A Woven World Unravels

The Carpet Makers

What happens when your entire world comes crashing down? When everything you knew and loved… everything you believed… everything that kept the world in balance for eons… is simply gone? Would you deny it? Would your life lose its meaning? Or would you celebrate change? Would you even ever fully understand?

Welcome to the world of Andreas Echbach, a world where the limitless Imperial Empire is full of utter mystery.  Rumors are spreading that the god-like Emperor Aleksandr is dead, that his power over the Empire has fallen to a group of rebels. Such rumors are heresy on many of the Empire’s worlds, including the world of Ostvan, a member of a long line of hair-carpet makers. Hair-carpet makers have a single duty… to spend their entire life creating a single carpet tied from the hair of his wives and daughters. This trade has been passed down from father to son since prehistory. The carpets are then sold to Imperial Traders who take them to the palace.

Yet the Empire as the characters know it is not what it seems. In fact, the reader soon discovers nothing is as it seems, and even the simplest things are constructions towards  some elaborate, illogical purpose. Each chapter is a snapshot of a single event in a different character’s life. Each snapshot provides important insight… a clue… to what is happening and more importantly WHY. The reader is left to actively piece together the big picture.

Overall, the read was completely engaging.  Andreas Eschbach strung me around masterfully, leading me on with false clues. He predicted my hesitations and assumptions and used those to drive my curiosity forward.  It was as if I was involved in an adventure/suspense/mystery rather than just reading one.  I will say that the novel does draw on stereotypical imperialism/dictatorships.  The planets are generally fairly primitive… either tribal or feudal… with the exception those few directly involved with the Imperial Palace or the Rebel Movement. Women, especially those on the primitive planets, are merely submissive property. Hair-carpet makers only want wives who fit special hair standards. The use of their hair in the carpet is not empowering, but simply duty.  Yet, the author balances this by allowing three chapters to follow a female’s perspective: that of a young run-away, a old peddler, and an imperial archivist, giving these women depth and a voice of their own.  The novel’s message does not seem to be on social commentary, but rather on political commentary. An overall theme involves the dangers of power, especially the political power of imperialism. Even by the end of the book, the reader is left wondering where the power truly ends… assuming it ever does.

I had not read contemporary German science fiction before (published originally in 1995), and probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity if it wasn’t for Orson Scott Card. He explains in the foreward his personal involvement in getting Adreas Eschbach’s novel translated into English (published translation in 2005) and adopted by his publisher, Tor.  The relationship between them is an interesting story, which is worthy of such an interesting novel.

Overall, The Carpet Makers is definitely the sort of plot that would reveal something new each time you read it.

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