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MoW
Posted on Friday, September 12, 2003 - 08:18 pm:   

What could a computer wizard self-exiled in an abandoned Buddhist temple possibly have in common with the humble servant of a medieval fresco painter?

What is the link between the enigmatic mission of a giant radio-telescope and a tribe of spherical beings who dwell in a world full of unearthly scents and herbs?

What will bring four great scientist from various centuries, Archimedes, Ludolph van Ceulen, Nikola Tesla and Stephen Hawking, to the same spot in time?

What has this got to do with Rama, a female computer program, impregnated by a strange ape?

And, above all, why is it necessary for Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty to join forces so that the Fourth Circle can finally be closed?


__________________________________________
All questions answered in Zoran Zivkovic's The Fourth Circle, coming Spring 2004 from The Ministry of Whimsy.
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MoW
Posted on Friday, September 12, 2003 - 08:18 pm:   

"In its rich tapestry of prose and compositional skills, as well as in its imaginative leaps and intellectual sophistication, The Fourth Circle must be considered, so far, as the author's masterpiece, an acclamation that extends well beyond a mere appreciation of Zivkovic's own and singular work."

SF Site.com
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John Klima
Posted on Saturday, September 13, 2003 - 09:44 am:   

Here is a look at the cover for The Fourth Circle. When we get a final version, it will be posted here as well. The price is still being set, so check back here for final price info and links to purchase the book.

The Fourth Circle Cover

John Klima
Ministry of Whimsy, editor
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, September 14, 2003 - 12:08 am:   

nice.
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Jason Erik Lundberg
Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 10:36 am:   

Omigod, that cover is absolutely gorgeous.
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Jason Erik Lundberg
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 05:53 am:   

Are there any plans to do this book in trade paperback? Or will it just be hardcover? I'm asking as a guy who's in grad school and about to get married.
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John Klima
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 07:31 am:   

Sorry Jason, there are currently only plans for a limited edition hardcover and a trade hardcover edition. The trade hardcover will run $27, and I would suggest to your relatives and future in-laws that it would make an excellent wedding gift or early graduation present.

JK
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John Klima
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 07:33 am:   

Also, I've received the ARCs (that's Advanced Reading Copy) of THE FOURTH CIRCLE and it looks fantastic. These are intended for reviewers and nearly all the copies I have are spoken for, so don't deluge me with requests.

This is a major book from an amazing writer. I expect big things from it.

John Klima
Editor
Ministry of Whimsy
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Forrest
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 11:45 am:   

This is a major book. I love the puzzle pieces in the cover, John. It speaks volumes about the plot itself!!!

Forrest

PS: The JPG says $24, you say $27. May want to check into that!
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John Klima
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - 12:24 pm:   

Yeah, there are a few things to fix on the cover, most importantly adding that Zoran won the World Fantasy Award. We'll get a new image up shortly.

JK
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John Klima
Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 10:54 am:   

Warning: potential large image. Here is what I have as the final cover image.

fourth_circle_final

JK
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John Klima
Posted on Wednesday, January 21, 2004 - 07:31 am:   

Here is a review of The Fourth Circle on SF Site:

http://www.sfsite.com/02a/fc169.htm

If you have questions about the book, you can send them to:

John Klima

JK
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Jason Erik Lundberg
Posted on Wednesday, January 21, 2004 - 05:13 pm:   

Wow, that is a truly excellent review. And justly deserved. Zoran deserves every bit of praise he gets here.
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Night Shade Books
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 10:17 am:   

The Fourth Circle just arrived, and it's a tasty treat. Copies will begin shipping posthaste.
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John Klima
Posted on Wednesday, February 11, 2004 - 06:38 am:   

WOO-HOO!! Very cool!

