Monday, December 8, 2008

Book Report: The Digging Leviathan, by James P. Blaylock

This is one of Blaylock's first novels. It's the story of a boy, his crazy father, his best friend who happens to be a half-mermaid inventor, and an evil doctor who may be a fish. It also has the poet William Ashbless in it, which is always nice to see. He pops into stories by Blaylock and Tim Powers quite regularly, sometimes even as a main character. Blaylock writes beautifully, with evocative descriptions and a flair for quirky characterization. However, in this book, he doesn't write very coherently. I had the devil of a time figuring out what was going on, and why. Giles Peach, the half-merman, has the ability to distort reality, and the crazy father is given to delusions, so it's difficult to separate the imaginary from the real sometimes.

Even at the end of the book, questions about the nature of Ashbless (is he an old man with the same name as an 18th century poet, or is he the 18th century poet?), Giles Peach, mermen, Han Koi and the pirates living on the subterranean ocean under California, Hilario Frosticos, and just what is really happening, go largely unanswered. I don't mind a bit of mystery still hanging about at the end of a book, but I hate reaching the end without understanding anything.

The book also ends with the start of a journey to Pellucidar, the world inside the hollow earth, and I was left wondering "what happened next?" Of course, the book isn't about Pellucidar, it's about being a boy and being a man in that strange netherworld between E.R. Burroughs novels and Einstein's deterministic universe. Still, I felt like I was left hanging.

Ulysses Rating: 2 - I had a tough go.

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