"Things never get better, they just stay the same, only more
Rincewind, "Eric" (by Terry Pratchett)
NON-LITERARY COMMENTS ON SOME BOOKS I'VE READ RECENTLY
by Richard Karsmakers
The summer holidays lie behind us. The sun sets earlier and
gladdens our hearts later. Sigh. A fun time has been had by all,
no doubt, and some months have already passed during which you
will have needed to study, work, or go to the dole.
During that time I didn't have to read any books for my English
courses, i.e. I read more books than usual.
"Eric", by Terry Pratchett
Is this a Discworld novel or isn't it? Anyway, it's supposed to
be read after "Guards! Guards!" and it's quite short, which makes
it both typical and atypical. For those of you familiar with Anne
McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series, I think it enjoys the
same status that the "Nerilka's Story & The Coelura" have.
Anyway, Eric introduces the Discworld's only demonology hacker,
be it a somewhat inept one. He revises Rincewind who has suffered
in the Netherworld. A sequence of utterly bizarre and veyr
comical adventures ensue. Pratchett is his usual excellent self,
and there is no reason why anyone should not read this book
(sells at a mere £3) if they've enjoyed any of the other
"Good Omens", by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
When I tell you that I started and finished "Good Omens" within
two days, that should give you an indication of its gripping plot
and humour. If I add that these two days were the exact dates on
which I had my final two exams before University life would burst
into the summer holiday, that should increase the indication
"Good Omens" centres around the nice and accurate prophecies of
Anges Nutter (now dead) who proclaimed that the earth would end
fairly soon. In the story this 'fairly soon' is conveniently
narrowed down to 'coming Saturday, in the afternoon'. This is
the prelude for hilarious events involving a good and a bad angel
and the antichrist child who just loves his dog a good deal. The
four bikers of the Apocalypse are added to the stew of good and
evil, as well as various other characters such as satanic nurses,
a descendent of the one and only Agnes Nutter and a totally naive
and harmless bunch of Witchhunters.
Telling you more about the plot would spoil a lot of the fun to
be had reading it. Like virtually all books that I bother writing
these short reviews of, it's much worth reading. The humour is in
the typical Terry Pratchett vein but it's got a refreshing touch
because of Neil Gaiman's input. It's my guess Terry basically
came up with the idea and Neil actually wrote most of it (if not
An excellent collaboration, this. As far as humorous books go,
this twosome is equally exciting as seeing Steve Vai and Joe
Satriani on one stage. I'd like to agree wholeheartedly with one
of the praises printed on the sleeve: "If this is Armageddon,
count me in!"
"It", by Stephen King
Another excellent book, perhaps one of the best I've ever read.
I spent three days reading all of its 1100+ pages, two of which
were spent primarily in trains from and to the holiday Miranda
and me had in Norway in the beginning of July.
The story tells of some youthful friends who battle and defeat a
mysterious sort of super-entity known by many faces and the name
'It'. Twenty-seven years they get back together to defeat It
again after it has once more appeared in the little Maine town of
Derry. Memories get refreshed and terrors get experienced until,
in the end, the remaining members of this Losers Club battle It
for one final time.
It has to be said that "It" is very well written. The characters
are interesting, even though all of the main characters are
either psychopaths or, well, sortof nerds. The story remains
fairly credulous, except perhaps for the mass bonking that
happens somewhere - too much of a nerd's dream for it ever to
become true, I think, but it does serve well so show the intimate
friendship between the seven protagonists.
I had not thought the book would be that good. Normally, a
similar amount of pages sortof frightens me and makes me once
more experience the full length of hyper-boring long novels such
as "David Copperfield". Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" was a most
excellent example that really brought true the proverbial
exception to the rule, providing enthralment that dragged me from
one page to the next. "It", though belonging to a totally
different genre, is similar.
It's very much worth reading. Stephen King creates a realistic
world into which the reader is sucked relentlessly. "It" provides
the fear and horror. It's quite tasteful, too, with moderate
amounts of blood and a surprisingly little amount of explicit sex
(Clive Barker has loads more of that, for example, as you'll be
able to deduce below).
