History Maker Paperback – Nov 30 1995
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In the 23rd century, the Public Eye, a television-like device that lets everyone see what everyone else is doing, has turned warfare into a spectator sport. One of particular interest involves the Scottish border regions' fight with the English. Wat Dryhope, leader of the Ettrick clan, pretends to surrender his clan's standard during a climactic battle, only to resume attack and win a draw. The trick gives him heroic standing and revolutionizes the rules of battle, setting off a global change in human combat. Though he seeks a more peaceful existence for his people, Dryhope's performance in warfare makes him the "history maker" of the novel's title. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
It is hard at first to get one's bearings in this novel, while flipping between text and endnotes and wondering what Earth this is where immortality exists, limbs regenerate and "keyboards" work all sorts of seeming magic. But this latest iconoclastic creation by Gray soon engages and succeeds on all of its many levels. Lacking much else to do, men kill for televised sport in the worldwide matriarchal utopia of the 23rd century. Scotland's unlikely new hero, the gangling, intellectual warrior Wat Dryhope, has some reservations about the bloodshed?but misgivings are easily forgotten when you're the reigning media darling and consequently a much-desired bedpartner. This novel purports to be Wat's memoir of seven crucial days during which utopia nearly self-destructs, annotated extensively by his erudite mother, Kittock the henwife. Gray, author of the Whitbread Award-winning Poor Things, is known for his skewed and original views of our world. Oddities, such as the author's own line drawings dropped into the text mid-sentence, abound in this work. The futuristic dialect is appealingly colorful (" 'Ye Gowk Archie!... Ye Doited gomeril! Ye Stupit Nyaff! Ye Blirt!' "). The wit is sharp, the social commentary on target and, most important, the quirky, arch-voiced storytelling is unfailingly entertaining. Insightful and unusual, this is a fine read on the order of the best social satire.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
If A HISTORY MAKER isn't a novel, nor a full-blown future history, what is it? It certainly is not, as the London DAILY TELEGRAPH blurb has it, "Sir Walter Scott meets Rollerball." I bought the book a few years ago because a friend recommended it, but when I got it home I did a double-take at that awful blurb, which I dare say was meant as a come-on. It turned me off so I put A HISTORY MAKER up on a high shelf till this week. I'll grant the strong possibility of Borderer Walter Scott's influence, but comparing this book to "Rollerball" is hyter-styte, as Wat Dryhope might say. So's the literary review labeling the language in this book "futuristic," when it's nocht but auld lang syne Scots Lowland tongue.
"Rollerball" as I recall pandered to the superficially grown-up but socially preadolescent male who can't deal with his own testosterone but lacks the vigor to bash everything in sight -- and therefore does so vicariously. A HISTORY MAKER starts out misleading the reader into thinking that it might just be another one of those silly "heroic" war stories. But strobblin' Wat makes an unusual and highly imperfect hero -- confused, dour, educated, ambivalent, attractive to women, hating bloodshed but a braw warrior, a natural leader. I see him as Gray's future incarnation of Robert Bruce, who was no pulp fiction cowboy hero, but one of history's genuinely great men. Bruce, too, embodied the same characteristics; they even share a preference for ponies instead of gigantic warhorses.
Once we realize that Wat lives, as Walt Whitman wrote, "in and out of the game, watching and wondering at it," Gray has begun the process of standing the whole genre of male violence and hero worship on its doitered heid, and he keeps on till any sane person would be embarrassed ever again to take The Alamo, The Somme, Rambo or Iraq seriously. At the same time the author understands that male boredom and feelings of inadequacy are at the root of it all, and he sympathizes, as should we all. None the less, the older women, not the men, are the saviors of civilization in this book.
I can't really describe A HISTORY MAKER. I can only revel in Gray's use of language, the punning names, the snatches of folklore and off-color doggerel, the tweaking of asinine Thatcherism/Toryism and love of liberty, and -- in the finest sci-fi tradition -- the casual way in which his Scotland of the 23rd Century is introduced to us. The story ends like a Mozart symphony, exactly when it should. As would occur in a genuine historical document, background, a glossary of Scots words, and what-happened-next get explained in five "historical" chapters after the story's end, plus a postscript. We could compare these post-chapters to Tolkein's in THE RETURN OF THE KING, but Gray's are as hysterical as they are historical -- parodies. After such a wrap-up there can be no sequel, so enjoy A HISTORY MAKER while it lasts. It's a brief book but nigh-hand perfect.
The author has much better works.