- Paperback: 193 pages
- Publisher: Golden Gryphon Pr (1 October 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1930846533
- ISBN-13: 978-1930846531
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.5 x 21 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 249 g
- Customer Reviews: Be the first to review this item
The Physiognomy Paperback – 1 Oct 2008
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About the Author
Jeffrey Ford is a writing teacher at Brookdale Community College and the author of The Empire of Ice Cream, The Fantasy Writers Assistant, The Girl in the Glass, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuqu, and Vanitas. He is the winner of a Nebula Award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, and the World Fantasy Award. He lives in Medford Lakes, New Jersey.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Cley is a physiognomist, someone who can judge the personality of a person by examining their cranial features. And boy is he an arrogant prick. And yet, I somehow, bizarrely, rooted for him anyway. He does some absolutely horrible things--one in particular made me actually cringe and shudder while reading.
He does pay for his sins, however, but I can't say that I ever truly like the character all that much. Even after he reforms, he seems to be still mostly a prick. But he is nonetheless a compelling prick.
The strongest part of the novel, I think, is Ford's ability to evoke the colorful and weird imagery of the world. There are so many strange elements--a thinking, plotting monkey, a monstrous mechanical man with a heart of gold, a woman so hideous her face can kill--I kept wondering where the hell he comes up with this stuff. This is not standard fantasy or sci fi fare; it's imaginative and bizarre, and I was not able to predict where the hell the story was going at any time, for the most part. Which is a good thing.
Ford's writing is lyrical and evocative. I first stumbled across his work in a short story collection. His story "The Honeyed Knot" was so amazing that I still read it aloud to my students every year, and it sparks MUCH discussion and passion. What makes it even more powerful is that Ford swears that it's a true story (I don't believe him, but it's still fun to tell students that it's 'true'). 'Physiognomy' is equally good, but different. It has a more poetic quality to it, a quality that coincides well with the content.
As an aside, I met Mr Ford at the 2011 World Fantasy Convention where he was doing a reading. I expected a slight, rumpled, college professor type with tired eyes and a sensitive soul. I don't know about Mr Ford's soul, but my mental image of him wasn't even close. He turned out to be a pretty big guy with a thick Long Island accent, and if I ever met up with him in a bar, I wouldn't want to piss him off. (But we did chat for a minute or two and he seemed immensely likable. He also expressed unbelievable patience with a guy who was having him sign a zillion books, obviously for resale, rather than for fan purposes).
Physiognomy is not light reading, but it's worthwhile for anyone who likes literate speculative fiction.
Sent on a mission from the "Well-Built City", fashioned by Master of the Realm Drachton Below as a massive mnemonic device to contain and stimulate his memories, to the backwater mining town of Anamasobia in the Northern Territory, Cley finds he is overcome by the circumstances and the curious inhabitants of the town.
His accelerating descent forces him to the island of Doralice where he is left to suffer in the hands of the strange Corporal Matters brothers and the true ruler of Doralice, Silencio the ape.
He is eventually released and continues on his path to redemption.
I definitely read through all of this adventure with sustained interest in the fate of Cley, the almost perfect Arla, the partially roboticized Calloo and the many other bizarre and extraordinarily imaginative characters, and the amazing circumstances in which they find themselves. The book is dense with wondrous ideas and events that continue to amaze right to the end. Given that, it is strange to me that the dark forboding feeling never completely leaves one.
There is much that is curious here. As the Well-Built City is the embodiment of the mind of Master Below, so this book gives substance to the strange and wild and fascinating imagination of its author. I wonder how far his excellent prose and style can take us.
I am definitely looking forward to reading Fords continuing adventures of Cley as he gradually recovers his humanity in a world far from our human experiences.
Dark, but highly recommended.
Unfortunately, his grip on characters is not quite as good. While Cley is engaging on a certain level, as a reader I was ultimately unable to care about either his goodness or his badness. If Ford could have made him matter just a little bit more, then it would not have felt so empty at the end.
Despite the flaws, one of the most original fantasy reads I have had in a long time. Worth reading for that reason alone.
The Physiognomy is intelligently written; believably told (accepting the premise of his "universe"); and is a page turner. The mix of reviews surprised me. Maybe some were not aware this was the first of a trilogy.
I am looking forward to reading the other two.