Hi again chums.
It’s been a little while.
So today, I’m going to briefly discuss some books that I’ve been reading recently which I’ve really been enjoying.
First of all, I’m going to start with the monolithic Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. I’m not going to lie, I only came across this when I heard that a Television Series is in the works, and I saw how many people were excited. There has previously been a really cheesy BBC adaption from the 2000 which I’ve had a look at, but that really wasn’t my cup of tea.
So, I bet you’re thinking ‘What the hell is that, I’ve never heard of it.”
It’s a gothic fantasy (very loose with the fantasy) set in a huge castle, where nobody seems happy or content with their lives. The first book, Titus Groan is set after the birth of the new Lord of the castle, Titus, though the focus of the story is with the other characters who are preparing for the rituals that the castle must comply with. In my opinion, the story is so good because of the background characters, who are all so strange and hilarious that there isn’t a dull moment when they interact with each other. My personal favourite is the Doctor of the castle, Dr. Prunesquallor, who is one of the best characters I have ever read. I also can’t help but like Steerpike and his self-centred lust for power, although I want to just throw something at him most of the time.
Peake’s writing style is spectacular, with his career as a poet really coming through in his imagery. His writing is, in parts, more laugh-out-loud hilarious then even Terry Pratchett. With many sentences, you can’t help but snigger at the sarcasm seeping through Peake’s words. It’s writing masterfully done, and it’s a pleasure to read. It’s not just funny though – there are some pretty controversial characters included which don’t hold back with Peake’s ideas on; fat-shaming, mental health, and an almost religious obsession with ridiculous rituals. There’s also the violence and crime, though I won’t go into that for fear of spoiling it.
I have recently finished the second book, Gormenghast, and loved that one as well. Although the plot is more focused on Titus and his hatred of the castle and his role as Lord of it, Peake somehow managed to squeeze in even more hilarious characters and even more ridiculous scenarios.
The Gormenghast Trilogy was released in 1946, which is in between J R R Tolkien’s publications of The Hobbit – 1937- and his masterful The Lord of the Rings – 1954. I find it a travesty and a great shame that Peake doesn’t get half of the recognition that Tolkien gets. Granted, Tolkien’s focus was on fantasy, whilst Peake’s was on a controversial castle, but both write in such spectacular ways that they should both be considered as grandfathers of the modern novel.
As well as Gormenghast, I’ve also been reading Gareth Powell’s Ack-Ack Macaque trilogy, which is just as funny and bonkers as you would expect. Ack-Ack is a monkey who is a character in a video game (through being wired up to the technology) and is released in a raid by the future King of England and France. Yeah, it’s that crazy.
On top of that, Ack-Ack can talk. He swears, drinks too much, smokes too much, and loves shooting guns and “blowing shit up” as he frequently says. He’s a great protagonist for what Powell is going for (a fast paced fun sci-fi thriller based on British SF tropes), and epitomizes exactly what the reader wants to happen. Without spoiling the plot of the first 2 books (Ack-Ack Macaque and Hive Monkey), I can tell you that they’re both great fun and are a great simple read. By this, I don’t mean that it’s not worthy of its BSFA award from 2013, but merely that it’s the kind of story that you can read just about anywhere, and in any conceivable mood.
I really like Powell’s casual discussions of the bizarre situations that the protagonists find themselves in, as if they happen every single day. Such as having a gunfight next to a monkey, travelling through parallel universes, and playing video games so realistic, that you only have one life in them. I suppose this is Powell’s view on SF as he has clearly read his stuff (and constantly tweets to prove this), and clearly just has a great time with anything SF related. I read a lot of Dr.Who in his work, and could picture some of the bizarre events popping up with the Doctor and his sidekick rushing around to solve them.
Overall, they’re both enjoyable reads, and I would highly recommend either to anyone.
Thanks for putting up with my ramblings.