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Keith Roberts

Pavane by Keith Roberts 


by Keith Roberts

Keith John Kingston Roberts (20 September 1935 – 5 October 2000),  wrote nine novels and over one hundred short pieces. He won the British SF Association award for best novel for Gráinne (1987). In 1984, Anthony Burgess picked  Pavane (1969), as one of the best 99 novels written in the English language since 1939. It has appeared on many other authors’ favorite books lists since. His work was nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, the Arthur C. Clarke, and the John W. Campbell Awards. His career spanned from 1964 to 2000, the year he died. Roberts also worked as an editor for Science Fantasy magazine and was an accomplished illustrator with over 40 covers to his credit, winning a BSFA award for artist in 1986. 


“I read one story from Pavane when I was nine, and it scarred me. It was the first time a short story had made me cry.  I read the whole book as a teenager and learned where that story had come from, and the shape of the whole story and I felt the scars heal.  It was Keith Roberts’ masterpiece: ­profound and still remarkable.”

– Neil Gaiman

Considered Keith Roberts’ masterwork, this novel consists of linked short stories (six measures and a coda) set in a twentieth century where the Roman Catholic Church controls the western world, and has done so since Queen Eliza­beth of England was assassinated in 1588. The Protestant Reformation never happened. The Inquisition thrives. And a tyran­ni­cal Rome maintains its power in a Dark Age, by limiting knowledge, outlawing electricity and curbing technology.

Pavane shows the harshness of life in this society, and details the generational struggle for independence by the citizens of Dorset, Eng­land. It is through this series of moving tales that Roberts inter­weaves a discussion of Destiny and History that takes the book out of the ordinary. The author’s great love for his native country makes this the most English of novels, and one of the finest in fantastic literature.

This edition features for the first time, in addition to the Leo and Diane Dillon cover first published on the 1969 Ace SF Special edition, the cover art Keith Roberts produced for the publication of the two stories "First Measure: The Lady Margaret" and "Corfe Gate" in the magazine Impulse.  The art is featured on the French flaps of the book.

The text of this edition does contain "The White Boat," which was not part of the UK first edition. 

One of ten books listed by William Gibson in “If You Liked My Book, You’ll Love These” in the May 28, 2010 issue of New York magazine. 
One of 50 books listed by China Miéville in “Fifty Fantasy & Science Fiction Works That Socialists Should Read.”  

“I enjoyed the first instalment of the Pavane series so much that I sought out Keith Roberts and we had a very enjoyable meeting in a pub, followed by a hair-raising drive home.”

“I still think it is among the best works of science fiction ever produced in England.  It deserves better recognition.”

– Terry Pratchett
“Pavane is a novel which stands up against any of the classics of modern literature. SF should never have been the same after its publication, although in truth it bumbled on in its same old insular way. At his best, Roberts is a dazzling writer, unequaled in his insight into character and sense of place.”
–  Ian R. MacLeod
“Keith Robert’s Pavane is one of the ur-examples of alternate history, and a crackling good story (or set of stories) with sharply realized characters who are at once very much of their time and place and yet universally human. But it’s quite a bit more; a beautiful and moving meditation on the arc of history, the price and benefits of progress and tradition, and the interaction of necessity and free will. Finally, the landscape descriptions are some of the most memorable in science fiction, or for that matter in fiction generally. To use an overworked word, it is a classic.”
– S. M. Stirling
“... his finest book: Pavane, a wonderful novel of English alternate history, written in glorious English.”
– Christopher Priest
“[A] masterpiece ... one of the greatest alternate world stories ever told.”
– George R. R. Martin
“One of the best alternate history novels ever written.”
– Gardner Dozois
"...now credited as the finest of all 'alternate histories'."  
 – The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction
by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn
(winner of the 2005 Hugo award for Best Related Book)
"This is an alternate history along the lines of THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE by Philip K. Dick, told from the point of view of people who have lived long (or all their lives) under the alternate world and do not know that it can be different. It is presented slowly and deliberately with no large battles, no exploding ammo dumps or nuclear bombs, and no visionary charismatic leader who will fix all things."
Scott A. Cupp

Cover Design by Robert Garcia

Publication Date: December 15, 2011

Order from PathwayTrade Paperback (French Flaps) • 242 pages • ISBN-10 1-88296-839-5  • $17.00 USD

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updated 11 March 2012