Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bloody Ambrosia

I finished Enge’s Blood of Ambrose last night. I’m still turning it over in my mind. As previously noted, Aidan Moher had a review of it up on his blog. While his description/criticism of the book is accurate, it is something I find interesting about the book. More on that later; let’s get down to the ugly first.

My only complaint on the story concerns the banter. Seriously, does banter ever come off well. There are all kinds of great dialogue devices, but I’ve yet to see banter that added anything to a story. I am willing to concede that it could possibly work, but I’ve yet to read an example of such. Also, I’ve a tangential complaint, and it centers around, “What’s next?” At the end of the novel, I was left wondering if we would see any of these characters again. There is no mention of any forthcoming works at the end of the story. There is nothing in the beginning of the book that hints towards any further adventures of Morlock. Indeed, I had to go scrounging through the net to discover anything. I found this interview, by Mirhir Wanchoo, over at FBC. It isn’t until question 8, do we find out what’s to come.

Alright folks, prepare the rotten fruit, because this is where I write about what I liked. Yes, I’m going to use a comparison that everyone universally loathes and snickers about. This book reminded me, in it’s way, of The Hobbit. It’s an introduction to a cast of characters, with one key character (i.e. Morlock) that the author has been writing about for over 30 years (cf. FBC interview). Other than Morlock, Enge doesn’t promise us (again, cf. FBC interview) any future regarding the other characters. Enge himself, is also a language scholar. Enge’s dedication to this world, and it’s various cultures, can be seen in the appendices, brief though they are. Look, I’m really not equating Enge with Tolkien, but with the amount of back-story unexplored and the volumes Enge could fill doing so, leaves Enge plenty of room to go in a more epic direction, if he so chooses.

Oh, but it would make for a very dark version of The Hobbit, indeed. With legions of zombies, necromancy and plenty of the expected, associated gore; the unrivalled skill of a Master Maker and his manipulations of phlogiston, aethirium, cloaks of invisibility and arachnoid automatons; and a political power-struggle with a great-great-great-ad infinitum, ad nauseum-grandmother, who seems to be in a battle for sole possession of her body with her sister who is long dead (usually they prescribe meds for that), this story has gone well beyond more “polite” versions of fantasy fiction.

Regarding criticism that Enge has received regarding his writing style, I’ve two takes on the matter. I’ve read Aidan’s review, as well as some others, that have difficulty with Enge’s style of stringing short-stories together and calling it a novel. This is no accident, nor is it (my opinion only here) as a result of an inability to write anything other than short stories. Indeed, as one will note from the interview of Enge over at FBC, this was intentionally done. Enge refers to this book as an ‘episodic novel.’ Enge also states that many colloquially refer this style as “fix-ups.” One might refer to this explanation as a well conceived cover for a lack of proficiency with any other style. Another take on it would be to laud the author for getting away from the formula, being daring, innovative or what-have-you. Personally, I liked it, but well after I had completed the book and had a while to mull it over.

I look forward to purchasing, and reading, future installments of all things Morlock and Ambrose. Next up, Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain.


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