Thursday, December 8, 2011

Voidals and Spydrons and Ratlings, oh, my!

   Until recently, I'd never even heard of Adrian Cole.  Then, whilst tooling around the 'net looking for blog material, I came across the man and his bibliography.  I read great things about his Omnaran series (I'm presently in the middle of the first book, "A Place Among the Fallen") and some other things.  And then I saw this:
   Apparently, Cole had a series of short stories and connected novels going back to the late seventies.  They concern an accursed traveler,  the Voidal, bereft of memory and cast into the darkest reaches of the omniverse for unremembered sins against the dark gods.  Well that got me.
   There was also a lot of comparisons to Jack Vance and Michael Moorcock.  That was the final bait.  I ordered my cheap used copy from Amazon and counted the days till its arrival.
   Let me start by saying I'm getting a great kick out of "A Place Among the Fallen".  It's got that real basic ur-fantasy thing going on that puts me in mind of "The Fionavar Tapestry" or ""Red Moon and Black Mountain".  It's not swords and sorcery but straight up high fantasy with heroes, mad emperors and gold and white giant owls.  Good stuff.
   The Voidal, though, hoo boy. Let me start by saying I don't hate it.  It's just that it's, what can I say, overwrought?   The prose tends to the more violent shades of purple.  In the opening paragraph of "Well Met in Hell", a revised version "The Coming of the Voidal", the first story of the series, the dimension of Phaedrabile is described as being "Beyond natural laws, at the far reaches of reason, shunned by all but the perverse in spirit.  It has many dimensions: they twist and fuse, baffling the mind itself with their deranged patterns, their layer upon layer.  A veritable universe, unique to itself, enclosed, locked."  It only gets more colorful and elaborate from there and not in a great way.
   His choice of names isn't much better.  I've only read the first two stories, "Well Met in Hell" and "The Lair of the Spydron" so far but in them we get the wizard Rammazurk, the aforementioned Spydron, Xalganash of the Thousand Teeth, the Arachniderm and Grabulic the Songster.  It's like a cast listing for an episode of "He-Man".  These are just bad sounding names.  I don't even think that's a subjective statement but an objective one.
  I laud Cole for his work at creating a non-standard fantasy world in the stories contained in "Oblivion Hand".  Like Vance and Moorcock and Clark Ashton Smith, the tales he's woven are not from the usual bits and pieces of medieval European flotsam that get cobbled together too often. The laws of nature have been superseded by those of magic and monstrous ratlings and demonic Screamers are the normal fauna.
   This is the sort of stuff I'm dying to see more of.  I can only take so many blond Nordic barbarians and wily Semitic wizards and clever Latin thieves.  This is the sort of psychotic, lysergic acid swilling craziness I love to find between the covers of a book with such an over-the-top cover as "Oblivion Hand".
   And yet.  And yet.  John Clute's "Encyclopedia of Fantasy" dismisses the Voidal sequence as "not serious".  I think that's a harsh and incorrect judgment.  Cole's effort at creating an omniverse that isn't right of the Fantasy 'r' Us shelf is laudable and even a bit exciting.  It's just that the writing is often a barrier to appreciating the stories.  Cole is clearly as in love with words and language as Smith and Vance and seeks to create atmosphere with the use of evocative adjectives.  The problem is he always seems to choose poorly.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah! Atmosphere!
    That's the keyword (according to me) and the borderline between a good s&s reading and a masterpiece!
    For instance atmosphere is an element that's completely absent in Thongor and absolutely dominant in the Kane stories...

    The Oblivion Hand enters my want-list... Thanx!