starlady: (a sad tale's best)
[personal profile] starlady
Garner, Alan. Boneland. London: Fourth Estate, 2012.

I read all of Alan Garner's early fantasy books - conventionally said to be for children, though I would argue that like all great fantasy they are ageless - when they came out from Magic Carpet in the 1990s, and I don't think there's any other writer like him. Try Elidor for a Narnia story that isn't. Read The Owl Service for a cracking good, creepy book that is more than a little like a precursor to Coraline. Read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath for high English local fantasy that is ineffable and thrilling.

In the past forty years Garner wrote books for adults, none of which I read, and then this year, quietly, he came out with Boneland, the final novel in the Alderley sequence. The publisher says it's written for adults but again, it feels timeless, though who knows if I would have understood it if I'd read it at the age when I read the rest of his books, because I don't entirely know that I fully understood it now.

The Alderley books tell the story of Colin and Susan, two twins who live near Alderley Edge in Cheshire and who fall in with the wizard Cadellin, who enlists them in battles against the Morrigan to save the world, or at least the piece of it that they can. Here's a lesson for you: don't be named Susan in a classic British fantasy. I had almost forgotten Cadellin until I started poking around for reviews of Boneland, but that's okay, because Colin has forgotten Cadellin too. Colin has forgotten everything that happened to him before he was thirteen. Colin is a genius polymath astrophysicist who lives next to a quarry near Alderley Edge and remembers every single thing that has happened to him since he was thirteen perfectly. Colin has problems.

Colin has problems, and so does his cousin or kinsman across time the Watcher, who must keep watch lest the world end. The Watcher must find the Woman, so he can pass on his duties and the world be saved. Colin must remember what happened to him, and to Susan, or there is no hope for him.

This is not a book about which it is possible to say certain kinds of things. It is short and all of a piece, like a punch to the gut; I suspect the only thing is to experience it, and draw your own conclusions. There are individual elements that I could question, maybe, but maybe not, and Garner's writing has not grown any less majestically immersive and surreal. The book is like a dolmen that you come across in some quasi-unreal landscape: There it is. How? Why? That's not the point.

I liked the characters; I liked Colin; I liked his wise-cracking psychologist Meg, who I frankly can't help but wonder might be Meg Murray from an alternate universe, or maybe Mary Poppins, or maybe Mrs. Whatsit, or maybe someone else whose name starts with M and ends with -gan. (I think, after reading a few other DW reviews, I can see the Gawain and the Green Knight Elements, but again, I'm still not sure why, and it's certainly possible to enjoy the book without them.) That isn't the point. The point is that the book is wild and untamed and deserves to be read, and that it might just be a masterpiece.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-23 06:12 (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
omg, I need to read this.

Non-posts: Strandloper, Thursbitch.

ETA Wait, have you not read Red Shift? It's where I started, thanks to a rec on rec.arts.sf.written and a chance used-bookshop sighting (at the time it was hard to find in the US). Teenaged characters along the main arc, but not really written for kids; certainly not YA as currently conceived.
Edited (forgot) Date: 2012-12-23 06:14 (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-24 05:43 (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
Thanks--and if I can locate one of my two copies of Red Shift, you're welcome to borrow it in return, if you'd like.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-23 19:19 (UTC)
rachelmanija: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rachelmanija
Cool! I had no idea this existed. I will re-read the first two, and then this.

Have you read Red Shift? It's probably the most difficult book I have actually enjoyed.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-31 06:10 (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
Now that I've read it: (rot13) FTTX vf ivgny va fb znal jnlf, vg frrzf gb zr, fgnegvat jvgu ynaqfpncr, rfc vs bar fdhvagf nybat gur oneery bs abj-qngrq fpubynefuvc. Bar ivrj bs Zrt Znffrl vf nf gur ragvgl fbhtug va FTTX'f fvfgre-cbrz Crney. Lrf, Zbeevtna, ohg V guvax Zrt vf zber zbgure guna pebar, naq fur xrrcf pebjf ng onl sbe Pbyva engure guna oevatvat gurz gb uvz. Gurer vf gur nkr Pbyva xrrcf, svthevat uvz nf gur Xavtug, naq gur svefg srj yvarf, svthevat uvz nf Tnjnva (bayl n fpengpu, n oybbq-qenj); Oreg[vynx] vf Xavtug ng bgure gvzrf. Gung fpengpu naq gur svany yvarf znxr gur jubyr abiry ernqnoyr nf n qernz-ivfvba (pbzn raqvat va qrngu), juvpu bs pbhefr FTTX pna or pbafgehrq nf, gbb. (Qernz, V zrna, jvgubhg qrngu, gubhtu jvgu obgu gur xavtug'f crefvfgrapr naq gur eryrnfr sebz trnf harkcynvarq.) Gurer'f gur rznangvba bs (serrvat bs?) Fgbel sebz gur gjb cevbe obbxf naq gur vagreynprq frg urer, juvpu fbeg bs whfgvsvrf gur zlguvp yvar bs Pbyva'f cflpuvngevp eryvivat--genafpraq nepurglcr--naq gryyf gur ernqre bss sbe qenjvat fdhvttyl pbaarpgbef gb FTTX'f srngherf....

I have to go to sleep, though! [ETalsotoA] Whose posts, if you recall? Too long ago to ask you for actual links, but I'm curious to go rooting around a bit.

I want to know what's up with Crane.

My inchoate post will come in a month or so.
Edited (duh, forgot key thing) Date: 2013-07-31 06:15 (UTC)

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