The mighty Adam Roberts has gone to town on – or more specifically to – Villjamur over on his Punkadiddle blog.
At its best, though, this novel is doing something really quite interesting, stylistically speaking. Where Fat-Fantasy convention requires clear, kinetic bright-colour satisfactions, he is aiming for something more alienated, snowed-in and bare. Take this description of sunrise, for instance; right out of Waiting for Godot: ‘dawn broke with ferocious speed, shadows chased off the ice in the blink of an eye’ . The city is most memorably evoked when Newton stops trying to build New Viriconium, and channels instead the unreal city of the Waste Land (and Eliot is somewhere behind this novel: ‘this is the way the world ends—not with a bang but with a fucking big bang’ 157). I liked this aurora: ‘vivid streaks of red and green drifting across the darkness like sheets of rain’ ; and this fire: ‘Night, and a small fire had been built on the surface of the ice, transforming the cultists into strange purple silhouettes.’ The whole needs to be more consistently tonally ragnarökkric, like this, I think. But I enjoyed it, and Newton looks like a writer on his way somewhere very interesting.
I’m delighted to have been Punkadiddled. It’s a very thorough review (if not completely complimentary as you’d expect from such a ruthless literary figure), and one certainly worth linking to. I like the fact he touched on some of the deliberate mishmash of certain aesthetics and values, particularly of the “Heroic and Bourgeois” modes, which many have – quite understandably – overlooked.
Many have suffered from their Punkadiddling, but I’m happy to have survived.
I read his review…certainly puts my brand of review in perspective! Thorough? I think that’s the first review I’ve read where you can imagine the reviewer snapping on the rubber gloves and promising that it’ll hurt you more than him 🙂
Having said that it strikes me that an in depth review of that nature would be the most useful to the author (as opposed to his readers). A real under-the-microscope look at his work that will give him a glut of food for thought from someone who appreciates the subtleties.
Overall it struck me as a largely positive review that really brought your talent into sharp focus.
Yes, you should check out some of the other reviews there to get a flavour of the depth and breadth of his knowledge. Interesting that you say that it’s of more use to authors than readers – hmm. Certainly it’s nice to know that one’s work is analysed in such detail. I’d wonder if some readers would also like such analysis too.
As a reader I want to discover the book by myself. I don’t want every detail, subtlety and subtext arranged on a plate for me. I want a review that summarises the story, gives an impression of the quality of the prose and a personal response to the characters. An in depth analysis takes away from the reading experience and also runs the risk of telling people what they will and won’t enjoy thus dictating their opinion rather than allowing them to form their own. I realise that this is a risk present in any review on some level but almost inevitable with in depth reviews that leave little for the reader to discover on their own.