You only have to read the first few lines of this début novel to realise that Olivier Paquet is an excellent writer. Right from the start, his skills in constructing a world of metal and light, steam and noise, are not unreminiscent of Metropolis. All this could possibly alienate the reader but the plot ensures the contrary and is an accompaniment to the highly literary narrative.
The psychological pangs of the young hero are equally intense. At first naively idealistic, Jehan gradually discovers that the grass is not always greener on the other side and he doesn't need to break with family and cultural tradition to find happiness. As he abandons his successive ideals, which give rise to as many glimmers of hope, Jehan discovers the limitations of rebellion and rushing headlong into situations. To come of age he will have to accept his place in the world if he is to have any hope of changing it.
Sandrine Brugot Maillard, Mes imaginaires
We were looking forward to the moment when Olivier Paquet would decide to write a novel, since he is already an experienced short story teller (he was awarded the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire for Synesthésie
). It's job done with Structura Maxima
, published in Flammarion's Imagine collection. The author immediately places his action within the framework of Italian Futurism (a movement born in 1909 that violently condemned the cult of the past in the artistic traditions of the time and extolled rebellion and speed). There is a very clear plan with all the chapter titles and all the names of the characters in Italian – apart from the main character, Jehan Mégare, but as we know he's going to blast away all this society, so this exception is meaningful. The choice of the narrative present tense is also part of the plan, since the author favours total immersion for the reader in the chaotic events that follow. But at the same time, from a visual point of view, his novel resembles what Schuitten and Peeters were able to do with Les cités obscures (Cities of the Fantastic), or again Miyazaki (quoted on the back cover) in Le château dans le ciel (Laputa, Castle in the Sky). All this imparts a poetic ambiance to the whole: how in fact can we not be affected by the huge size of the décor or the secret of their origin? Incidentally, Paquet perhaps should have let the mystery of this Structure existing outside time and place remain as such. Instead of that he allows us to see over the other side of the wall into an even bigger world that, if he expands on this theme – we'll be careful not to say too much about it – is not very convincing. It's a bit of a shame, because everything that is at the very heart of the Structure has evidently been conceived with an eye for detail that produces a grippingly realistic effect (leading to an impression of cerebral coldness, but doubtless that was the price to pay). Fortunately, the adventure to the exterior is relatively short, and we quickly return to what's happening on the inside, for an impressive finale.
Running to the tempo of the furnaces that are the heart of this world, Structura Maxima
is a mechanistic story, but it shouldn't be classified as steam-punk, despite the importance of steam. This novel confirms Olivier Paquet's talent in long format. At a time when many writers are producing their first novels, sometimes with little interest, this book gives us a chance to hear a voice that will doubtlessly become one of the best in this domain.
Bruno Para, Noosfere
The main attraction of this book lies essentially in the world created by Olivier Paquet. Those lucky enough to have seen the stunning animated film Le Château dans le Ciel
will recognise its legendary city, as well as the myth of Laputa. The author guides us through a strange world of metal we would like to wander around at once. The characters are engaging and quite finely drawn. Of course, we're told that in the end survival depends on the understanding of others, but why not state the obvious, when it's done so well here?
Claire Bauchat, Actusf