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Young Art and Old Hector by Neil M Gunn

Souvenir Press, 1985 reprint from 1942, 255 p. One of the Herald’s “100” best Scottish Fiction Books.

Young Art and Old Hector cover

On finishing this uplifting book I reflected that it depicts a kind of relationship which either no longer exists or will expire shortly. Young Art is eight or so years old, hence not well versed in the ways of the adult world. His friend and confidant, Old Hector, the ancient of their small village, is a repository of sagacity, wisdom and local knowledge. Their warm, mutual affection shines through the prose describing their interactions. These days I fear the world of the young is so divorced from that of the old that common ground such as Art and Hector have here would be very hard to find.

Young Art and Old Hector is another chronicling of a way of life that was passing – had passed at the time of writing. This is one of the perennial themes of Scottish literature. Hector says to Art, “‘I know every corner of this land, every little burn and stream, and even the boulders in the stream. And I know the moors and every lochan on them. And I know the hills, and the passes, and the ruins, and I know of things that happened here on our land long long ago, and men who are long dead I knew, and women. They are part of me. And more than that I can never know now.’” Hector tells Art, “‘There are many places, many many places, with names that no-one knows but myself, and they will pass away with me.’” Whereupon Art asks Hector to teach them to him so that they won’t die. That instinct may have been what prompted Gunn to write this novel. Whatever, while people still read old books the past is never entirely dead.

There isn’t really much of a plot, what there is revolves around an illicit still set up to produce whisky for a wedding party, the authorities’ attempts to catch those operating it and their subsequent outwitting, but Gunn’s facility in entering the mind of a child is superb. An example of Art’s misunderstanding of grown up ways is his conclusion that courting must be a very bad thing. A conclusion only compounded when his hand is innocently held by a young girl. Gunn makes the comparison with the second childhood of the elderly but emphasises it does not entirely hold, especially in their differing perceptions of time.

Hector has a few good lines. “Old Hector maintained that money wasn’t everything… and in his young days people didn’t hanker after it so greedily as they did now.” To the objection that had they been more alive to it they might not have been cleared out of the Clash in the time of evictions he replies, “‘It was the lairds and the factors who were keen on the money, and it’s because they were keen on the money that they drove the people forth.’” Hector also says “‘I have not observed that it’s the people who are out to make money who are the helping kind…. the more they make the grippier they become.’” “‘Whenever the prime concern in life is money-making then you have trickery and brutality and wrong.’” “‘Human dealings are founded – founded – not on money but on what is fair and just all round.’” He relates how the legalisation of distilling in effect stole the people’s drink from them and had not left them “‘wherewith to buy it.’”

And here’s a thought that feels almost quaint in this modern age. “‘What’ asked Art, ‘is the most wonderful thing in the world.’ ‘A kind heart,’ answered Old Hector.”

Pedant’s corner:- On the book’s back cover; Donal (in the text it is always Donul.) Otherwise: dike (dyke is the preferred British spelling for an embankment or low wall,) primeval (I prefer primaeval,) “‘Are there? “I have never’, said Mary-Anne” (has the comma misplaced outside the quotation marks,) “and t but half the size” (has the space for the “i” of it but the “i” itself is missing,) “does not now what to make of me” (ditto the “k” of “know”,) “Every littl place (ditto the e of little,) paradisaical (I’ve only ever seen this as paradisiacal before but it’s an accepted variant.) A big thumbs up for “Amn’t I?”

Interzone 266 Sep-Oct 2016

TTA Press

Interzone 266 cover

Stephen Theaker’s Editorial muses on awards; their disadvantages and their necessity. Jonathan McCalmont’s column1 discusses Emma Geen’s The Many Selves of Katharine North favourably while Nina Allan reflects on the connections between classical and folk music on the one hand and the weird/faery on the other.
In the Book Zone I review Alastair Reynolds’s Revenger (recommended.) Also gaining approval are Paul Kearney’s The Wolf in the Attic (even if it does require a sequel,) Peter S Beagle’s Summerlong and Gaie Sebold’s Sparrow Falling.
In the fiction, Tade Thompson’s The Apologists is set in the aftermath of an invasion of Earth by aliens who hadn’t realised it was inhabited. Discovering their oversight, they keep six remnants alive on a simulated world.
Extraterrestrial Folk Metal Fusion2 by Georgina Bruce is a tongue-in-cheek tale of the discovery of a signal from outer space which is soon parlayed into opportunities for profit, either personal or monetary.
Narrated by the best friend of the test pilot (who tells him what happened in a disturbing first flight) Ray Cluley’s Sideways3 is an excellent, affecting story about a 1950s rocket propelled prototype craft that can go sideways. That word is deployed strategically throughout the story to underline its strangeness.
In Three Love Letters From an Unrepeatable Garden by Aliva Whiteley the titular letters are to the lover of a gardener protecting a unique but dying flower.
One by one in The End of Hope Street4 by Malcolm Devlin, the houses in the street become unliveable. If you are in them when they do then you die. A tale of neighbourliness in adversity but told in an oddly distanced way.

