Pinto, Ricardo 1961-
PINTO, Ricardo 1961-
Born 1961, in Lisbon, Portugal. Education: Dundee University, graduated (mathematics).
Writer and computer-game designer.
The Chosen (part of "Stone Dance of the Chameleon" series), Tor (New York, NY), 2000.
The Standing Dead (part of "Stone Dance of the Chameleon" series), Tor (New York, NY), 2003.
Also author of gaming rule-books Kryomek and Hivestone.
Ricardo Pinto was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1961. When he was six years old, his family moved to London, England, and later to Dundee, Scotland, as he wrote in an autobiography on the Ricardo Pinto Home Page. In 1979 he entered Dundee University to study mathematics. "I had been discouraged to do either architecture or ancient history—the latter being a lifelong passion," Pinto wrote on his home page. In the early 1980s, he first developed the ideas that would lead to his novels The Chosen and The Standing Dead, the first two volumes of his "Stone Dance of the Chameleon" series. "I hammered out the first version of it on an old typewriter," Pinto commented on his home page. "The finished manuscript was around 600 pages and total rubbish."
In the meantime, Pinto honed his fiction-writing and world-building skills as a designer for computer games, bluffing his way into a job as a programmer and learning machine-code programming as he went along. After working on early computer games such as Gyron, Hive, Carrier Command, and Elite, Pinto designed a gaming world for Fantasy Forge, a producer of tabletop wargames. While working for Fantasy Forge, Pinto produced two books of gaming rules and world background, Kryomek and its sequel, Hivestone. "These books were intended merely to support the game rules and the resin and metal models with which the game was played," Pinto wrote on his home page. "However, it was this experience which re-energized my will to write." After becoming frustrated with the gaming world, Pinto focused on his fiction writing. He spent more than two years writing and rewriting The Chosen, the first book in the "Stone Dance of the Chameleon"series.
In The Chosen, three regal, masked members of the Chosen arrive to summon young Carnelian Suth, an exiled aristocrat, and his father back to the city of Osrakum, the imperial capital of The Commonwealth of the Three Lands, in the Guarded Land. Carnelian's father is expected to act as regent during a difficult succession that will elect a new God Emperor. In the society of the Chosen, purity of bloodlines are of the utmost importance. Members of the Chosen, known as Masters, wear gold masks in public—to see the unprotected face of one of the Chosen is an automatic death sentence in the cruelest manner possible for one of the lower classes. The Masters reveal their faces only to other members of the Chosen. As a whole, the Masters are brilliant, wise, beautiful to behold, and possessed of the most highly refined aristocratic behaviors. They are also arrogant, malicious, cruel, and amoral, convinced to the core that everyone else is their inferior and that their will and whim are to be immediately satisfied. "The Chosen rule as divine beings over the Guarded Land and its tributaries," wrote William Thompson on the SF Site Web site, "but their governance and support is founded upon the oppression and slavery of the common populate, enforced by corporal punishment and crucifixion" and the liberal dispensation of terror.
Uncomfortable and uncertain in his role as one of the Chosen, and often horrified and repulsed by the violence and cruelty of his fellow Masters, Carnelian Suth feels a natural urge to resist the strictures placed upon their class. As he matures, Suth finds love with Osidian, a young man at the royal court. Osidian is a rebel, and encourages Carnelian to flout the strict rules of Chosen society. But Osidian is also the Emperor designate, embroiled in the succession crisis, and at the end of the book, both Osidian and Carnelian are kidnapped and sealed in giant funerary jars to await an imminent, unpleasant death.
The Chosen "takes readers on an extremely literate and detailed journey distinguished by Pinto's outstanding imagination, extensive research, and excellent world-building," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "A sterile yet decadent, brilliant beauty suffuses this intriguing first novel," commented Carolyn Cushman in Locus. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the book "Vast in scope, plot, and detail; an enormously impressive debut, but brutal, suffocating, and desperately hard work."
The next book in the series, The Standing Dead, begins when a guard, pursuing his sideline of pilfering valuables from the dead, unexpectedly decants Carnelian and Osidian from the jars they were trapped in at the end of the first book. The guard realizes he has committed two transgressions worthy of instant death—looking upon the face of not one but two Masters, and being discovered corpse-robbing—so he flees, taking the two along as captives to sell as slaves. When a tribe of Ochre plainsmen attack the slavers, Carnelian and Osidian think they are rescued, but the plainsmen realize that they, too, are now subject to death for seeing an unmasked Master. The two accompany the Ochre beyond the borders of the Guarded Land and into the plains of Earthsky, where they are accepted into the hearth of Akaisha—essentially adopted into the clan. Carnelian makes the best of his situation, forging friendships and genuinely growing to understand, like, and respect the Ochre. But Osidian, unable to forget what he was deprived of back in Osrakum, steeps in depression and despair, refusing to interact with the "barbarians" and becoming increasingly mentally unstable. He works to disrupt the plainsmen's societal structure to create an army to march on the Chosen who betrayed him. Meanwhile, Carnelian, devoted to his lover but sympathetic to the Ochre, tries to maintain an equilibrium between them.
"Once more, Pinto draws a world of stark contrasts and dramatic violence, with powerful characters caught in sweeping events," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic. "Richly imagined but brutal fantasy—not for the squeamish, as they say." Thompson observed that "the author's treatment of his characters is at once singular and multi-faceted. All are invested with varying strengths and weaknesses, which can evolve and change over time, or become equally betrayed by circumstance." The book "remains an original and compelling fantasy, complex and intriguing," Shoul remarked. In a BooksnBytes.com review, Harriet Klausner commented that Pinto "paints an extremely complex world filled with deep social systems." The Standing Dead offers an "entrancing feast of strangeness, wonder, and horror," Strauss remarked.
Pinto told CA that he first became interested in writing "for two reasons that I can remember. The first was the clichéd one—that I wanted to provide myself with the book that I could not find out there to read. The second was that I wanted to provide a source from which I could derive scenes to illustrate.
"The daily rhythm of my work is very dependent on what part of the writing cycle I am currently in. At the beginning of a book I attempt to construct a 'maquette' of the finished work. This work in miniature allows me to craft the plot and determine the research that needs to be done. It is from the maquette that I build the first draft. Of course, in the process of writing, the maquette is utterly transformed. Subsequent drafts (up to six) are an attempt to give the finished work as perfect and complete a form as possible."
Pinto noted that the most surprising thing he has learned as a writer is "how big a part one's subconscious plays. When in the thick of the writing process it all feels as if it is happening consciously. In hindsight, it becomes obvious that it was from the subconscious that all the deeper and most creative stuff actually came." He further remarked that he hopes his work will "have the same impact on the adult mind that the truer fairytales have on that of a child."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2000, review of The Chosen, p. 155; February 1, 2003, review of The Standing Dead, pp. 193-194.
Library Journal, March 15, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of The Chosen, p. 132.
Locus, August, 1999, Carolyn Cushman, review of The Chosen, p. 59.
Publishers Weekly, March 6, 2000, review of The Chosen, p. 87; February 10, 2003, review of The Standing Dead, pp. 167-168.
Agony Column Web site,http://www.trasotron.com/agony/ (March 12, 2004), Rick Kleffel, review of The Chosen.
Books at Transworld Web site,http://www.booksattransworld.com/ (March 12, 2004), interview with Pinto.
Infinity Plus Web site,http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/ (March 12, 2004), Simeon Shoul, review of The Standing Dead.
Ricardo Pinto Home Page,http://www.ricardopinto.com (February 13, 2004).