Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Vorrh (The Vorrh Trilogy, #1)” as Want to Read:
The Vorrh (The Vorrh Trilogy, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Vorrh

(The Vorrh Trilogy #1)

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  5,093 ratings  ·  915 reviews
Prepare to lose yourself in the heady, mythical expanse of The Vorrh, a daring debut that Alan Moore has called “a phosphorescent masterpiece” and “the current century's first landmark work of fantasy.” 

Next to the colonial town of Essenwald sits the Vorrh, a vast—perhaps endless—forest. It is a place of demons and angels, of warriors and priests. Sentient and magical, the
Paperback, 485 pages
Published November 12th 2012 by Honest Publishing
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Vorrh, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Chase Matthews The book doesn't change much from the first half to the last half. The characters are mostly static, the writing tries too hard, and the author doesn'…moreThe book doesn't change much from the first half to the last half. The characters are mostly static, the writing tries too hard, and the author doesn't deign to answer or even hint at answers to any of the mysteries in the story. If you don't like what you've read so far you won't enjoy what lies ahead.(less)
Karina Mythago Wood felt like a strange fairy-tale, whereas the Vhorrr (to me) was more like your entire weird family coming to visit and talking all at once…moreMythago Wood felt like a strange fairy-tale, whereas the Vhorrr (to me) was more like your entire weird family coming to visit and talking all at once. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,093 ratings  ·  915 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Vorrh (The Vorrh Trilogy, #1)
May 05, 2016 rated it liked it
I think I was really prepping myself up for this one just a little too much. I wanted to expect lyrical language, and I did get a lot of lyrical language, and I wanted to expect some rather interesting ideas and concepts put together in a poetic way, all the while getting immersed in fantasy and science fiction and a truly heaping helping of the dark stuff, enough to consider the novel as a true horror.

What I did get was quite a few truly beautiful and evocative scenes of robots in a time and me
The Heart of Darkness meets Borges meets something that might have crawled out of Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth.

Brian Catling’s The Vorrh—or as editor Tim O’Connell likes to put it, “VVVOOORRRRRHHH”—is an intoxicating novel that defies easy summary. A slippery, twisty book, it always seemed to be squirming out of reach. The blurb that accompanies it is woefully inadequate, though of no fault to the blurber, because how can a book like this be summed up in a few lines? (I’d love to hear
May 31, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: library
Reads like an old white dude's psychoanalytic sessions.
Violet wells
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
In my teens a novel I loved was Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast. I've never reread it for fear of spoiling my memory of the magic it weaved into my imagination. It was like the perfect transition from the otherworldly bewitchments of children's books to the more sober worlds of adult literature. The Vorrh is an imaginatively bizarre romp of a novel in the spirit of Gormenghast with a generous dose of the glorious controlled insanity of Thomas Pynchon thrown in.

The characters in the Vorrh include a o
Tim Hicks
Jul 12, 2015 rated it did not like it
"B. Catling is a poet, sculptor, painter and performance artist." Hmm. Henceforth I may stick to books by authors.

Terry Gilliam and Tom Waits liked this book. Jeff Vandermeer says it "reads like a long-lost classic of Decadent or Symbolist literature." No doubt someone else says Catling's sensibilities are informed by a contempt for post-something, deconstructionalism and a desire to bring a new structure to fantasy unencumbered by such things as a coherent plot.

There are large chunks here that
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I started a bare-bones blog to force myself to write better/longer reviews:

Alan Moore loves this book. His praise is all over the front and back covers and it begins with a few page introduction where he raves about how fantastic the Vorrh is — how it is the best fantasy novel of this century thus far, how it enlivens a stale genre full of wizards and dragons, how superbly written it is, etc etc. These sort of introductions are always problematic, especially for
Jeff Raymond
Closer to a 2.5.

I finished reading this close to two weeks ago and I'm only writing a review now. This is emblematic of my frustration with The Vorrh, a book that came with a lot of buzz in some circles and, in the first 80 or so pages, really established something I thought I was falling in love with.

This is, at its heart, a sort of Weird fantasy tale. There's a small town bordering a forest that is believed to be magical or haunted or dangerous or some combination of all of those things. One m
Ryan Middlebrook
Apr 29, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy, novels
There is a dark place in the world.

Essentially this place has been captured by Brian Catling in his novel The Vorrh, an alternative history of a soul sucking forest in the midst of Africa in the early 20th century. I finished this somewhat plotless book that reads more as a descent into madness than a traditional novel while questioning myself the whole time, “Why are you going on?” In the end, I probably shouldn’t have, and you probably shouldn’t either.

There seems to be a lot to explain as to
Dec 31, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A complete pile of flaming arse gravy.
Bryan Alexander
Reading The Vorrh ...

