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The Vorrh

(The Vorrh Trilogy #1)

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  4,240 ratings  ·  785 reviews
In the tradition of China Miéville, Michael Moorcock and Alasdair Gray, B. Catling's The Vorrh is literary dark fantasy which wilfully ignores boundaries, crossing over into surrealism, magic-realism, horror and steampunk.

In B. Catling's twisting, poetic narrative, Bakelite robots lie broken - their hard shells cracked by human desire - and an inquisitive Cyclops waits for
Paperback, 500 pages
Published June 2nd 2016 by Coronet (first published April 28th 2015)
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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…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…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)

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3.52  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,240 ratings  ·  785 reviews

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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
Violet wells
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 31, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
Reads like an old white dude's psychoanalytic sessions.
Tim Hicks
Jul 12, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 31, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A complete pile of flaming arse gravy.
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Ummm. That was a trip. Maybe not a good trip, but not a boring one.
Sam Leeves
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Some authors' prose just clash with my ears: Ray Bradbury, Patrick Rothfuss and the fictional author, James S A Corey. 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 recommended by
Tade Thompson
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best book I've read this year. It is simply exquisite.
It's difficult to compare this to any other work and to call it fantasy is to do it a disservice. It is a grotesque and beautiful narrative poem masquerading as a novel.
This is not a book for the faint-hearted, and it manages to ratchet up the sheer weirdness almost on a page-by-page basis.
The eponymous Vorrh is an imaginary but magical jungle in Africa. The book is loosely plotted around three individuals. Tsungali, a hunter and
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 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
Israel Montoya Baquero
Un libro misterioso, inquietante, y que deja con multitud de incógnitas al que lo lee, como si sus páginas fuesen un remedo del Vorrh, ese bosque eterno e infinito que constituye el centro de todo lo que ocurre en su interior.

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
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 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Este libro es toda una sacudida al género que supuestamente representa. ¿Fantasía? Sí, pero tan alejada de los cánones a los que estamos acostumbrados que parece necesitar una clasificación para él mismo. Del nombre que podríamos dar a esta nueva especie no tengo ni la más remota idea. Es sin duda una pieza única, extraña y fascinante a partes iguales.

El arco que llevo conmigo al bosque está hecho de Este.

Ella murió hace diez días, justo antes del amanecer. Presintió la llegada de la muerte mien
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 19, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didnt-finish
This was Not For Me. If you look at the book cover and would like to read more about sex and evils forests, this may be for you.

I was interested to try the book because a few people, including Alan Moore, praised it to the skies. Well, Alan Moore is a bit off, too, so I should be more careful whose recommendations I take. ( I do like a lot of his comics!)

The book started off with a man who made a bow out of a woman's bones. Then it went on to a young boy being brought up in some sort of subterr
Newton Nitro
May 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
The Vorrh (The Vorrh Trilogy #1) - Brian Catling | 485 páginas, Honest Publishing 2012 | Relido de 25.04.17 a 29.04.17 | #horror #fantasia #gótico #realismomágico NITRORELEITURAS

Com o lançamento do segundo volume da série Vorrh, um dos livros mais interessantes e originais de fantasia publicados recentemente, e que foi promovido e descoberto pelo grande Alan Moore, resolvi reler o primeiro livro, The Vorrh. A minha resenha anterior segue abaixo, mas, como a obra é muito densa e com diversas cama
Nick Mccarthy

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
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
May 22, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written but aimless and all over the place.
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Books I Loathed: The Vorrh - Brian Catling 1 25 Apr 12, 2016 03:13PM  
  • Animal Money
  • The Secret Knowledge
  • Leena Krohn: Collected Fiction
  • The Dream Archipelago
  • Empty Space: A Haunting (Empty Space Trilogy, #3)
  • The Best of C.L. Moore
  • The Troika
  • City of Saints and Madmen (Ambergris, #1)
  • Strange Evil
  • Virga: Cities of the Air (Virga, #1-2)
  • Sisyphean
  • The Weirdness
  • Year's Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 1
  • The Lucky Strike
  • Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was
  • The Return Of The Sorcerer: The Best Of Clark Ashton Smith
  • Tales of Old Earth
  • Lint
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)
“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.” 9 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.” 5 likes
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