FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE ALCHEMIST by Paolo Bacigalupi, 2011
This is the 128th in my series of Forgotten Books.
This will be half a review this week. Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell teamed together as two science fiction writers to write a sequence of two linked fantasy novellas. The Executioness is Buckell’s book and it should be next week’s Forgotten Book.
It is interesting when science fiction writers decide they want to do some fantasy work. Frequently it just does not work or is not very original. This week it does seem to work and quite well.
Jeoz is the narrator of the tale, the title alchemist. He loves in the city of Khaim with his daughter. The city is slowly being overrun by magic brambles. Anytime someone uses magic, bramble roots and seeds are created. They do not affect the magic user. Rather someone else takes the hit. The bramble is everywhere, encouraged by people doing small magics that they feel are necessary. The Mayor has offered a huge reward for anyone who can destroy the bramble.
Magic is forbidden on pain of death. Jeoz has used the magic on rare occasions. His daughter Jiala is sick. He makes small conjuring to ease her breathing and keep the disease from progressing, even though he knows it is death if he is caught. But he is a scientist and he believes he can stop the bramble. His fortunes have changed over the years. He was once well respected and rich. Now he has sold all his furniture and lives a miserable life.
He constructs a balanthast, a device of glass and metal that destroys the bramble and leaves behind nothing, not even seed. The Mayor and his Majister, Scacz, are skeptical until they see a demonstration. Then they want a larger demonstration. Jeoz sees his fortunes rising. But he is sadly mistaken as the powers that be find a new use for his device, one for which it was never intended.
A very interesting novella from a new young master writer, The Alchemist is a quick read. It has many likeable characters and moves quickly. At 96 pages and $20 it might seem steep, but it is well worth the journey. I hope The Executioness is as much fun.
Copies are available at the usual sites though they are generally at the published price or higher. I saw the Kindle version available for $2.99 today so if you are interested in testing it, that may be the way to go. I recommend it.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.