Reading The Vorrh reminds me of the first time I read Gene Wolfe. Catling offers a very similar combination of mystery, allusion, tricky plots, some beautiful sentences, unpredictability, touches of horror, and a powerful sense of meaning just beneath the surface. The Vorrh is like Shadow of the Torturer in that it's a standalone book which is also, apparently, the start of a series. This is also my way of offering very high praise.

If the Hugo awards matter ever again, this
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Man... I could probably write a 5-page essay on this one. Given how narratively dense the book is, though, I imagine I wouldn't be the only one. I fluttered back and forth between wanting to give this 4 stars or 5. Ultimately I chose 5. Here's why:

This is by far one of the most imaginatively wild novels I've read. Ever. There is so much going on in "The Vorrh" that it's kind of impossible to describe. It's set in post-WWI colonial Africa, but it's also set in mid-to-late 1800s England and Americ
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Ummm. That was a trip. Maybe not a good trip, but not a boring one.
Katie Lumsden
Jun 25, 2020 rated it did not like it
I am utterly bewildered. This is one of the weirdest and most confusing books I have ever read.
Some authors' prose just clash with my ears: Ray Bradbury, Patrick Rothfuss and the fictional author, James S A Corey., to name a few. Add Brian Catling to the list. I'm not saying it's these author's fault. Who knows. I'm sure there's a large philosophical debate there about aesthetics, but I'm not interested in getting into that.

The Vorrh. I got excited about this because Alan Moore was excited about this, as well as, other such luminaries. From this moment forward I will only be reading books
Alex Sarll
A weird and astonishing fantasy of Africa. The strange and sprawling cast of protagonists includes a native policeman drawn back into the service of the colonial authorities against whom he once led a bloody revolt, a bowman whose bow's name we know before we know his, a cyclops raised by bakelite robots - and those are just the fictional figures. Mixing with them on equal terms are the historically verified, such as proto-surrealist Raymond Roussel (from whose Impressions of Africa the Vorrh's ...more
Sam Leeves
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Every so often, a book comes along that defies genre. 'No Country for Old Men' is more than a thriller or a western. 'The Big Sleep' is more than a crime novel. And what exactly is 'The Catcher in the Rye'? Brian Catling's masterful 'The Vorrh' is another such book. This is not just another Fantasy. There are remnants of the Western in there, Adventure, Crime, Romance. And still, it transcends these genres as well. It is simply 'The Vorrh' and is a much better book because of that.

Of course, due
Jul 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Feb 2014
The Vorrh is an unusual and remarkable historical fantasy though perhaps it’s coming to it after reading a lot of classics that makes it not quite as mindblowing as some reviews say. The vast cast of characters with interlocking stories, some of whom don't meet in person, tallies with current trends in literary fiction. The glorious surfeit of adjectives and adverbs recalls the too-richness of decadent literature but (and I speak as someone who’s too fond of those myself) the clause rhyt
Apr 12, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.

I'm not totally sure how to review this book. Brian Catling is an extremely talented author; his words in this novel are completely poetic. And that's the main problem here, unfortunately. At 500 pages, this wholly original Fantasy book is very dense. The style of the prose combined with the subject matter just did not lend itself to grasping my full attention. It doesn't help that the ending could've been 40 pages shorter, and that the inclusio
James Chatham
[4.5 stars]

I can say with all certainty that I've never read anything like this before. It's like a mosaic of strangeness - a group of narratives surrounding the Vorrh, a forest in an unknown location on Earth. The way most of these narratives slowly come together and intertwine is intelligent, and the sense of discovery throughout the novel is wonderful. The writing is simply outstanding: at times it reminds me of China Miéville in the way that Catling has this large vocabulary and isn't afraid
Feb 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
I came across ‘The Vorrh’ while browsing in a bookshop and was intrigued by the prospect of a vast sentient forest, as well as impressed by praise from Alan Moore, Jeff Vandermeer, and Phillip Pullman on the back cover. (Then I reserved it at the library, of course. I never buy new books, they’re so expensive.) I was eager to read it and did so within 24 hours on two long train journeys. The puff quotes make comparisons to Decadent literature, Michael Moorcock, and Mervyn Peake, none of which I ...more
Nov 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
My conclusion about this book: literary gaslighting. The blurb is enticing, and the book is endorsed by several big-name authors, but it never lives up to either.

I've read a lot of critiques in favor and against this book and in the end it comes down to:
-In favor: the prose can be nice.
-Against: the prose is too self-conscious and/or heavy-handed, at times what seems at first sight to be some wildly poetic passage turns out to show that Catling doesn't actually know what he's writing or what the
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-e-books
Bewildering, bizarre, byzantine in language, like someone reciting a Norse legend with gods and monsters in it but then blended with some belle epoque colonialism.

