Strange Horizons Review of Twelve Collections and The Teashop

An extensive review/essay by Lara Buckerton of my mosaic novel Twelve Collections and The Teashop just appeared at Strange Horizons:

Collections are harmless, right? It’s one of their conspicuous virtues—we come and peer into the collector’s murky world, fail to understand it, tut and shake our heads, but ultimately we approve of it, as a kind of monument honouring—not exactly the Unknown Oddball himself—but the social tolerance which allows him to thrive. But what if collections aren’t evidence of liberalism and diversity at all, but of a levelling, decontextualising waste? What if collections don’t have a special life of their own, but a special death of their own?

If these sound like ostentatious questions, they’re balanced by the spare and graceful way in which Zivkovic investigates them. The tales are quite slight—sixish pages, usually—and very moreish. There’s something a bit mannered about Zivkovic’s prose (an effect of translation perhaps?)— “stay there, all the way till lunch time,” “avoided by a hair”—but chaste and clunky is a fitting style for the quietly comic, fantastika material. Fiction which relies on keeping its readers’ interpretative machinery switched on will hardly want to hypnotise them with rhetorical pyrotechnics. The time is everywhen, the place is everywhere—or at least everywhere blandly Euro—and the protagonists are all pumped full of Everyman jelly. Stylistically, faux naivety is your only man.

Nor will such fiction really need to rock out plot-wise. There are thick traces, in almost every tale, of a pair of generic devices so distinguished that you might almost call them clichés—Science fiction’s “aah-aah-creation-turned-against-its-maker” is one, fantasy fiction’s “ooh-ooh-pact-with-the-devil” the other. The reader of Tweve Collections is still entranced and tickled by a stream of incident, but her excitations generally derive from a world of nuance. As the formulae become increasingly familiar (the collectors of tangibles are collected by their collections, anybody who hands over an intangible tends to feel ominious regret), more significance attaches to the little stuff—the manner, the mood, the colour, the detail—and to the cobweb of connections unfolding underneath the tales.

Link to the full review.

The Last Book in German, and Review in Die Welt

I am delighted to let you know that the the German edition of my novel The Last Book recently appeared as a Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag (DTV) edition.

DTV, one of the leading German publishers, brought out in February another novel of mine — Hidden Camera — that got numerous favorable reviews throughout German language area.

The first review of The Last Book — a very favorable one — appeared on October 25 in leading daily newspaper “Die Welt.” Here it is for those of you who, by a lucky coincidence, happen to be fluent in German…

Haben Sie noch eine kleine Buchhandlung um die Ecke? So eine, die nicht aussieht, als hätte sie sich aus dem Thalia-Katalog für Buchhandelseinrichtungen bedient und die neben Büchern nicht auch noch Schlabberkaffee und Kekse verkauft? So eine, die ein Geheimnis hat oder zwei, mit verschrobenen, aber liebenswerten Buchhändlerinnen, die jede Zeile von dem gelesen haben, was sie verkaufen? So eine, in der man einen Roman spielen lassen könnte? Zoran Zivkovic, der große serbische Postmoderne, hat so eine erfunden. Und sie ist nicht ungefährlich, für die Kunden nicht und nicht für die Leser von Zoran Zivkovics als “Thriller” angekündigten Romans.

Link to the full review.

Earlier this year, The Last Book was published in the UK (PS Publishing). In 2009 it will also appear in South Korea.

Schreib-Lust on Hidden Camera

Hidden CameraJulia Gaß at German site Schreib-Lust reviews Hidden Camera:

Es geht um Liebe und Tod, die dem Helden immer wieder in Gestalt von Frauen in verschiedenen Altersstufen vor Augen geführt werden. Wie im Zeitraffer eines Films durchwandert der Bestattungsunternehmer sein Leben bzw. das, was sein Leben sein könnte.

Der Roman ist eine Parabel über das Leben und liest sich eher noch wie das Drehbuch zu einem Film, in dem es auch um Fremdbestimmung und die Absurdität des Alltags und von Fernsehsendungen geht. Skurril, aber spannend und höchst vergnüglich zu lesen.

Link to the full review.

Echoes of an Empty Mind on Steps Through the Mist

Steps Through the MistPushpak Karnick at Echoes of an Empty Mind reviews Steps Through the Mist:

As the novel glides from one dream to the next connected dream, we realize that the story is not just about dreams or fateful connections. A much darker (depending on how you look at it) subplot runs through the entire novel, focusing on a much drearier topic than idle dreams – Death. Zivkovic seems to suggest that death is also a dream (or waking up from a lifetime of dreaming?). Fate-Death-Life seem to be three forces that work as One. Death acts as the cause de transformation, turning animate into inanimate, and then something beyond. It need not be the end of life, it could also be the end of life-as-we-know-it, a process of rebirth that needs but the unfurling of wings, and flight into the heart of the Mist.