JK
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, May 31, 2004 - 11:56 am:   

Here are belated reviews on THE FOURTH CIRCLE. From Publisher's Weekly:

"Time and space are fluid and perspectives are intriguingly alien and off-kilter in this cosmological first novel from Serbian author Zivkovic. Built from multiple intertwined plots fleshed out in short chapters rich with impressionistic images, it attempts the difficult feat of conveying a parallel world through the experiences of characters largely unaware that alternate realities exist. Two principal story lines—one involving a Buddhist techno-whiz who creates a female computer program, the other concerned with a medieval novitiate who witnesses the mystical resurrection of a master whom he believed dead—anchor a narrative that also admits episodes in which Archimedes, Stephen Hawking, Nikola Tesla and other scientific luminaries find ways to slip the bounds of the time-space continuum and inadvertently travel to a common meeting place. Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and Conan Doyle all make appearances in the final chapters to deduce a dizzying, if talky, rationale for what exactly is going on. Zivkovic does a superb job of communicating the befuddlement, confusion and awe of individual characters as they wrestle with mysteries that exceed the understanding that their time, place and intellectual capacity permits. He also suggests a coherent cosmic blueprint that incorporates the novel’s many episodes yet still remains intriguingly beyond full comprehension. Not all the mysteries are laid bare at the novel’s somewhat abrupt end, but readers will enjoy the tale’s epistemological gymnastics and the interplay of real and imaginary personalities."
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, May 31, 2004 - 11:57 am:   

From Locus:

"From the near-ridiculous to the philosophical sublime: The Fourth Circle is Zoran Zivkovic’s first and longest novel, now published in the USA for the first time, in a translation carefully revised by L. Timmel Duchamp. For those who’ve come to savor the Zivkovic oeuvre—the surreal, cerebral short stories, with their finely calculated transitions from quotidian sedateness to ontological disorientation and derangement, the acutely structured, drolly satirical novels—Circle can act as symbolic key, an index of the author’s motifs, ideas, obsessions; for a newcomer to Zivkovic’s work, it will serve as an alluring and surprising introduction to the operations of one of speculative fiction’s most remarkable minds, and as a portal to the very different realm that is European SF. Whatever one’s angle of approach, Circle is an intricate, ludic cathedral of meaning, an array of episodes which, elegant and sometimes seemingly self-contained, accumulate into a system for describing the entire universe—this is a novel of vast ambition, and if its scaffolding is occasionally rickety, its total effect is nonetheless awe-inspiring.

"Circle aims to assemble a fictional Theory of Everything, and accordingly ties into its governing equation remarkably disparate materials. Among the terms that must be factored in are: Sherlock Holmes and his final confrontation with the undying Moriarty; a mathematical genius and his irritable ‘female’ AI companion, living in tense isolation in a Buddhist temple; the elderly assistant to a possibly deranged medieval mural painter; Archimedes murdered by Romans in Syracuse; Nikola Tesla, exploring the algorithms influencing roulette wheels; Stephen Hawking so far gone to Lou Gehrig’s Disease that he cannot communicate at all, only think cosmic thoughts; a radio telescope built by a dead alien race; a being born from the energy and probability of a black hole’s event horizon; intelligent spheres; a pack of strange entities in communion with even more enigmatic wraiths. In a multitude of contrasting but converging styles and moods, Zivkovic summarizes just how all-inclusive any Grand Unified Theory of Physics will need to be; and, by means of a pervasive emphasis on the figure of the Circle, he further intimates the inevitable shape of the Theory, its simultaneous description of everything and nothing, its symmetry and completeness. Although Zivkovic—and, presently, everybody else—is unable to say what the Theory is, he is able to impart how the first physicist to attain that intellectual Grail will feel, how glorious his (or her!) epiphany will be: when the pieces of The Fourth Circle resolve themselves into a unity in the reader’s mind, something very like that epiphany occurs. Overall, one of the more extraordinary moments in recent SF, and one of the most beautiful.

"Of course, invoking the horde of referents that he does, Zivkovic is also aiming for a metaphysical enlightenment, the reconciliation of secular and spiritual systems of thought; the logic of Buddhism and Hinduism enters from one direction, the semiotics of Christian eschatology from another, and this threatens a correspondingly woolly concession to mysticism, a departure from the rigor that must constrain any final Theory. Fortunately, Zivkovic does not overplay this hand, and although ‘sacred’ imagery is not lacking, it does not predominate, instead acting to enhance the awe of synthesis mentioned above, a catalyst to conceptual breakthrough. Or one might read things otherwise, concluding that Circle is all about religious explanations of the cosmos, more a celebration of Rama’s breath iterating new worlds than the mechanics of parallel universes. The richness of this novel is such that it can accommodate any number of interpretations; it will certainly sustain years of literary analysis. Circle is the finest allegory of understanding to hit the shelves in some time."
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, May 31, 2004 - 11:59 am:   

