Recently Paul Fraser of the SF Magazines blog commented on my review of Keith Roberts Pavane. Since I’m busy working on a long series of posts that I won’t put out until they are all done, it seemed like the time for . . .

Raw Feed (1987): Kiteworld, Keith Roberts, 1985.

Cover by Jill Bauman

A strangely compelling story, slow moving at first but rapidly paced after the “Kitecaptain” section.

It’s a combination of medieval-like religion in the Variant Church, seemingly Taoism in the Middle Doctrine, and Victorian-type tech (early autos, kites, and steam tractors). I would have liked to have seen more explanation of the religions.

Roberts managed to pull off shifting viewpoints and central characters

Still, the ending was disappointing.

While saving all the major woman characters of the novel (Kerosina’s human corruption in need of salvation via loving understanding, Tan equaling Innocence, Velvet equaling Beauty) may have been a philosophical statement, it seemed more like contrivance to avoid Aldiss “decent sense of despair” than a believable outcome.

I did like the post-apocalypse litanies concerning cruise missiles and ICBMs. More on the mutants in the Badlands would have been nice.

Roberts nicely avoids lurid exploitation despite the plethora of sleaziness in the plot — rape, homosexuality, child molestation, and incest. All had a legitimate plot function in examination of his world and human nature.

Characterization was usually well done particularly Captain Manning, Velvet, and the affair of Janni and Rand. The reader can understand their actions if not approve of them. That includes Mannings’ incest. Kerosina was an intriguing, if warped and perverted, woman. I wish we would have heard a bit more about her marriage and early life.

The advanced civilization of “Dragonfly” at the end seemed a bit (actually a lot) cliched (blondes in silver suits who fly solar power planes and heal with hands). Descriptions of political and religious anarchy in the “Kitekiller” section genuinely terrifying.

Still, a very good read despite quirks and flaws.


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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