The Geomancer


the pleasure of an intelligent, skillful writer amusing himself and us.

William Mingin's review, just posted on Strange Horizons, of James Enge's Blood of Ambrose,is one of the most elegant and articulate reviews I've read in a long time. He manages a fairly detailed analysis of the text, while avoiding major spoilers (or any reveals of the suprises that occur regularly from the midpoint of the text on), while at the same time engaging the novel in a way that let's the reader understand clearly what works for him, what doesn't, and what puzzles (sometimes in a good way.) I really enjoyed reading the review for its own sake. That it is also positive is a bonus. He writes:
...the salient characteristic of this book, and of all Enge's Morlock stories—which is almost all his published writing to date—is the sheer pleasure of reading it. The difficulty for the critic is in pinning down exactly whence that arises.

Reading is intellectual but also sensuous, partly because, as brain research now seems to show, it sets up a sort of alternate reality experience in the mind, partly because it's constructed of language. The pleasures of language, in sound, structure, and story, resonate deeply—as do those of invention and wonder.

There's a kind of literately sensuous pleasure in Enge's writing—not so much sentence by sentence, of the sort found in Shakespeare, Mervyn Peake, and Raymond Chandler—to pick a wide range—but in his storytelling, including his writing per se, his sense of humor, his cleverness, and his power of invention. It's a very taking kind of pleasure that kept me reading gratefully, and would have kept me if he had gone on longer than he did (this book is much shorter than the usual doorstop fantasy)—the pleasure of an intelligent, skillful writer amusing himself and us.

Meanwhile, to answer some of Mr Mingin's questions: We left off a map in the first book because the story centers around and largely remains in one city (with a few excursions). However the second book, This Crooked Way,sees Morlock visiting a lot more locales, and so we have a map in it (and, drawn by Chuck Lukacs, it's a thing of beauty. Sort of Led Zeppelin meets Tolkien). There is also some explanation of how this world connects to our own in that book's appendices. As to the chronology, Enge has worked out Morlock's life across quite a few centuries. Some of the stories you reference take place immediately following Blood of Ambrose, while others take place many centuries later (and one or two before). But yes, that's the same "magical book in the palindromic script of ancient Ontil."

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