Pedant’s corner:- 1octopi (it’s not Latin!! The Greek plural is octopodes but octopuses is perfectly good English,) the real meat… lays in (lies in.) 2maw (it was a black hole so I suppose could be interpreted as a stomach.) 3sliver mirror (silver,) 4he was stuck with a … sense of horror (struck?) inside of (inside x2; ditto outside of,) the community prided themselves (itself,) there had been only few major incidents (there had been few, or, only a few,) everyone was on their feet (was, so everyone is singular; so how then, their feet? Avoid such a construction,) the neighbourhood fought to free themselves (ditto, neighbourhood is singular,) to examine it closer (more closely.)

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Pushkin Press, 2014, 345 p. Translated from the Finnish Lumikko ja yhdeksän muuta by Atena Kustannus.

 The Rabbit Back Literature Society cover

After a diagnosis of defective ovaries and a broken engagement Ella Milana has returned to her childhood home of Rabbit Back to take up a post as a substitute teacher. On reading a pupil’s essay where his description of the contents does not match her recollections she discovers on inspecting his copy that odd things are happening to the contents of books in the town. They are becoming plastic, events occur in them that ought not to be there. The local librarian, Ingrid Katz, takes the offending items to destroy them.

Rabbit Back is the home of Finnish literature, author Laura White many years ago having used her fame to recruit a group of talented children – all of whom are now successful in their own right – into the Rabbit Back Literature Society whose membership is one short of its maximum number. Ella’s own literary efforts are rewarded by publication in Rabbit Tracks, a local publication, and attract Laura White’s attention. She is offered that tenth position.

On the night of her inauguration White – in full view of the assembled guests – disappears from her own living room in a whirl of snow never to be seen again and Ella discovers there was an earlier tenth member, which intrigues her – especially when she finds he died in an accident. Membership of the Society is accompanied by a system of challenge known as The Game whereby each member can demand the truth of any question about another member; a reciprocal process known as spilling and the source of many of their stories. Through The Game Ella tries to find out about the original tenth member and what happened to him.

During one of these sessions a fellow member says to her, “‘Where would we be if anything at all could turn up in books?’” that under one reality there’s always another, “And another one under that.” In addition, “Sometimes reality shrivels up and blisters around Laura White” who, incidentally, believed that bacteria on books could alter their contents. Another tells her that everybody knows that “no healthy person would take up writing novels… literature… is mental derangement run through a printing press.”

The Rabbit Back Literature Society is a sideways look at the whodunnit, with the aura of fantasy and more than a whiff of literary game-playing to it. Enjoyable stuff though.

Pedant’s corner:- tasteless (distasteful, x 2,) she tried to smile broader than before (more broadly,) as an Laura White-trained author (a Laura White-trained,) “‘I had a true natural talent in handling the ball’” (in football it’s playing the ball – unless you’re a goalkeeper; the speaker wasn’t,) out of bounds (similarly, the term is out of play,) spread out broader (again; more broadly,) the jackets on your novels (of your novels is a more natural phrase,) it didn’t even phase me (faze,) overtime (over time.)

Progress in Scottish Reading

A suitable post for St Andrew’s Day.

You may have noticed on my sidebar that I am reading Neil M Gunn’s Young Art and Old Hector.

This is one of The Herald’s “100” best Scottish Fiction Books.

Of the thirty books that were actually listed on that now defunct web page this means I will now have read twenty-nine (having made that my Scottish reading project for the year.)

The only one from that Herald list I have so far missed is Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, which has appeared on all four lists I’ve been working from* – a distinction it shares only with the otherwise incomparable Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.

For some reason I have a reluctance to tackle Welsh’s book. I have seen the film that was made from it and wasn’t overly enthused. I’ll get round to it sometime.

