Die Haarteppichknüpfer (The Carpet Makers) (1995)
This is the story of the hair carpet makers. I cannot promise that you will love it. I cannot even promise that you will like it. I can promise you only one thing: You will never forget this story. —Andreas Eschbach
Any discussion of contemporary German SF authors is bound to bring up the name of Andreas Eschbach, shooting star of the German SF scene, who has garnered multiple awards and translations into several European languages. Die Haarteppichknüpfer is his debut novel.
The narrative starts out on a remote planet, whose inhabitants live in medieval conditions. A lost colony it seems. The local culture revolves around the knotting of carpets from human hair, carpets destined for the court of the emperor, works of art so incredibly intricate a weaver will spend all his life on a single carpet. Eventually the story widens to interstellar, even intergalactic scope. The immortal emperor, absolute ruler and god since time immemorial, has been overthrown, killed by rebels, but his presence lingers on in the outreaches of the vast empire. The carpets are the obsession of a whole galaxy and their purpose and ultimate destination becomes an ever deepening mystery. The more is unraveled the more terrifying are the facts that surface.
Eschbach's narration is somewhat unusual in that there is no protagonist. Each chapter tells its own little story, tenuously related to the others. In each chapter the author introduces new characters and many will find a gruesome fate soon after, giving the novel an overall grim mood. It is a story of power and ruthlessness on a superhuman scale, of wonder at the extent in space and time. The dimensions involved are far from plausible, but if you can suspend your disbelief the monstrosity will be even more suffocating.
Quite memorable indeed.
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