From SF Site:

"Imagine, if you will, finding yourself standing alone upon a horizon-less plain, devoid of all features except the level, dust-laid ground and the night sky overhead, swept with stars constant in their brilliance. Though the constellations appear entirely wrong to you, and the land lifeless and lacking in atmosphere, you are not disturbed by this or the pervading, preternatural silence: you are here because of The Circle, before which all else seems inconsequent. When you first arrived, two suns had hung low in the distance, just as you know a third will eventually rise behind you. Time is short, for you have to arrive at The Circle’s circumference, somewhere ahead, before the new dawn breaks. Though you are unsure of its exact location, you know somehow it lies ahead of you, just as you know that the lack of oxygen is no threat, as well as the direction to travel across the empty terrain, your footsteps stirring the dust but leaving no prints of their passage. Others will have gathered, waiting for you to take your place along The Circle’s circumference. It is there, somewhere up ahead, and when you step to take your place upon its perimeter, you know there will be no answers, but only new questions: “the ones that mattered.”

"This alien and dream-like landscape, both physical and abstract, provides the initial setting for what is Serbian author Zoran Zivkovic’s most ambitious book to date. Noted for his use of short stories which link into larger organic themes, this compositional structure is ingeniously adapted here to create a cosmology that attempts no less than to reconcile and converge the long-standing tensions between physics and religion into a comprehensive and metaphysical whole. The end result, irregardless of whether or not one concurs with the author’s speculation or conclusions, becomes a marvel of both the fictional imagination and the author’s adopted compositional form. Intellectually challenging and often densely complex, the reader is nonetheless carried along by the novel’s mystery and vividly surreal imagery, which at times, similar to his other story collections, can find themselves expressed within the most mundane or domestic of circumstances. However, unlike the author’s later work, in which he has proven himself a master of a concise and minimal style, here his writing is most often typified by long and flowing prose which perfectly punctuates and balances his more usual precise and understated sentences. In its rich tapestry of prose and compositional skills, as well as in its imaginative leaps and intellectual sophistication, The Fourth Circle must be considered, so far, as the author’s masterpiece, an acclamation that extends well beyond a mere appreciation of Zivkovic’s own and singular work.

"Framed within four sections, including a prologue and epilogue (which does not appear where expected), each section refers in ascending (or descending) order to a particular circle or collection of shorter stories whose number, as with other references throughout the narrative, bear numerological and mathematical significance. While it might appear obvious that the four circles referred to bear reference to Dante’s Circles of Hell, to assume this alone would be to overlook other allusions that possess equal if not greater bearing upon the evolving stories: the mystical Orbicular Triskelion or more importantly, the Tibetan Wheel of Dependent Origination, whose symbols and perceptions of enlightenment and existence directly inform and frame this narrative as much as Dante’s more Christian based vision of human experience and salvation. Nor can the symbol’s significance for mathematics and physics be neglected, as the circle’s universal importance, both for science and religion can be traced within the narrative mirroring as well as informing one another, just as does, in a cosmological sense, heaven and hell, each perceived perhaps, as variants of each other.

"Metaphorically following Dante’s descent, as well as the concept of Dhamma, three main story threads weave and intersect within the novel. The first is that of an old man who has served his Master, a painter of medieval frescos, for most of his adult life. Sharing in the reflected glory of his employer, whose work is greatly sought after by both the Church and the nobility, his contentment is disturbed by his Master’s apparent torment by demons during the wet autumn months, when he cannot apply his art due to humidity. Further, unbeknownst to their religious patrons, the Master has chosen to appropriate the faces of rustic peasants to depict the Saints, a practice his servant is certain would be considered blasphemous were the Church ever to discover it. In particular, his choice of subject for his portrayal of Marya in deeply troubling: a young woman seen hawking wares in the market one day, singularly beautiful, but whose features betrayed a hint of carnality. Now, whenever he views the faithful looking up in adoration of his Master’s portrait of the Mother of God, he is reminded of the original woman’s inherent sensuality, and made anxious by the sin he thereby sees reflected, imagining that the faithful discern it too, and are unconsciously, like himself, stirred by lustful feelings. So far no one has appeared to notice his Master’s sources of inspiration, and they have managed to keep his seasonal afflictions hidden. Except for his Master’s occasional and temporary torments, only his servant’s pious imaginings of damnation—which are considerable—have been plagued by their secret. But this is about to change when the Master begins a new project which he hides from everyone’s view, including his assistant’s.