*Those four lists:-
100 best Scottish Books;
The Herald’s “100” best Scottish Fiction Books;
Scotland’s favourite books;
and The Scotsman’s 20 Scottish Books Everyone Should Read (from 2005.)
This last is the one I shall be working from next year. I’ll post the list in the new year.

The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh

Canongate, 2003, 300 p. One of both the 100 best Scottish Books and Scotland’s favourite books.

The Cutting Room cover

A narrator known only as Rilke – I don’t believe we are ever vouchsafed his given name – is an auctioneer and valuer for a struggling auction house in Glasgow. He receives a call to inspect the contents of a house for clearance and complete the sale quickly. The contents consist of good stuff and could save the auction house’s finances. In its attic there are rare first editions of notorious books but he is asked by the deceased’s heir – an elderly sister – to destroy them. Amongst them Rilke finds some disturbing photographs which appear to show the murder of a young woman. Intrigued by this mystery he spends most of the book trying to investigate the photographs’ origins instead of looking after the house-clearance. This brings him into closer contact with the shady side of Glasgow life than is healthy before the mystery is resolved.

The Cutting Room is written with a literary sensibility, is full of well-drawn characters and has many fine descriptive passages. While it does yield the satisfaction that detective/crime fiction provides it goes beyond that. It is a novel, pure and simple. (Well, actually not that pure – and not really simple either.) And Rilke is an unusual protagonist for a crime novel. As a debut novel I found it more accomplished than Ian Rankin’s Knots and Crosses and James Oswald’s Natural Causes. I’ll be reading more from Welsh.

Pedant’s corner:- the Great Western Road (I’ve only ever heard this referred to as Great Western Road; no definite article,) each others eyes (each others’ eyes,) burglarised (No! The word is burgled,) two missing end [and one beginning] quotation marks, our monthly sail (sale,) “in a herd that shook the ground with the weight of their hooves” (leave aside the fact that herd is singular so it should be its hooves, it isn’t the hooves’ weight that shakes the ground, it’s the buffaloes’,) thrupney bits (yes that corruption of threepenny was pronounced that way, but it was always spelled thruppenny,) asshole (arsehole,) a boy had watched “the first moon launch”, dedicated himself to space exploration, twenty years later became an astronaut, only to vomit copiously the whole time in mission after mission; his “hermetically sealed sick bags still orbit the moon” (that would be “the first moon landing” not launch, plus; the last orbit of the moon was in 1972, only three years – not twenty – after the first. Those sick bags might be in Earth orbit but would be nowhere near the Moon.) “Other ungodly titles lesbian are known by” (lesbians; but it was in a pamphlet, these are notoriously misspelled,) “aren’t I?” (Grrr! The speaker is Scottish; she would say “amn’t I?”,) shtoom (usually spelled schtum or shtum,) “I was coming warn you” (coming to warn you,) the Ukraine (the speaker is Ukrainian; they just say Ukraine, no “the”,) medieval.

Daughter of Eden by Chris Beckett

Corvus, 2016, 398 p

 Daughter of Eden cover

The narrator here is Angie Redlantern, childhood friend of Starlight, the protagonist of the previous novel in Beckett’s Dark Eden sequence, Mother of Eden, but long since struck out on her own from Knee Tree Grounds and living among the Davidfolk in Veeklehouse on the near side of Worldpool. Angie is a batface, one of the many such in Eden as a consequence of the inbreeding unavoidable in the scenario. She had for a long time been companion to Mary, a shadowspeaker faithful to the cult of Gela but was rejected by her after failing to hear Gela’s voice in the sacred Circle of Stones. The novel kicks off when Angie’s daughter, Candy, is the first to notice the men in metal masks coming across Worldpool in wave after wave of boats. Soon Angie’s family is heading out over Snowy Dark to Circle Valley to escape this invasion. There, in a strange left turn that falls outside the narrative pattern of the trilogy so far, the event that marks Angie’s life occurs. To reveal it would be a spoiler of sorts.

Beckett is of course examining origin myths and belief systems and here explicitly the question of what happens when evidence arises that directly contradicts the stories you have heard all your life, stories which that life revolves around, especially if they are stories on which your self-esteem and means of living depend. Well, belief is a stubborn beast. If you truly believe, you just rationalise that evidence away.

