Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Review: The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart
The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart by Jesse Bullington
The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart is most likely the most violent book I have ever read. Set in the dark ages, it follows two devout, grave robbing brothers whose foulness seems insurmountable, but they eventually stand out as the good guys when compared to their enemies.
The brothers, Hegel and Manfried are, in many ways, products of their environment. They live in dark times, (medieval Europe) and survive by any means possible while caring little for others. Often innocent lives are forfeit so that the brothers can carry on in the world. Their one goal in life is to travel to Egypt so they can gain countless riches by robbing the endless graves there.
With that simple premise, the book takes off. This novel takes no prisoners and is not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach (reading this book while eating is not recommended). I must have gotten desensitized though, because I read the whole thing, and I did like it quite a bit. I got a feeling that Bullington must have researched the time period because the setting felt accurate, and the people that populated his world were believable. This is also a pretty damn funny book. A lot of the banter between the brothers is hilarious, and the way they interact with other characters was fun to read. Bullington does a great job of adding some uncommon fantasy elements that give this book a unique feel. There is one very memorable scene of demon birth that stands out as some of the best fantastical writing I've ever read.
However, this is a graphically violent novel. I feel that The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart reflects a trend that I often see in various media these days: the more violence and gore the better. I see it the most often on TV and movies; in the shitty cop dramas that glorify the process of some cop picking through the brain matter of a corpse to solve a murder. I see it on the news as I hear about local police officers gunned down while sipping coffee while the reporter stands in front of body bags. I see it in the gore-fest "horror" films, or the kill 'em all/carve 'em up action films that Hollywood cranks out. The fact that I have yet to see this trend in print is more likely due to my meager bankroll, which causes me to troll the used bookshelves instead of buying the latest releases. However, thanks to some book money, enough positive reviews, and a sprinkle of hype, I picked up The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart.
I do not regret this decision, while The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart is a wickedly violent tale that often put me in a state of unease, I still found myself enjoying it for plenty of other reasons. If nothing else it at least is a novel that made me think. I am left to wonder at what Bullington intended. If it does what few other fantasy novels in recent memory do: reflect and comment on modern culture, complete with an ending that wraps up the tale as well as adding the final punctuation mark on it's modern culture commentary... Or if it is simply another example of how ultra violence is so prevalent in the mainstream culture today.
The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart is definitely not for the soft bellied or the queasy, but also not one to be missed.