Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Under Heaven Under Heaven
by Guy Gavriel Kay

Supplied for review by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed By: Katie Boyle

Guy Gavriel Kay is an author I have largely avoided. He suffers from an affliction that is all too common among fantasy writers: he writes miles of exposition interspersed with inches of action.

Under Heaven does suffer from exposition disease. There are reams of poetry, acres of reflection on honour, barrels of unnecessary character exposition. And nestled among this like pearls are bits of action.

In this case, though, the reams and acres and barrels are well-written and interesting. The setting is Tang China, over a thousand years ago. The poetry, reflection and exposition all fit together to create a picture of a society that is radically different from Western civilisation today. The fantasy world based on an Eastern culture, with honour as the most important thing, is badly overdone; Kay has made it seem significant, even if it’s not fresh, and has drawn profound messages from it.

If you know much about different Eastern cultures, you will recognise that the cover artist is mixing his cultures, and incidentally his time periods: one of the figures on the cover looks like a Japanese geisha, so is wrong in both appearance and timeline (geisha are traced back to the early 17th century). However, the book is much better written than that, and is well worth reading.

SFFANZ is a non-profit organisation and registered charity
designed to bring together fans of the fantastic in New Zealand

Contact us by email at: