Saturday, 26 February 2011

Pulp & Pith

The Gunslinger is the first in Stephen kings Dark Tower series and is perhaps unsurprisingly headed for the big screen. Set in a distant future on a degraded Earth a lone gunman chases a mysterious, ma- in-black across a never ending desert encountering mutants, cults and the shoddy remnants of a more advanced but now ruined society. It's not terrible, there's some nice ideas along the way and the protagonist occasionally minded me of Wolfe's Severian, sharing the same cool, detached view of humanity but sadly like most of Kings work it's spoiled by a heavy over cheesing and I was decidedly unimpressed with the time travelly bits that unfolded. I might pick up the next in the series but only if it's super cheap.

I really enjoyed Patrick Harpur's previous nonfiction books Daemonic Reality & The Philosopher's Secret Fire, two impressive, intelligent forteanish examinations of myths and our realities. However I wasn't sure what to expect from his earlier novel Mercurius, a lengthy split narrative about Alchemy told by a small town Vicar in the 50's and a contemporary researcher picking through his notes after finding them in the house she's renting. It's well written and is probably one of the finest, most exhaustive discussions about the work of alchemy (both chemical and psychological) that I've read but characters aren't exactly Harpur's strong point - Smith the alchemist is sparsely drawn and taciturn while Eileen unrealistically lacks insight into her new village life. I guess you could defend Harpur for these shortcomings as they're somewhat necessary for the plot but it doesn't help what's a long and tricksy read. Still a stunning book if you fancy learning about the secret art and there's enough detail and plenty of mysteries here to entice me back for a reread.

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