"The second story thread follows the retreat and self-imposed exile of a brilliant computer programmer, Srinavasa, to a remote jungle temple. There he creates a computer to keep him company, which he programs to be feminine in personality. The result is an emerging sentience possessing all the complaints and frustrations a woman rightfully confronts when confined within a male-dominated society, an environment born into that she can’t seem to effectually change or enlarge to accommodate her evolving identity, complicated further by the fact that the man in question is her own creator, in this case having programmed her personality to suit his own purposes. Some of “her” digitally domestic plights and gripes are suitably barbed and humorous, depicting the stereotypical male in a far from flattering light, if nonetheless uncomfortably accurate. But events within this storyline soon take a decidedly surreal twist when a monkey accidentally impregnates her while playing upon her keyboard—not an event it appears Sri had anticipated—and afterward unexpected visitors begin mysteriously turning up at the temple, in some ways like the magi, including the venerable Buddha.

"The third intertwined storyline does not appear until late in the others’ development: Sherlock Holmes receives a mysterious letter, sender unknown, bearing the single drawing of a circle. Though Watson is typically mystified by the contents, Holmes quickly discerns that the sender can be no other than his nemesis, Moriarty. But Moriarty is dead, his body fished out of a lake a week prior. Was his letter meant to be a message from beyond the grave? And why is Holmes living at 221-A Baker Street, and his housekeeper named Simpson? The game is indeed afoot!

"Interspersed within these narratives are several shorter anecdotes, some only a few pages in length, others comprising more than a single chapter. Even when seemingly self-contained, all bear some relevance to the three main narratives, encapsulated within their ongoing themes and action, with some bearing fruition only near the end, joining one of the main storylines, and all, including the three major narratives, merging to form a final conclusion, closing but one of what have been many ongoing circles. Of the singular story chapters, “Star Song” is particularly moving and effective in its beautiful and mythic tale of sacrifice and those tragically left behind. Other, shorter sequences, which will have bearing upon events latter within the novel, are the tales of the roulette player, the physicist crippled by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis who becomes seduced by his nurse, and a mathematician slain at the Roman siege of Syracuse: the second can be identified with Stephen Hawking, the third with Archimedes. The scientists Ludolph van Ceulen and Nikola Tesla also make cameo appearances.

"In its attempt to provide a unified metaphysics, perhaps no work of such ambition has been written since David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus (though admittedly such a sweeping statement may be more a reflection of gaps in my own reading history, and those wishing to fill in any omissions are welcome to do so). A marvelous riddle, in certain respects resembling the labyrinthine library (a motif Zivkovic is to turn to in later stories, such as those found in the recent Leviathan Three anthology) of Eco’s Name of the Rose, its long overdue publication in the United States should do much to establish Zivkovic’s reputation among the more cerebral and literary advocates of speculative fiction, within the genre as well as outside. Masterful in execution, at once playful and earnestly serious, its conjecture as to an alternative vision of humanity and creation, and the hidden harmony which exists between spirituality and science, become but reflections of a greater and identical yearning for understanding and meaning that attempts to comprehend more than mere mortal experience and materiality, probing deeply and with artistry into the most fundamental and universal questions that have haunted human existence. While the novel’s conclusions remain speculative, they reaffirm the intellect as well as the soul, the abstract and the physical, the bestial and the spiritual, those warring reflections of our own inner nature and conflicted self, seeing all as an extension of but a greater mystery whose ultimate aims are no less than a realization of the infinite. And perhaps the author has given us a clue, within the very act and implications of his own narrative creation, as to what awaits us beyond our self-imposed veil."
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, May 31, 2004 - 11:59 am:   

