Monday, April 23, 2018
Cynthia Masson's The Flaw In The Stone
According to the author biography, Masson did her Ph.D. on medieval mysticism and did further study on medieval alchemical manuscripts. This deep knowledge provides the raw the material for her story: there are two groups of scribes and scholars who live in alternate dimensions; their reading and scribing of alchemical manuscripts are the mechanism of the fantasy and they affect the world we live in. The Alchemists' Council, who were the focus of the first volume, try to preserve the Stone and reduce its Flaw. The Rebel branch, who feature more in the second volume, attempt to preserve or even increase the Flaw in the Stone. For the Alchemists' Council, the perfection of the stone leads to perfection of the world and mystic union; for the Rebels, the Flaw is the power behind free will.
That abstract makes the novel sound more bloodless than it is, but that's its mythic underpinning.
In the middle, between these two branches, are a mixed group who are trying to discover what's the best approach for the world at large, the world you and I live in.
Because what happens in these other dimensions definitely does affect our day to day world. One serious attempt to eliminate the Flaw around 1914 led to events you may know of, or even events you may not: I had to look up the Siege of Qingdao, one of the lesser known (to me, at least) parts of WWI. The first volume takes place mainly in the present; this volume, The Flaw In The Stone, looks back at the events that led to the crisis in the present; I expect the third volume to resolve that crisis. The personal relations--the lust and love stories--between the various players are well-handled. Also Masson is good on what might be described as institutional politics--in the council and in the rebel branch--but are real drama over the course of the novel.
In short, pretty fun. If it's the sort of thing you like, I think you'll like it. It is for me, and I did. I'll read the conclusion when it comes out.
ARC provided by ECW press. But you can get it now.