"Weaveworld", by Clive Barker
Having been advised by Bryan "The Android" Kennerly (who in turn
had been advised by someone else) to read this, I immediately set
to devour its contents when I had finished reading "It".
Although I hadn't yet read anything by Clive Barker I had seen
some of the films made of his stories: "Hellbound", "Hellraiser"
and "Nightbreed". In the field of horror they were some of the
best I have ever seen. Clive Barker's imagination is tremendous,
that has to be said.
In "Weaveworld" the story is told of a man, Cal, and a woman,
Suzanne, who enter a magical and fantastic world enraptured into
a carpet called the Weave. As beautiful as the Weaveworld is, so
horrific are its enemies - some renegade Weaveworld inhabitants,
a greedy salesman and the dreadful Scourge that thinks it's an
Angel sending the Wrath of God. The wonders of the Weaveworld,
the horrors of its enemies, it's all described brilliantly and
capturingly. The enemies that Cal, Suzanne and the Weaveworlders
(known as Seerkind) have to face are enormous, cruel, without
mercy. The book has some genuinely exciting passages,
interspersed with scenes of unimaginable beauty.
Apart from the fact that Clive Barker, even in passages that
have the intention of being erotic, continuously refers to cunts
and pricks instead of more appropriate euphemisms is but a small
blemish on this otherwise excellent book.
"The Fionavar Tapestry" Trilogy by Guy Favriel Kay
Is it a coincidence that the person who advised me to read this
fantasy trilogy is called Kai and that he professes to be in love
with an American girl called Jennifer with one of the main
protagonists in this trilogy having that same name?
It probably is. If we believe this is fate, next we'll be
believing there's a god of sorts that is worth praying to. And
that we all know isn't the case.
When I read what these books were about I was getting doubts.
Kai had said this was excellent stuff but when I heard it was
about a fight of good versus evil and that it had something to do
with some sort of tapestry (i.e. a Weave) I grew sceptical.
As soon as I'd read a few dozen pages I had revised my opinion,
however. The doubts had vanished like the proverbial sun for the
snow (erm?), and I found myself reading on and on, enchanted in a
way I had not been enchanted after reading the "Dragonlance"
trilogies, the "Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever" trilogies and, of
course, "Lord of the Rings".
Now what makes Guy Favriel Kay's stories better than most of the
regular fantasy genre? I don't know exactly, but I guess it has
something to do with a historic depth of the world that is
created, with a perfectly chronological converging and diverging
of various storylines and the fact that almost none of the
characters are superhuman. As a matter of fact the characters can
be easily identified with and have their own doubts, fears and
idiosyncracies. Only the forces of the dark and unambiguously
evil, flat characters if ever I saw them. A good fantasy story
needs its Sam Gamgee, its Frodo, its Gandalf. It needs uncertain
heroes, fantastic races, a tower of strength, and humour.
Covenant had it (to some extent), Dragonlance had it (at least
the Legends and Chronicles), Tolkien had it. "The Fionavar
Tapestry" has it, too. On top of that, Kay has in common with
Donaldson, Hickman/Weiss and Tolkien a fabulous mastery of the
English language. A joy to read.
There are relatively few clichés, beautiful scenes described,
friendship, interesting cultures, genuine evil. It's got all the
ingredients - not just thrown together and stirred, but
craftfully woven as if in a tapestry.
And I'd like to leave it at that in order not to spoil anything
for you, potential readers. If you like some of the other fantasy
stuff I've mentioned here then you'll love this one truly.
The books are called "The Summer Tree", "The Wandering Fire" and
"The Darkest Road", by the way.
That's it for this time. I'll probably write something like this
in an upcoming issue again. Books still awaiting my perusal are
by now too numerous to be summarized, but some of them are Terry
Pratchett's "Witches Abroad" and "Small Gods" as well as Michael
Moorcock's "Von Bek" (and possible the other parts of the
"Eternal Champion" series) and some literary classics such as
Cervantes' "Don Quichote", Melville's "Moby Dick" and Virgil's
"Odyssey" and "Aeneid".
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