Monday, February 23, 2009

Book/Magazine Review: The Babylonian Trilogy by Sebastien Doubinsky

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

I don't know which was more overwhelming: the "fuck, this is brilliant!" experience in reading the first few pages or the "how come I'm hearing about this Sebastien Doubinsky guy only now?" by the time I reached the end. Without a doubt, The Babylonian Trilogy was a real treat because I didn't know what to expect and it exceeded what I was prepared for.

The Babylonian Trilogy is, no surprise, three sections compiled into one neat package. They are The Birth of Television according to Buddha, Yellow Bull, and The Gardens of Babylon. What's exciting with this trilogy is that Doubinsky's style is both familiar and varied with each section. For example, The Birth of Television according to Buddha features a variety of viewpoints, some not making immediate sense while others are relatively more comprehensible. What's enjoyable about the author's writing is that each viewpoint tends to be just a page long with a title at the top of the page. As the story slowly unfolds, everything starts to make more sense but never losing your interest as a reader as it's one bizarre trip to another.

Yellow Bull retains the sparseness of the text and the chapter headings but for the most part this is a story told from a central perspective. There's an wonderful juxtaposition between the two lovers of the protagonist which becomes a recurring theme although one flaw of this section is the fact that we occasionally drift towards the main character's "sidekick" and by the time we reach the end, there's really not much payoff for him. Still, this was nonetheless a compelling read and very engaging.

The Gardens of Babylon feels the most different from the previous two. We return to the multiple point of view perspective except it's down to three characters and each point of view is preceded by the character's pseudonym for the purposes of this narrative. The text also tends to be longer but it doesn't really extend more than two to three pages.

What's impressive is how Doubinsky can drift from one section to another and deliver an entirely different thesis with each story. The Birth of Television according to Buddha feels like the most politically-relevant as it showcases the glamorization of pain and suffering mixed in with some meta-textual elements. Yellow Bull on the other hand feels more like a crime homage with a resonating epiphany at the end. And The Gardens of Babylon tackles all sorts of death--or departure if you will--in a very stylish fashion.

The three narratives are only loosely tied together and The Gardens of Babylon seems the most out of place of three as the setting seems to have changed the most significantly (a world with assassin-writers/poets) while the others seem to fit in just right with the real world. Their common element is a recurring character, Doubinsky's equivalent of a Duncan Idaho character who is anywhere from a main character to a plot extra depending on which section you're reading.

Another reason you should be getting The Babylonian Trilogy is that it's simply a well-designed book with its actual form and layout complimenting the author's writing style. What is usually the header/footer in this case occupies the left/right hand side of the page and there's a certain minimalist design as most of the chapters fit one page (and sometimes it's as little as three lines) with an identifiable title on top.

Overall, The Babylonian Trilogy isn't perfect, but it's an honest-to-goodness literary rollercoaster ride that delivers something different each time and there's never a dull moment. It's refreshing and daring and the surprising thing is how Doubinsky managed to sustain such a writing style this long and he accomplishes in one book what other people accomplishes in three novels.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much for the very nice words... Yours, S├ębastien Doubinsky

Charles said...

You're welcome. Looking forward to more of your writing.

Anonymous said...

Well, I have two more manuscripts up my sleeve...

Charles said...

If someone's going to publish them... =)

Anonymous said...

Well, if I get more critics like yours, there might be hope. Yet, as you know, what I write is pretty weird... So keep your fingers crossed for me!

Charles said...

Good luck then!