Link to the full review.

Two Reviews of Seven Touches of Music

In Issue 6 (Summer 2007) of The Pacific Rim Review of Books, Bernard Gastel reviews Seven Touches of Music:

The central conceit seems to be that God is a violinist, a composer whose composition is suggestive of the entire world in its historical and future complexity. Characters are given glimpses of alternate or apparently lost parts of that composition, but, just as music described is no longer music, they do not have the means to share that glimpse with anyone else. Their impossible experiences would be considered signs of instability and nothing more. In the first story a teacher of autistic children finds that instead of filling a sheet of paper with nothing but the letter ‘O’ as he normally does, one of his students – apparently under the influence of music – writes a series of numbers. This series, it turns out, is a physical constant, one of the “fundamental values of nature.” There is nothing the teacher can do with this information, because there is no recurrance of this anomaly. All the characters in the book are confronted with a moment of divine clarity, and their choice, when possible, is invariably to return to the comfort or banality of everyday things.

In Seven Touches of Music ultimate truths have an ambiguous existence. It is exactly where those truths are revealed that loss is felt most profoundly. A short, beautiful book, it shows a world where the ideal, where it exists at all, is found in the world’s shadows as well as in its light.

And a very nice reader review on the page for the book, by Mr. RB Fortune-Wood “Rowan”:

Nietzsche once claimed “Without music, life would be an error.” The nihilistic Romanian thinker Emil Cioran, heavily influenced by Nietzsche, said on God, “without Bach, God would be a complete second rate figure.” I cannot think of anything better than these two aphorisms to convey the impression the Serbian writer Zoran Zivkovic’s Seven Touches of Music made on me. Each narrative compliments the others forming a beautiful mosaic novel fittingly contained in an exquisite black cover. Seven Touches of Music is reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Music of Erich Zann,” which possesses a similar inexplicable pull.

Blogcritics Magazine on Steps and Seven Touches

Richard Marcus at Blogcritics Magazine has posted some insightful reviews of my two books from Aio Publishing.

On Steps Through the Mist:

Like all of Zivkovic’s stories, Steps Through The Mist will leave you scratching your head about the nature of dreams, and what effect we may or may not have on our fates. Does it really matter whether we make a concentrated effort to change our futures, or will what comes about comes about no matter what? Reality is not as far removed from the world of our dreams as we like to think, and the future is always waiting for us no matter what we do.

Link to the full review.

On Seven Touches of Music:

For a novel like Seven Touches Of Music to work we have to believe in the characters and their circumstances sufficiently that the impact the music has on their lives becomes as significant to us as it does to them. Zivkovic has not only made his characters utterly convincing, but his depiction of their lives, and the environment they live in, are detailed in such a manner that we can feel the shock to their systems when they are given their brief glimpses into the unknown.

Link to the full review.

The Barking Dog on Impossible Stories

Impossible EncountersLawrence Conquest recently reviewed my mega-collection Impossible Stories (PS Publishing, 2006) for The Barking Dog:

Zivkovic’s stories generally focus on the intrusion of the bizarre or fantastic into otherwise normal lives, often with characters facing moral dilemmas, with the results often reading like bizarre modern fairy tales or fables. Dreamlike, occasionally nightmarish, and loaded with symbolism, Zivkovic’s characters find themselves sliding through time, encountering God, the Devil, and even the author himself in several post-modern moments.

Link to the full review here.

OF Blog of the Fallen on Twelve Collections

Larry at OF Blog of the Fallen has some nice and insightful things to say about Twelve Collections and The Teashop:

In a day and age where it seems that even speculative fiction writers aim to pack as much descriptive verbiage into their stories as possible (often with deleterious consequences), it is refreshing to read stories written by authors who go in the opposite direction; their stories place a premium on the readers’ imaginative abilities to unpack meaning from just a few scant words.

Serbian author Zoran Zivkovic is one of those blessed few authors. Ever since I read his first novel released in the US, The Fourth Circle, back in 2004, I have marveled over how much depth there is to be found in stories that rarely go past 20 pages. In Twelve Collections and the Teashop, a 2007 limited-edition UK release (no known US release date), Zivkovic has written perhaps one of his best “story suites” to date.

In the introduction, Michael Moorcock discusses how Zivkovic’s writing reflects an older European fabulist tradition, one that was lost in the West with the rise of the Naturalists/Modernists and their (over)emphasis on verisimilitude. Moorcock posits that Eastern European authors such as Zivkovic, who came of age during the police state mentality of the Iron Curtain years, learned that being too specific was a risky matter and that much could be done with everywhere cities and such-and-such people. While this deliberate vagueness might annoy those who prefer focusing on the facts and not the vision behind the story plots, others have found the dreamlike qualities of such tales to be intoxicating, sucking one into reading and then considering what might be transpiring rather than just what really is happening there.

Link to the full review.