Blissenburg Review Part II


In my last post I gave a short and semi-coherent review of Howard Rasmussen’s The Blissenburg Chronicles. Every time I turn the page I pick up some nuance I missed the first time I read it. I would love to write something like this someday… you know at the ending of Inception, when the top is kind of spinning? Right when the camera cuts away? At that moment I felt the most profound jealousy toward Christopher Nolan, because I wished I’d written it first. I feel the exact same way toward Rasmussen.

I’ve transcribed a couple of my favorite TBC scenes here to illustrate what I mean.

“I can see it,” she said. “A week from now I’ll be sitting right here, by myself. And you can’t change it. I’ve tried, so many times.” She squeezed her green eyes shut, just too late to hinder a single tear from rolling down her cheek.  “And each time something happens. When you try to prevent the future, you make it happen. No one I warn believes me or if they do it just makes it worse.”
Henri touched her shoulder gently. “Here? Right here, no? This is where you’ll be in one week’s time?” He grinned suddenly and took his black overcoat from the chair. “A moment, madamoiselle. Or a week.” He stood, turned, and was gone.
Heidi’s eyes widened. “But- how did he–”
“A gift, Madamoiselle. A blessing. Like your sight.” Henri stepped back into the room from the thin air he’d stepped into. “A week from now?”
“You’re — you’re there,” she said, almost choking. “How did you change it? I saw you. You were not there, and then you were!”
Henri smiled gently and patted the pockets of his coat. “I am but a blind man, my dear.” His hand came from his coat pocket holding a small, curved pipe. “But you are lame, and I may walk where you may not. Travel with us, and the future shall hold whatever you wish.”
Thomas stood. “We leave tonight. Make ready, Miss Meyer.”

See where he mentions the coat? There’s a pipe in that scene that shows up nowhere else in the book. Later, when Henri puts on that overcoat, Henri jokingly obscures his face with an unnamed piece of fruit. Later still in the story, Henri is described standing directly behind his past self, looking at the back of his own head. Those are just the ones I was able to catch. Oh wait, here’s another one:

He tickled her lightly with the paintbrush, running it along the smooth, cream-colored curves of her body. “My true masterpiece,” he said, laughing, and put the brush on the table beside his overcoat.

I’ve never seen the fourth wall broken so shockingly or effectively as Rasmussen manages– not even in Danielewski’s House Of Leaves. One of the five Seers winces every time a page with her on it is turned:

Roxanne winced.

“Can you feel it?” Roxanne sank to her knees. “A great sound, rushing over us all, thunder like reality twisting and settling. We are all of us lifted, turned, examined.” Her eyes bored through Thomas. “The seer you seek travels with us already. Has followed you for months.” She clutched at her heart. “Knows you. Knows your soul.” She looked up.
She looked up, and out. At you.
“I see you,” she said.
“See who?” asked Henri.
Thomas followed her gaze. “Nothing, Henri. The invisible Sixth. A seer, past or future, who’ll join us.”
“Aren’t you listening?” Roxanne started laughing. “The Sixth is already with us.
“Gesundheit,” said Heidi.
Thomas sneezed.

See what I mean? Well I am a sucker for time travel but… Seriously, run, do not walk, and buy this book right now. I mean, I haven’t even touched on the nameless Seer Of Song yet, whose dialogue manages to outprose anything I’ve written:

“Time is a song. And endless, voiceless song, weaving the universe into being even as they sing the children to death. If they didn’t die, they would never have lived!”
Heidi glared at her. “Time is a line. You live, you die. Simple.”
Thomas grunted. “Were it so easy.”
Henri glimmered into the room. “You’re telling me. Here’s your book.”
Thomas took the slender blue rectangle and opened it. “Thank you, Henri.” He looked at Heidi. “Miss Meyer, would you be so kind as to inform me when I’ll next ask for this?”
Heidi scowled. “Why can’t we just take it with us for once? Does Henri really always have to run ahead?”
Henri smiled. “Madamoiselle, I am flattered. Unfortunately, Thomas’ book must take the safer path.”
The old woman smiled. “You sing of him in your dreams, child. It is a familiar song. Life first, death later, you say? Oh, to live as the young desire to live…”
“Shut up, Song.” Heidi’s cheeks burned. “He asks for it in Marseilles. In two months.”
Thomas looked up suddenly. “Does anyone else feel like we’ve been here before?”

I haven’t figured out the significance to Thomas’ deja vu yet, but it shows up throughout the book and only when he’s speaking to the living.

The scenery in TBC is enough for its own post. It isn’t just otherworldly, it’s otherly. The horizons are lightyears across. Why? Because time itself forms part of the landscape. The edges and cover of the book aren’t immune to the perceptions of the characters, either; I won’t go into too much more detail because there’s a major plot point involving this device. Suffice it to say that Rasmussen’s descriptions convey vivid detail without ever slowing down the action.

I have a theory going on that the characters may be influenced by whatever’s on the page directly opposite them. I’ll let you know if it pans out.

If anyone else has read TBC, please leave your comments! I’d love to hear what someone else has to say about it. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you doing?! Go get Rasmussen some royalties!

2 Responses to “Blissenburg Review Part II”

  1. Gregory Weir Says:

    I haven’t gotten a copy yet, but I’ve done a bit of googling about the book, and have come away even more fascinated than after reading your review. I’d love to hear more about your theories about it.

  2. gryfft Says:

    Thanks for your kind words! I’m a big fan of your work.

    If you’re anything like me, you’ll love this book.

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