Friday, August 23, 2013

Recent Reading — a fantasy selection

Half sick of Shadows by David Logan

What seems by the blurb to be a whimsy of Tennyson time-travelling in a Morris Minor turns out to mostly be a surrealist black comedy of rural Irish life, with a thin veneer of justification for its inclusion as a candidate for the Terry Pratchett Prize. I hate to think what the rest of the field must have been like, but I was underwhelmed.

Railsea by China Miéville

Don't be fooled by the surface "Moby Dick on the railway" hunt for the Great White Mole that opens this one. That plot gets, ahem, derailed as strange salvage found out on the tangled tracks of the Railsea leads to a race to the ends of the world.

While it's clear that Miéville likes his trains (see e.g. Iron Council), this baroque, almost Gormenghastian, world where the classic motifs of the high seas have been transplanted to the rails never comes over as self-indulgent.

Titus Awakes by Maeve Gilmore

Building on a short fragment and a list of chapter headings left by Peake, this is a valiant attempt to complete the original intent. But it is clear from the first chapter break that this is a different voice, and by the time Titus has meandered his way to the world of cars and other mid-twentieth century appurtenances all the vices of Titus Alone were there without the virtues of Peake's prose. Maybe I'll finish it some day.

Boneland by Alan Garner

After all these years, a concluding volume for the sequence set on Alderley Edge that started with The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, told for grown-ups, just as Colin is now grown. Weaving a past while the ice was only starting to retreat from England with the present, it makes an almost entirely different reading of what would follow after The Moon of Gomrath than I had expected.

Don't look for adventures or explanations, but do expect a quiet end to the tale.

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