From Booklist:

"Four great scientists-Archimedes, van Ceulen, Tesla, and Hawking-gather at an ancient Buddhist temple deep in a jungle to meet computer scientist Srinavasa, his sentient computer program Rama, and the latter's child, sired by an ape. Elsewhere, a radio telescope awaits a specific signal, spherical beings go about their lives, the pack travels to see mysterious presences during the month they call Thule, and a medieval artist's assistant embarks on a journey into what he perceives as the circles of Hell. Then Sherlock Holmes receives a mysterious note-a perfect circle-and must join forces with his nemesis Moriarty to close the Fourth Circle. As the prologue, which is also the ending, informs us, Holmes' task is not one of obtaining answers but one of asking new questions and making contact across the varied worlds of the novel. Zivkovic distinguishes the book's discreet narratives stylistically and links its semicircular development back to itself seamlessly, opening the door to speculation about what happens next, which turns out to be a perfectly satisfactory conclusion."—Regina Schroeder
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, May 31, 2004 - 12:00 pm:   

From The New York Times:

"THE FOURTH CIRCLE, by Zoran Zivkovic (Ministry of Whimsy Press, $27), presents an entirely different sort of cosmos-spanning story. Zivkovic lives in Belgrade, in the former Yugoslavia, and writes in Serbo-Croatian. In an afterword, he tells us that the book was conceived and completed in early 1993, while a brutal civil war raged in his country. He says that when he began typing, he ''hadn't the slightest idea what would follow.'' I believe him.

"The immensely complicated narrative is made up of at least 10 separate strands that move in mysterious ways toward an apocalyptic resolution. These stories vary from the adventures of a medieval master of religious painting and his tremulous acolyte to the sentimental education of a self-aware computer program with a strong feminist bent to the spawning of a creature of pure energy on the outskirts of a black hole. And then things get really strange.

"As these disparate stories whirl about one another, each episode holding our attention for just a few pages before yielding to the next, the book develops a narrative thrust that has little to do with plot in the ordinary sense. Even as I began to sense that the resolution could not possibly live up to the long drumroll, I read on eagerly, taking pleasure in the writer's own headlong pursuit of meaning. This is not a book for those who want all their i's dotted and t's crossed. For all his control of mood and language, Zivkovic is a writer who prefers the playful to the profound, the scattering of seeds to the harvest.

"The excellent translation is by Mary Popovic, with whom Zivkovic, himself a translator from English into Serbian, worked closely."
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, May 31, 2004 - 12:01 pm:   

From Library Journal:

"In a universe known as the Circle, a strange mixture of characters comes together in a cosmic collaboration that results in the closure of the Fourth Circle and the beginning of a new world. Bringing together such disparate figures as Stephen Hawking, Archimedes, Tesla, and Arthur Conan Doyle while telling the tale of a sentient computer program named Rama, Serbian sf author Zivkovic crafts a heady amalgam of sparkling prose reminiscent of Samuel Delaney and Stanislaw Lem."
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, May 31, 2004 - 12:02 pm:   

And here are some words from Michael Moorcock and Tim Pratt about the book:

“Zoran Živkovic is a subtle, intelligent, wonderfully inventive writer who brings a fresh point of view, an idiosyncratic angle of attack, to everything he produces. He is one of the finest writers currently at work in the ‘New Europe.’ Read him and celebrate.”--Michael Moorcock

“The Fourth Circle is an amazingly great book, really. If you love alternate-universe Sherlock Holmes pastiches, the internal monologues and sexual misadventures of a cross-dimensional Stephen Hawking analogue, scholars selling their souls to the devil to learn the value of pi, snarky female AIs who dream, sexually-repressed Medieval artist's assistants, cheeky monkeys, excellent writing, a total mastery of point-of-view, and decidedly science fictional metaphysics, this is the book for you. It's gonna be on my best of the year list for 2004, that's for sure. There were moments during the course of reading this book that I had my doubts about its chances of success, but in the end, it comes together beautifully—I was in the hands of a master all along.”--Tim Pratt
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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 06:55 am:   

There is a mostly good review of Zoran's book in the latest issue of Realms of Fantasy. I'll be getting the entire review here shortly, but here are a few excerpts:

"[W]hile many of the puzzles set out in the novel are resolved, the resolution usually leads to still greater mysteries, one exfoliating out of another."

