Friday, 17 May 2013

Against Nature on sale in North America

Cholula, Mexico.

For anyone to whom this makes a significant difference with regard to prohibitive shipping costs for books sent from Europe,
Against Nature now has a North American distributor - Who North America who presently have print copies on sale for $30, presumably plus postage. So buy now while stocks last etc. etc.

On a related but otherwise entirely different note, how tickled I am to receive the commentary of a virtual friend generally addressed as Urizen, Foremost of the Western, Hermas or one of a number of other names depending upon which part of the internet you happen to be standing in. We've known each other - in so much as one can really know anyone - on various forums and have corresponded on and off for a couple of years mostly regarding our shared appreciation of Faction Paradox novels and early cultures - he has a formidable understanding and appreciation of ancient Egypt, so we've sort of compared notes a few times, which I've always found illuminating.

Anyway, Urizen is another person upon whom I was concerned that Against Nature should make a favourable impression on the grounds that if he judged it to be crap, then it probably was. So with regards to the present girth of my ego, anybody reading this who knows me in person - I'd give it a couple of days if I were you.

It is, to say the least, an impressive work, not only in its intricate structures, but also that this is matched by warm-blooded characters, excellent prose style and an overall high readability - not an unputdownable, but then, that term is usually used of the likes of Dan Brown, so I shouldn't take that as a criticism. Indeed, the book almost requires gaps and spaces between readings to sift and think about the contents along the way. The most important thing, however, I think is that it manages the difficult task of being both impressive and actually readable - in this, I think, scoring highly over both This Town and Newtons Sleep, which were both rather like the famed black monolith: admirable, but fearsome and somewhat unapproachable too.

Equally impressive is the bringing to life of a dead culture, which I know too well is no mean feat, given the often scrappy and rather finessed remains that we are often left with, let alone their often quite alien and alienating concerns (the use of the calendar in Momacani's sections is in particular excellent, I think). That you managed this and then, on top of this, created the first truly interesting presentation of the Great Houses since The Book of the War (and before that, probably The Deadly Assassin, though I have ignored the audios in this consideration), is once again a huge plus for the book. In the end, Against Nature just works, and I can see precious little to criticise it, which is normally a good sign: the true mark of craftsmanship usually being that it looks far, far simpler than it is, and that the amount of work which went into it is invisible.

With that said, I do not feel I could offer thoughts on a book without offering some criticism - what, after all, would be the point without it? I can certainly see what the other reviewers of this book have meant about catching up with the Nahuatl terminology, though I have to admit this only afflicted me slightly, at some point over the halfway mark, and was not terribly severe - I had to flip to the back cover a couple of times to sort Xiuhtecuhtli from Goralschai's Nahuatl name.

What I found more difficult, however, were the various chambers of House Meddhoran, which I found difficult to envisage, partly because I found their functions quite difficult to work out. What is a nosocomion for, or an air gallery? Then again, this also heightened the oddity of the House, and seemed to fit well with the formlessness of the Netherweald. I also found it a little difficult to keep track of the inhabitants, beyond Rhodenet, Laethynrisa, Thraenrellis and Emiousha, partly because some cousins, particularly I think Rothis and Dorhira, only appear relatively late (unless I forgot their earlier appearances).

I also found the jumps between segments could be a little offputting, if I had become particularly in the mood for one segment, but I did insist on reading the book beginning to end rather than following individual strands, so that's entirely my own fault. These are all, however, rather trifling criticisms in the overall scheme of the book, which remains highly to be praised.

That's all I can think of right now, because I am going to need some time to digest the book - which is, again, something of a testament to its qualities. I do not think, at the moment, that it is a great book; it is, however, a very good book, and one close, I think, to the border between the two states. I wouldn't presume to rate the book, but I would presume to call it entertaining, witty, clever, charming, engrossing, sympathetic and emotionally engaging while avoiding sentimentality and mawkishness, and above all, enjoyable. I wish I'd written it.

Thanks again to Urizen for allowing me to reproduce what was written as private correspondence and was as such not originally intended for public view.

No comments:

Post a Comment