Beckett’s depiction of the evolution and entrenchment of social hierarchies is not an especially optimistic view of humanity. Perhaps all Edens are dark. Within it, however, while he shows us humans bickering and fighting, we also find loving and caring; so there is hope. Readable as always, Beckett involves us fully in Angie’s world, and presents us with characters who behave in the way we know they would. I’m still not sure about that life-marking event though.

Pedant’s corner:- sprung (sprang,) when when (this is not one of those instances where Eden folk use repetition of an adjective to express the comparative, a habit Beckett expands on later; just one “when” needed here,) me and her had fallen out (the English ought to be I and she or she and I but of course Angie is writing in Edenic,) me and Mary (I and Mary; Mary and I, ditto.) “Their bones, those that were left unpulverized, would be twice as old as the cave paintings at Lascaux” (twice as old as the cave paintings at Lascaux? Those cave paintings [being older than the bones] would themselves be three times as old as the ones referred to by the time concerned. “Twice as old as the cave paintings at Lascaux are now” would make more sense.) “Come Tree Road” (this corruption of the song Country Road is elsewhere “Come Tree Row”,) Johnfollk (Johnfolk,) a new kind of, story (kind of story.)

Asimov’s Science Fiction Sep 2016

Dell Magazines.

Asimov's Sep 2016 cover

Sheila Williams’s Editorial lists The Thirtieth Annual Readers’ Award Results. Robert Silverberg’s Reflections (“Darn,” He Smiled) remembers the glory days of Science Fiction reviewing by James Blish and Damon Knight including one memorable Blish evisceration of a story that used 89 different expressions for “said” (a practice Silverberg himself thereafter strictly avoided) and laments that the pendulum has now swung so much the other way that would-be writers are positively encouraged to eschew the unintrusive “said”.
Peter Heck On Books1 looks favourably on the latest novels by Charlie Jane Anders, Laura R Gilman, and Fred Chapell, Paul di Filippo’s collection and the non-fiction Breaking the Chains of Gravity: the story of space flight before NASA by Amy Shira Teitel.
In The Mind is its Own Place2 by Carrie Vaughn, Lieutenant Mitchell wakes up in hospital to be told he is suffering from Mand Dementia, an affliction suffered by navigators who intuit the correct coordinates for hyperspace jumps. The story concerns his gradual unravelling of what happened to him.
Dome on the Prairie3 by Robert Reed is an alien invasion story inspired by the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Aliens in the form of the Scourge have come to Earth. Our (unnamed) narrator is chosen to try to communicate with a Scourge child dubbed Laura.
In Epitome4 by Tegan Moore, Shelby, a woman given power of attorney by her female lover Vivian (whom for some unexplained reason she cannot acknowledge as such) becomes her carer after a fall causes brain damage. To compensate, Shelby has a hacker friend upload a brain scan of Vivian into the Personify virtual reality programme.
Academic Circles5 by Peter Wood is a time travel story wherein a man uses a time machine to plagiarise academic essays on Philip K Dick and claim precedence. Others have feelings of déjà vu.
In The Whole Mess6 by Jack Skillingstead mathematical genius Professor Dunn is handed an incomplete equation. When he solves it tentacled Masters slip through from a parallel universe and he slides to a third. Only he can undo the change but his abilities are restricted.
All That Robot…7 by Rich Larson sees a man stranded on an island otherwise inhabited by sentient robots sin against their nascent religion.
The best is kept till last – and it’s the best in Asimov’s all year up to now. Ian R MacLeod’s The Visitor From Taured8 tells the tale of Lita, a woman who studies Analogue Literature (old style 2D physical books rather than interactive or non-static narratives,) and her (lack of) relationship with astrophysics adept Rob who is trying to prove the many worlds theory.

Pedant’s corner:- 1Palazo (in a book title! palazzo,) 2“He’d signed in, said good morning to the captain, went to his station” (He’d; therefore [he’d] gone to his station,) “He had to learn to the truth” (learn the truth.) 3a wide range… were scattered (was,) “shifting its aim for a moment that ends when you forcing your attentions to…. (with you forcing? when you force?) 4 freshman (freshmen mad emoe sense) 5Popoov (Popov,) a missing end quote mark. 6 the ‘the Masters’ (only one the needed,) a particularly adept memoirists (memoirist,) I couldn’t breath (breathe.) 7”hoping that the two events to coincide” (the two events coincide.) 8Even in a US publication it is intensely annoying to read in a story by a Briton and set mostly in Leeds and the Outer Hebrides the word “asshole” rather than arsehole, yet there was archaeologist not archaeologist and later maths and “arsed around”. “He fucked about.” (I assume US readers will read this as implying promiscuity – the context leans towards it – but I didn’t. In Britain it means engaging in activities to little purpose, not fulfilling yourself, see “arsed around”,) post-centarian (post-centenarian?) this stuff happen at the atomic level (this stuff happens,) “as if every choice you made in a virtual was mapped out in its entirety” (“world” after virtual?) sung (sang,) span (spun.)

