If you haven't been exposed to the literary onslaught of Steve Aylett's genius, and if you're the kind of person who likes to get in at the shallow enIf you haven't been exposed to the literary onslaught of Steve Aylett's genius, and if you're the kind of person who likes to get in at the shallow end of the pool first, Fain the Sorcerer is one of the better places to start.
Expect the usual Aylett bits: brilliant sarcasm on every page, nuggets of prose that make you stare at their beauty in every paragraph, and a plot, theme, and moral that sneak up on you while you're staring at all of the shiny words.
As an experiment, with one of the less-newcomer-friendly Aylett books, say Only an Alligator, you can read sentences aloud to a friend, laugh at their humor, and appreciate their construction for upwards of thirty minutes before your friend realizes you're reading sentences in the order they appear in the book. Around that time, you'll have gotten used to it and suddenly realize that there truly is a plot and that those are characters instead of things that say witticisms.
All of which sounds like he's show-offy and pyrotechnic for the sake of it, but he isn't. His language creates an altered world (and altered state!) as much as E. R. Eddison's, Pat Caddigan's, or William S Bourroughs. And the writing serves to distract you from how many new ideas he's throwing at you per page, letting them sink into yoru softened brain instead of bouncing off and stinging.
So, on to Fain. It has a clearly demarcated plot and it introduces characters one at a time--and even in roughly their order of importance. The story concerns Fain the Gardener, who manages to get himself into some trouble with the king and has to become a sorcerer to extricate himself.
In the first few pages Fain the Gardener has met the king, killed the king's fool, failed to awaken the king's daughter from her magical slumber (he was going to squish a lemon on her nose, which might have worked if he weren't being chased by the palace guards because he killed the fool) and escaped to a mystic cave where a he cracks the pot of a cranky crackpot (really, that's what he does) and therefore becomes the possessor of three wishes.
Fain is many things, but too-clever is probably in the top five. He uses the wishes wisely (the crackpot tells him so--time travel, knowledge of how to wake the princess, and an infinite supply of sardines do seem to cover all the bases) and the rest of the book follows from there.
It's typical of Aylett that the princess a) has only been in a magical slumber for one month and b) is kept there by boredom; only an original idea can awaken her. Fain can come up with the original idea, but he seems to have problems getting away from the castle with killing the fool....
The bulk of the book is a travel-tale as Fain leaves the kingdom and travels to learn the secrets of fools, sorcerers, and necromancers, using his new-found powers as needed (well, and a bunch of other powers, but that's the result of "too-clever" + "time travel" and meeting the crackpot the day before for three more wishes, and the day before that, and ...)
Along the way we get loads of Aylett's usual social commentary and generally cynical opinion of human nature, some classic fairy-tale-type puzzles and adventures, and a loop back to the beginning to face the necromancer.
Well, kind of. Let's just say that your understanding of "loop," "beginning", "necromancer," "save," and "confront" may have changed, but under the new definitions, a glorious victory capable of sending six-year-olds into peaceful slumber as you turn out the lights is had.
It's a great read. Fun, light (none of Aylett's books are heavy to read, but this one is probably as light as Bigot Hall), and--as always--infinitely quotable.
If you're already an Aylett fan, you knew you had to read it when you heard it exists. If you haven't read Aylett, this is a great place to start. If you don't like Aylett... drop me a message and tell me why. I'm curious; I haven't met any recreational-reading-type-person who doesn't. ...more
This book concerns a line. Our line is trying to get the attention of the dot he loves. The dot falls in love with a squiggle.
It is, in short, a classic love triangle. Ha! Get it? A triangle! I kill me!
Ahem... back to the review.
The book's point is about the line's self-concept and self-esteem. He sees the squiggle as everything he can't be (and he truly can't). By the end, he learns what he can be instead, and he gains the confidence to show the dot and the squiggle what he's made of.
It's a silly book, it's a book about love, it's a book about confidence, it's a book about math, and it's a book about being yourself.
Give it to kids and read it yourself if you're feeling down or lost. My beat-up copy has gotten me through a dark night or two. And reading it with my girlfriend always reminds us how to share ourselves with each other....more