16Jun

Alex Reviews “Nights of Villjamur”

I’m pretty chuffed with Alex Carnegie’s review of Nights of Villjamur, since he really connected with the things I had in mind when writing the book.

After the New Weird, traditional Fantasy just doesn’t really do it for me anymore – or rather I don’t see it as a continuing, living genre in which I should invest my attention. “Show me something a bit different!” I cry. “Well, you know what I mean…” They shrug, as if to say “feudal intrigue and swordfights: what more could you want?” I reread ‘Perdido Street Station’ for the trillionth time instead.

This brings me to ‘Nights of Villjamur’. I heard about Mark Charan Newton early this year and the Internet hype for his second novel (although the first from a major publisher) has been absolutely deafening…

Hype, hype, don’t let me down again…

When I finally read the novel I wasn’t disappointed. One major factor in my enjoyment was the subgenre/tradition in which it is placed: the Dying Earth. There’s something very cool about Newton’s resurrection of this form of fiction, one that originates from the pulp Weird days where Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Horror were still all the contents of a great glorious melting pot rather than being neatly divided and subdivided into marketing categories… I have a suspicion, the same one that arose when reading ‘Thunderer’ and ‘Gears of the City’ by Felix Gilman, that the author’s trying to smuggle in some of that inter-genre, New Weird, a bit different goodness on the sly.

Shush. Don’t mention the New Weird! Although I’m guilty as charged.

This sense of Villjamur as a working city full of individuals and their lives as opposed to a broadly sketched stage for big events comes across in Newton’s handling of its numerous non-human inhabitants. He takes their unique characteristics, with their advantages and drawbacks, and shows (with evident thought) exactly how they fit into society, for instance showing us why the rumel might be particularly suited to police work, why garuda are found in particular sections of the armed forces, or how a banshee might assist in a murder enquiry. They aren’t just quasi-human monster-folk there for the sake of it. It is a coherent and expansively imagined world.

Alex goes on to mention the references he spotted to Gene Wolfe’s “Book of the New Sun” series, which I was very chuffed to see – they’ll only be apparent if you’ve read those books (recommend that you do actually, since they’re terrific pieces of literature).

I would even venture to describe this as an updated Dying Earth, one for a new century in the wake of the New Weird event.

Read the rest of the review. It’s one of those instances where I’m jumping around the room saying “He gets it, he gets it!”

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About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

2 comments

  1. Actually I meant to write “Internet fanfare” rather than hype… ;D

    I went off on a bit of a rambling roadtrip to tangentsville at a few points there, letting my genre-prejudices show a little too much for a start, but I’m glad I seem to have understood the book to an extent! I think it’s a hangover from an Eng. Lit. BA – the need to contextualise everybloodything

  2. Tomahto, tomayto… 🙂

    Contextualisation is very useful indeed. I’m not one who’s in the business of genre taxonomy, but I think in genre reviewing it’s useful to know where a book sits.

    But thanks for the review, I was genuinely glad you understood my intentions.