I have always had a soft sport for fantasy (mostly the non-Tolkein ripoff type) à la Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan (1946), Stephen Donaldson’s Lord Foul’s Bane (1977), Jeff VanderMeer’s Shriek: An Afterword (2006). Yes, as a kid I read tons of “standard fanasy” i.e. almost all those horrid Wheel of Time novels + Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow & Thorn sequence, etc. etc. And then I discovered SF and my reading parterns shifted drastically….
Over the past few months I’ve collected the two sequels to Titus Groan and a few Russell Hoban novels—my site name Joachim Boaz is partially derived from Hoban’s remarkable The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (1973).
I’m not sure if I’ll review these novels here but, I might read Peake’s Gormenghast (1950) soon.
1. Pilgermann, Russell Hoban (1983)
(Rowena’s cover for the 1984 edition)
From the inside flap: “Russell Hoban startled readers with RIDDLEY WALKER, a haunting portrayal of life in a post-Armageddon landscape. Now, in PILGERMANN, the scene shifts dramatically from imagined future to historical past, but the harrowing vision remains essentially unchanged… PILGERMANN is a meditation on history, loss and grief, a dark treatise on the mysterious nature of things narrated by a ‘microscopic chip in the vast circuitry in which are recorded all the variations and permutations thus far…’ REMARKABLE.”
2. The Worm Ouroboros, E. R. Eddison (1922)
(Keith Henderson’s cover for the 1967 edition)
From the inside flap: “When J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” was published in America, reviewers immediately saw that there was only one book with which it could be legitimately compared: E. R. Eddison’s great adventure fantasy, The Worm Ouroboros. The first of three related but independent books by E. R. Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros is a novel of thundering adventure. Set on a far planet of spectacular beauty and peopled by lords and kings, mighty warriors and raven-haired women, Eddison’s sotry of great war for dominion rises to peaks of splendor and excitement. A novel which creates its own fantastic world, The Worm Ouroboros makes our present age seem pale by comparison and is considered one of the masterpieces of imaginative fiction.”
3. Gormenghast (Volume II of the “Gormemghast Trilogy”), Mervyn Peake (1950)
(Bob Pepper’s cover for the 1970 edition)
From the inside flap: “While in the army he began work on Titus Groan, the first book of the monumental ‘Gormenghast’ Trilogy. The first two volumes are set in an enormous crumbling castle, in which rituals are compulsively carried out by grotesque characters, grotesque in the way that Dickens’ characters are grotesque, in a way that has meaning and purpose […]”
4. Titus Alone (Volume III of the “Gormenghast Trilogy”), Mervyn Peake (1959)
(Bob Pepper’s cover for the 1973 edition)
From the inside flap: “In which Titus turns against the iron discipline of Gormenghast’s ritual and sets forth on an uncertain quest…”
“That quest and its resolution form the substance of Titus Alone. Titus’s quest is for himself. His pilgrimage leads to encounters with mysteriously omnipotent, ruthless police; a battle to the death with Veil, a gaunt ogre with a body like whips and a face that moves ‘like shiftings of the gray slime of the pit'[…].”