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.