The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach
|The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach is a story with a story, if you will. Originally written in German in 1995, this novel was incredibly popular in Europe. Orson Scott Card -- while at a science fiction convention in Germany -- came across this work, had it translated privately, and was blown away by its vision. He championed the book to his publisher, TOR, and so this incredibly original science fiction novel has come to be available in North America.|
The Carpet Makers seems at first to be a mosaic novel; taking seemingly unrelated short stories and forming a whole. There is an underlying mystery that accompanies each story; the reason for the carpets themselves to exist.
The carpets referenced in the title are not any normal sort of carpet for one thing, they are made of human hair. The novel begins telling the story of Ostvan, a carpet maker like his father and all his forefathers before him. He has a number of wives, so that he may have different colors of hair with which to weave his masterwork. One single carpet takes the entirety of a carpet makers life, and the value of it is enough to sustain his heir and his heir's wives until such time that his heir completes his carpet. The carpets themselves are of unsurpassed beauty, and each is detined to reside in the palace of the Emperor, or so everyone believes.
The translation is at most times very good, but there are a few points where the story seems to get a bit confused. Having not read it in German, it would be unfair to blame the translator, but I can't help but think it was a bit more clear and concise in the original.
The mystery concludes with a shock to put M. Night Shyamalan to shame.
The Carpet Makers is indeed a unique vision that transcends the normal boundaries of science fiction. Yet it remains human and tragic, tackling issues such as human ego and frailty, and the corruption of ultimate power. It is a warning to a world that is in danger of stewing in their own ignorance. It beseeches us to question; to never accept status quo. A timeless message, told in a new manner.
The ending is incredibly believable, and that is the most terrifying thing of all.
As the true first edition of this book were printed a decade ago in Germany, I don't imagine the value of TOR's edition will ever be worth a signifigant amount of money.
That said, every collector of science fiction ought to make room for this one on their shelves. It's an important work from an author who could (and probably will) become our generations Stanislaw Lem, and the message is as timeless as the best warning novels from John Brunner or John Wyndham.