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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Book of Madness

Levent Şenyürek

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To purchase The Book of Madness

Title: The Book of Madness
Author: Levent Şenyürek
Genre: Stories
Written: 2007 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 130 pages
Original in: Turkish
Availability: The Book of Madness - US
The Book of Madness - UK
The Book of Madness - Canada
  • Turkish title: Çıldırtan Kitap
  • Translated by Feyza Howell

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Our Assessment:

B- : the stories are a bit thin but the writing is fine

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The Book of Madness is a collection of ten science fiction/fantasy stories. Levent Şenyürek has an agreeable style and the translation is, for the most part, very smooth, making for perfectly adequate reading -- indeed, stylistically the pieces are a cut above everyday science fiction stories. They are a bit thin however, the focus narrow even as the premise is often, very, very grand -- including apocalyptic alien invasions and the like.
       Şenyürek does well in focusing on individuals, the stories often narrated in the first person. This perspective leaves much unmentioned and unknown -- the individual faces powers and events that he knows little about, or takes for granted -- which makes for a fairly effective eerie feel, the threat looming large but also remaining largely off-stage (or -page).
       In the first story, 'The Secret under the Snow', set in the Stalinist Soviet Union, Şenyürek has a character explain more or less what has gone wrong (the Tugunska event of 1908 turns out to have been an alien-landing, and things are now slowly getting out of hand); though less effective in its presentation of the threat than in some of the other stories that are then narrated in the first-person Şenyürek does bring in ideological issues -- the Communist Party approach to dealing with aliens -- nicely here. Making the protagonist what amounts to being a faith-healer -- something entirely unscientific and alien, too -- that the ultra-rational authorities must turn to is also a nice twist, but this is a lot of material for a short story.
       Books and the dangers of information-transfer -- reading, especially -- feature in several of the stories, including 'Virus' and the title-piece, and if rather familiar at least 'The Book of Madness' is rather nicely done. The final story has a writer trying to finish off a collection of short stories like this one and getting carried away with the premise of the last story he is writing, imagining that the alien invasion he has conceived could actually be taking place. It's an entertaining enough closing piece, though it's unfortunate that this is the one story marred by several infelicities in the translation -- he goes through a turnpike (rather than turnstile), submitted a document (rather than manuscript) to his publisher -- and his final thought is that, quite possibly, "I'm buggered" (which sounds too British -- coming from this narrator -- even for British readers).
       Perhaps the most representative story of the collection is 'Creation', which posits the invention of a computer program called Realisator that allows very advanced programs to be run in the simplest fashion; here, it runs a Genesis-type program, obeying the commands to "Let there be light !" and everything else after that -- leading, eventually, to a virtual mankind building up virtual civilization. Here is the kind of story that can work well in just a few pages, but Şenyürek's command -- of writing casually enough while still dealing with such grand ideas -- isn't quite sure enough to pull it off. He's quite good, but not good enough.
       There's some talent evident in these stories, but not nearly enough novelty -- and Şenyürek's abilities (he clearly has some) would seem to be better suited for longer-form fiction.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 January 2011

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The Book of Madness: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Turkish writer Levent Şenyürek was born in 1975.

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© 2011 the complete review

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