Body Politic by Paul Johnston

NEL, 2003, 349 p

The Body Politic cover

The first publication of this novel was in 1997 when the date in which it is set, 2020, was a considerable time away. That makes it read a bit oddly in 2016.

Edinburgh – like many other parts of the UK – is independent, home to a never-ending tourist drawing festival, from which the city derives most of its income. It is run by the Enlightenment Council of City Guardians, which comes across as a sort of muted cross between a local Council, the Committee of Public Safety and a Kirk Session. The city’s citizens lead a circumscribed existence, unruly beards are obligatory, television, private cars and crime are banned, as is blues music – a problem for former city guardian Quintilian Dalrymple who at the novel’s start is asked by Katharine Kirkwood to find her missing brother. Before long however, a body is discovered whose murder bears remarkable similarities to those of the Ear, Nose and Throat Man from several years before. Dalrymple, as the expert on the previous crimes (and instrumental in their ceasing,) is roped back in to the Enlightenment’s police force (called guardians) to investigate. What follows is the usual tale of corruption, red-herringry and interconnectedness; though carried off with great skill. The crime element is pretty standard fare (as far as my reading of the genre goes) the bureaucratic hassles associated with the policeman’s/policewoman’s lot lent an air of strangeness by the unusual background. Various villains are unmasked, the murderer not whom you might expect. Kirkwood’s brother’s disappearance is peripheral to that aspect of the plot and only really exists to provide Dalrymple with a love interest.

Despite its (altered) future setting this cannot really be considered Science Fiction. In form and content it is more of a crime novel than anything else, there is no speculation involved. Quite why it appeared on the Herald’s list of “100” best Scottish Fiction Books, I’m not sure. I can only think that the Enlightenment might be supposed to be a peculiarly Scottish conception. It has Calvinistic undertones but the things it tolerates – encourages even – have traditionally been frowned upon at best and more usually excoriated.

Somewhat prophetically there is the line, “The USA had reverted to the self-obsession that’s a hallmark of their history.”

Pedant’s corner:- “didn’t use to mind” (didn’t used to,) had lead to (led to,) reponse (response,) “I wanted to sit down badly” (how can anyone sit down badly? – I think Johnston meant “I badly wanted to sit down,”) Mary, Queen of Scots’ (Mary, Queen of Scots is singular so; Mary, Queen of Scots’s,) “The USA had reverted to the self-obsession that’s a hallmark of their history,” (its history; unless you’re talking pre-American Civil War when the United States were referred to in the plural.)

Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson

Black Swan, 2015 reprint of a 2000 publication, 489 p

 Emotionally Weird cover

During this, Atkinson’s narrator (by implication Atkinson herself) is at pains to emphasise that it is a comic novel. It is mainly the tale of the student life in 1972 of Effie Stuart-Murray (Effie Andrews as she had thought of herself) ostensibly narrated to, and frequently interrupted by, her mother (who is not her mother) interleaved with said (not)mother’s relation to Effie of her convoluted origins. Extracts from the ongoing novels of some of the characters – including Effie’s own, which Emotionally Weird as a whole is not – appear at odd intervals. All this requires the use of seven or so different fonts (not including italics) to differentiate the various strands.

This is fine as far as it goes – and it is always welcome to find in a novel those fine Scottish words rammy, stushie and stramash (the use of which indicates Atkinson can truly be considered a Scottish writer,) not to mention a Dundee setting – but it is not enough to defuse analysis of a book’s faults by including criticism of it within it. “Too many characters” Effie’s not-mother tells her, and later, “a welcome piece of exposition” to which the reader can only say “indeed.”