“Complexity has cripled me before, and the healing from it took too many years.” - The Bowman

“His voice stopped mosquitoes and caused the room to listen.” - Tsungali

“He was the most ridicilous of travellers, brilliantly prepared for all events, so long as they never happened.” - The Frenchman

The Vorrh reminds me of The Dark Tower by St
Finn Danger
Mar 09, 2020 rated it did not like it
Could not continue reading it after about 1/4 of the way in. The "lyrical" way in which the author wrote seemed less like descriptive beauty and closer to how a college student flagellates an essay with nonsense fill-in words to get their word count up when it is too low.

A bunch of sex, violence, flowery wording, and a bow made from a human body. Nah. Not for me.
Apr 29, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: slipstream
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
The Vorrh is one of the best samples of fantasy fiction that has been written in the last decades. Moreover, it is a book that walks skillfully across genres, like only very good literature can do. It is as much fantasy as it is historical fiction and steampunk, playing all along with Jungian archetypes. The Bowman, one of the protagonists-narrators is such a one. The eye, and everything related to that (blindness, cyclopes, photography and much more), is another. More protagonists include Sir W ...more
Was intrigued by the original premise but it got too twisted and convoluted for me. It was several subplots--one involving a curious girl and a cyclops; another involving a soldier who has made a bow out of a person and the black man who chases him into the Vorrh [forest which will steal a person's memory]; another involving the real-life photographer, Edward Muybridge and another involving a surrealist writer, "The Frenchman". The forest ties them all together. To me it read like a lot of hallu ...more
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
Hard to reconcile Catling's technical proficiency and Lovecraftian ability to mount dread with the aimless narrative and regressive politics of the finished work. If the new idiom of genre fiction is just going to concern itself with crafting parallel histories of other times when white men were terrible to everyone, count me out.

Paradoxically, having learned this is intended to be a trilogy, I won't rule out giving the next one a try (it's impossible not to be at least a little impressed with t
May 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Beautifully written but aimless and all over the place.
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Really, really cool.

The setting here is “the great brooding forest […] older than humankind” (9), an expanse somewhere in Africa, near the site of where the “Possession Wars began when the True People […] rebelled against the British occupiers” (14). Setting mythology is that “nobody had ever reached the centre of the Vorrh,” “the mother of forests; ancient beyond language, older than every known species” (34). Some indication that the Tetragrammaton “gave Adam a corner of his clearing, so that
Nick Mccarthy
Jan 11, 2013 rated it liked it

You could flick to any page, pick a section of text at random and mount it in a frame to inspire and confound you for years to come. But the story is weak.

There is no doubt that Catling is a great writer; almost every sentence, phrase and paragraph are beautifully written. But the plot is all over the place and characters come and go with little or no structure or purpose.

Deus ex-machina has a place, but in the Vorrh it feels heavy-handed. Perhaps later novels in the series will make the story
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Books I Loathed: The Vorrh - Brian Catling 2 33 Nov 12, 2019 07:11PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Shriek: An Afterword (Ambergris, #2)
  • City of Saints and Madmen (Ambergris, #1)
  • Dead Astronauts (Borne, #2)
  • Rosewater (The Wormwood Trilogy, #1)
  • Riddley Walker
  • Flying to Nowhere
  • The Fan Man
  • The Rosewater Insurrection (The Wormwood Trilogy, #2)
  • Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979
  • Aegypt (The Aegypt Cycle, #1)
  • Terminus radieux
  • Black Leopard, Red Wolf
  • Masters of Atlantis
  • Wisconsin Death Trip
  • Shigeru Mizuki’s Hitler
  • Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace: The Worldwide Compendium of Postpunk and Goth in the 1980s
  • The Exorcist: Studies in the Horror Film
See similar books…
Also publishes as B. Catling.

Brian Catling was born in London in 1948. He is a poet, sculptor and performance artist, who makes installations and paints egg tempera portraits of imagined Cyclops. He has been commissioned to make solo installations and performances in many countries including Spain, Japan, Iceland, Israel, Denmark, Holland, Norway, Germany, Greenland and Australia. He is currently

Other books in the series

The Vorrh Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Erstwhile (The Vorrh Trilogy, #2)
  • The Cloven (The Vorrh Trilogy #3)

Related Articles

Space operas, magic, destiny, dystopia, aliens: There's a bit of something for everyone in 2020's latest offerings in science fiction and fantasy...
85 likes · 21 comments
“All he needed was a locked room, ink, and sheets of virgin paper. This was his anchor, and he embedded it with the few scraps of energy he had left. He instinctively knew that memory and imagination share the same ghost quarters of the brain, that they are like impressions in loose sand, footfalls in snow. Memory normally weighed more, but not here, where the forest washed it away, smoothing out every contour of its vital meaning. Here, he would use imagination to stamp out a lasting foundation that refused the insidious erosions buffeting around him. He would dream his way back to life with impossible facts.” 10 likes
“white men always told you where they were. They sent out a bow wave, so that the earth and its animals would murmur, well in advance of their arrival. Their wake was immense. Crushed and contaminated, the land was forced to repair itself, even after the gentlest of their journeys.” 7 likes
More quotes…