, usually after deciphering some of the novel's untranslated French and Dutch.

One other thing I wanted to mention was that, reading this novel immediately after finishing Spin, it was very difficult in the beginning to ignore the overwhelming similarities between Julian and Jason, and their relationships with their respective narrators. You kind of can't unsee it. Early on, both are shown to be disinterested in women and focused totally on intellectual pursuits, with biting senses of humor. They're also vastly wealthier and more intelligent than Adam or Tyler, despite their unpretentious equal-footing friendships and deep loyalty, and have difficult home lives in sharp contrast to the relatively healthy families of their friends. They do end up being fairly different characters by about midway through the novels, but it does beg the question - with both of those characters easily being the most dramatically interesting parts of their respective novels both as characters and as vehicles for the plot, and with Wilson's obvious interest in the archetype, why didn't he let Julian be the lead?
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