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Alan Aldridge

 

The Gnole

 

Hard to grade and classify this one – as close as I can remember is Duncton Wood, although there are X-files type conspiracy and supernatural/horror elements..

 

Fungle the Gnole is the ultimate new age environmental Dalai Lama. He’s a laughing rustic who benignly cuts through pretensions. Almost (but not quite) cloying sentimentality in presenting the beatific integration with nature, various spirits of the wood, and with the simple community. Also a background something akin to the sadness of the Elves gradually giving over to the teaming nature-despoiling chaotic spread of humanity.

 

Starts setting up a standard fantasy baddie-goodie sorcery story (although the baddie is more from the horror genre, being a demon and all – a strength of the book is its underlying pantheon), then cuts to a million pop-culture references as Fungle encounters TV personalities and evil covert Govt. departments. Some OK playing with the innocent’s alternative perspective on our everyday, but it’s basically pretty self-indulgent.

 

But finally Aldridge lost me with his rough-diamond underground gangsters: we’re supposed to enjoy their high spirits, but the fact that they enjoy throwing defenceless people to be torn to pieces by crocodiles as an afternoon’s amusement made me unclear on the difference between them and the villain. Moreover one minute our hero can effortlessly use telepathy, astral travelling, levitation and sorcery, the next he’s inexplicably running scared from any old security guard or mugger.

 

Some original ideas, generally capably presented, an OK overall plot/world, and some likeable central characters - but the book is inconsistent thematically and qualitatively. A bit lax in bothering for coherency: characters are added fairly randomly as we go on.

 

January 2003