Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Kino" by Jurgen Fauth (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Order Kino HERE

INTRODUCTION: With the blurb below and coming from Atticus Books of which I saw and heard quite a lot of good things, I was very interested in Kino and read it pretty much on obtaining an e-arc a few months ago, while the book is scheduled to be published April 17, though Amazon has it already shipping. While mostly a cross between historical fiction and standard contemporary thriller, Kino has a sfnal aspect too, but more about this below.

Here is a quote from Kino's diary:

''I came from nothing, I scaled the Olymp, and I can do it again. Even when the Nazis burned my movies, I clung to hope. You have marked me crazy and yet you ask me to explain myself. Art will prevail! I'll make another movie yet. Cinema cannot be detained! Nothing can stop me, for I am Kino.''

Here is the actual blurb:

"When the long lost, first-ever silent film from visionary director Kino arrives mysteriously on his granddaughter Mina's doorstep, the mission to discover the man she barely knew begins. As Kino's journals plunge the reader into the depraved glamour and infectious panic of 1920s and '30s Germany, Mina turns her life upside down to redeem her grandfather's legend.

With a cast of characters that includes Joseph Goebbels, Fritz Lang and Leni Riefenstahl, Fauth concocts a genre-busting blend of German history, film, and art into a fast, sinister tale of redemption. The tightly woven narrative is filled with thuggish darkness and back alley shadows running neck-and-neck with cinematic light and intrigue."

ANALYSIS: "Kino" is a book which I would rate as an A- but I would still recommend as it has some great stuff mixed with some more common such, while the last part raises it above the "run of the mill" thriller with its "save the world, etc" that it threatened to devolve into.

I believe the author missed writing an unforgettable book by going too much the Hollywood way with chases, men in black, etc - though luckily he backs away in the end from that aspect which ultimately looks even more pointless. I also found the comparisons of the McCarthy era and later of Bush's invasion of Iraq with Nazi Germany beyond the pale and that aspect is even clearer today in the "new era" of drone executions and take no prisoners navy seals assaults ordered by our Nobel Peace Prize winner president to the unembarrassed silence and even cheering of the former Bush critics. As another negative, in the Net Galley e-arc copy I read there were also a few historical mistakes like situating Pearl Harbor in 1943, but those may have been corrected.

However the good parts - the diary of Kino about his life which arrives into the hand of his granddaughter Mina and later the revelations of his still living 92 year old wife, Mina's grandma though she has been estranged from her son for ages, the portrait of the Weimar republic and the sketches of Nazi Germany, together with the examination of the role of art in society - are just great stuff and I'd rather read those 100+ pages and the mostly standard present day thriller that fills in the rest, than many other books.

Where the book misses its greatest potential is in the sff aspect which the author uses to justify the chases and men in black as Kino's movies..., well read the book to find out why they are believed to be important even today. That part is sadly glossed over as if the author wanted to write a "realistic thriller" and was embarrassed to delve too much into the sfnal; too bad, as the potential loss there is significant, but at least the finale of the novel stands back from the men in black and that was a big plus for me.

Overall the pages mostly turn by themselves and with few exceptions when the men in black appear the book is quite the page turner, but I still wish the author would have had the courage to go the sff route and embrace fully that aspect.