"The Fourth Circle transcends [its] constituent parts like a poem whose luminous effect can be experienced but never quite successfully analyzed line by line."

The reviewer had some issues with how the female characters in the novel are portrayed, but I don't agree with his misgivings. We'll see what people think when I get the entire review up.
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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 06:49 pm:   

And here's the entire review:

"Winner of the 2003 World Fantasy Award for his novella The Library, which appeared in the anthology Leviathan 3 (itself a 2003 World Fantasy Award winner), Zoran Zivkovic is an immensely talented fabulist whose work is somewhat reminiscent of Italo Calvino’s wry and delightfully surreal postmodern fictions. Generally his approach is to take a seemingly simple and commonplace idea or concept or object—sometimes helpfully indicated in his titles, as with the above-mentioned novella—and then approach it from a variety of perspectives, with wit, ingenuity, and Looking Glass logic, so that
the effect on readers is something like being in the audience of an intellectually stimulating magic show, one whose tricks make you gasp in wonder but also leave you speculating about the nature of everyday reality. Very often—and again “The Library” is a good example—his works consist of more-or-less disparate sections that are obliquely connected; that is, their cohesiveness and cumulative impact depend less upon the traditionally linear stepping stones of plot and narrative than upon more obscure links of symbol, image, and metaphor, and upon structural juxtapositions as well. Zivkovic’s technique, a kind of literary Cubism, not only deconstructs the familiar, it puts it back together in new and surprising ways.

"While The Fourth Circle is Zivkovic’s first novel, it is actually the eighth of his fictions to be translated into English and published in the U.S. It is one of his strongest and yet most elliptical works, fascinating both in its own right and as the precursor of later fictions that, as in some time-travel paradox, his English-speaking fans will have already read. The novel opens with a nameless man walking across an alien landscape toward a destination he knows only as “the Circle.” All his memories are gone, including knowledge of who he is and where he comes from. At first blush, this seems like a science fiction novel, the sort in which various puzzles of purpose and identity are laid out for readers and then solved over the course of the book. But appearances are deceiving. First, while Zivkovic (the author of an SF encyclopedia in his native Yugoslavia) employs a number of science-fictional tropes and devices, The Fourth Circle turns out to be a visionary fantasy. And second, while many of the puzzles set out in the novel are resolved, the resolution usually leads to still-greater mysteries, one exfoliating out of another.

"Zivkovic’s weird, at times frustrating, ultimately engaging story is parceled out among narratives set in a number of distinct yet related realities. Some feature familiar individuals from history, such as Stephen Hawking and Archimedes. Others involve aliens from other worlds. One is set in an alternate world dominated by a religion whose strangeness is only intensified by its resemblance to Christianity. There is a metafictional world where Sherlock Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty are real people. And a world in which a computer genius living deep in an Indian jungle creates an artificial intelligence and gives it a personality seemingly derived from an understanding of female psychology based on stereotypes from 1950s or 60s TV shows, only to have his creation raped and impregnated by a monkey.

"The Fourth Circle transcends these constituent parts like a poem whose luminous effect can be experienced but never quite successfully analyzed line by line. Yet I cannot unequivocally praise the novel. Despite its intelligence, ambition, and accomplishment, its high literary quality, my
enjoyment was marred by the author’s treatment of his female characters. The AI is by no means the only female in the novel to think and behave in a belittlingly stereotypical manner. I found this tendency baffling, for there is no reason within the logical framework of the novel for every female character to be expressed in this fashion. In the end I put it down to an authorial blind spot, but I could not dismiss it. Because I genuinely admire Zivkovic’s work, I regret that my recommendation of The Fourth Circle cannot be entirely without reservation."
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Recensioni sui grandiosi casinò
Posted on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 05:05 pm:   

great page...im sure i'll come back...best regards

<p>Recensioni sui grandiosi casinò</p>

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