Effie’s ongoing failures to deliver essays when they are due is a backdrop to various comings and goings between members of the University staff, students and a private investigator called Chick. There are some wry observations but few if any laugh out loud moments. The intrusion of fantasy elements – possible ghosts, pseudo magic realism, the use of authorial omnipotence to rewind and change events – only adds to the rather unfocused feel. Comic, after all, does not mean anything goes. Curious foreshadowings of Atkinson’s Life After Life and echoes of Behind the Scenes at the Museum exist in her predilection for scenes depicting drowning.

At the sentence level the writing is fine, good even, the characters’ interactions are well observed, their motivations psychologically plausible. The trouble is Effie’s student days are really entirely separate from the circumstances of her birth. While the two story strands are intermingled, sometimes with extremely short jump cuts, they are not really connected except that they both involve Effie. A lampooning of early 1970s campus culture is all very well and might not have been enough to carry the novel on its own – especially when it is elongated beyond its ideal length as it is here – but Effie’s unusual beginnings and relationship with her not-mother do not distract from this. In the end Emotionally Weird just goes on too long to too little effect but within it some seeds of Atkinson’s future triumphs can be discerned.

Pedant’s corner:- still caked in Monro mud (these hills are called Munros,) Cousins’ (Cousins’s,) “and the Hun were” (the Hun was,) “Murdo fell at Mons” (in the previous paragraph he had signed up at age fifteen, three months after his brother “crossed to France”. The battle at Mons was in August of 1914, was followed by a retreat and the British Army did not get back there till November 1918,) “‘if you can’t manage the math’” (the British usage is maths and this USian character had been in Britain long enough to adapt but to be fair to Atkinson I suppose she wouldn’t have,) Descartes’ (Descartes’s; it’s pronounced “day-cart” for goodness’s sake, and its possessive therefore must be “day-cart’s”,) a range of…. farm buildings were (a range was,) primeval (I prefer primaeval,) one of the instances of jumping from strand to strand is a transition which adopts the new font one sentence too early, bouef bourguignonne (bouef bourguignon, or bouef à la Bourguinonne) “‘Jings, crivens and help me Boab’” (jings, crivvens and help ma boab,) Jenners’ carrier bags (Jenners’s,) Scalectrix (it’s spelled Scalextric,) tapsie-teerie (I thought at first this might be a mishearing by Atkinson of the more usual tapselteerie/tapsalteerie but I checked and the Dictionary of the Scots Language has it as a variant,) men-o’-wars (men-o’-war,) Effie Andrews’ (Effie Andrews’s.)

Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins

Gollancz, 2014, 307 p

 Wolfhound Century cover

Investigator Vissarion Lom is bobbling along in the regional city of Podchornok seeking out dissidents when he is summoned to the capital city Mirgorod and there tasked with catching a terrorist. The setting is clearly based on Russia, characters have patronymics, the currency is the rouble, distances are measured in versts, the iconography of the cover is Soviet. A secret service head called Lavrentina (Chazia) adds to the impression. But it is a strangely altered Russia, named Vlast, ruled not by a Tsar nor a General Secretary, but by a Novozhd, and perpetually at war with a polity called the Archipelago. Moreover, an Archangel lies imprisoned in the countryside potentially threatening the future but first it has to ensure that the Pollandore, the vestige of an older voice which can undo the Archangel’s vision and is capable of altering reality, is destroyed. Lom has a piece of angel flesh embedded in his forehead “like a blank third eye”, giving him powers to move the air. There are giants.

It is a curious mix. The flavour of the novel is a bit like reading Joseph Conrad, the feel of the society it depicts like late Tsarist era Russia, but there are sub-machine guns. I found the thriller aspect of it to be too conventional, the circles of contact of Lom’s suspects too restricted and their connections too easily uncovered by him but it is an unusual fantasy scenario, all the more welcome for not being based on a mediæval template.

To be sure there is occasional “fine writing” but I’m afraid I lose patience when extra-human powers come into things, although such content may be true to its Russian inspiration. A more major complaint is that the novel didn’t end. An immediate threat was dealt with but the Archangel and the Pollandore were still extant. And quite why it is entitled Wolfhound Century remained obscure. If I see its sequel in one of my local libraries I might pick it up; otherwise, no.

Pedant’s corner:- “He should have waited. Showed his papers.” (Shown,) “his cap pulled down tight down over his forehead (only one down required,) and and (only one and required,) miniscule (minuscule.) “Its not on any map” (It’s,) dikes (USian? dykes,) “broken staithes and groynes” (staithes?) “with the trunk on it back” (its back,) a missing full stop.

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