All Souls’ Rising by Madison Smartt Bell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Anyone who reads my blog, will know – from looking at the Goodreads ‘Currently Reading’ widget there, that it’s taken a long time to struggle through this one. A very long time. A very, very long time. You get the picture.
I fully accept it could be me that found this to be a long-winded way of saying very little. I don’t know. It’s either a polished turd, or a searing condemnation of…something or other. To be honest, I’m too bored to worry about worrying about what on earth he was trying to do with this one.
It’s about the only successful slave rebellion ever. Which took place in Haiti (the French colony of Saint-Dominge, as it was) in 1791 – 1804. This book, I think, is set at the start, in 1791. Basically, we follow the progress of a French Doctor, through the French, the Haitian side of the island, before during and after the Slaves’ uprising.
It’s written, I think, in a style he feels is appropriate for the era (I’m guessing it’s a man. You never know with a name like Madison). So a kind of Jane Austin-style, if she was writing about people being skinned alive. Well, I’m sorry, but some of the descriptions of what went on, are unnecessarily gruesome. Absolutely unnecessarily graphic and downright disturbingly horrible. I’ve yet to find out if these sorts of things actually went on and the descriptions are based on fact or not. And I’m not going to. But, they did absolutely nothing to advance the cause of the novel. It descended in parts, into the worst sort of gratuitous slasher, cheap horror-movie blood bath. Horror for horror’s sake with an attempt to dress it up in the tattered trappings of a serious work. Yes, I can understand that the slaves were highly likely to exact their revenge on their ex-masters and you could hardly blame them for doing what they did. But stretching it out, time and time again, page after page is just badly done. And then, if this stuff isn’t based on actual incidents, on hard documented fact, and he’s making all this up – then you’re one very sick man, Mr Bell. Or Ms Bell.
I came very, very close to knocking it on the head. Many, many times.
I know it’s always easier to be negative that positive, but I really am struggling to find anything positive to say about this one. Oh yeah, I got it free. Phew!
That’s it. If you’re in the market for this sort of thing, you’re probably going to appreciate it a lot more than I did. To be honest, I found the historical time-line at the back more interesting and readable than what preceded it. Probably, the Wikipedia page on the up-rising would read better.