Lost in a forest of words
Release Date: 21 May
500 pages | Hardback/ ebook Author: Brian Catling Publisher: Coronet
Imagine a vast
primeval forest. Light barely makes its way through the dense canopy, and the tangled underbrush means you can only move with extreme difficulty and effort. Occasionally you glimpse what look like contorted human or animal shapes. The air is filled with weird, incomprehensible noises.
Brian Catling ’s The Vorrh is set in this jungle, and resembles it closely. Understanding barely makes its way through the dense, overwritten prose. The tangled storylines mean you can only follow the plot with extreme effort and difficulty. Contorted human shapes ( you can’t really call them characters) make weird, incomprehensible speeches.
By day Catling is an artist and a poet, and it shows. He creates vast surreal landscapes, and he uses language with a poet’s density of expression. In The Vorrh, he’s trying to create a Hieronymus Bosch canvas of disturbing half- glimpsed images, a nightmare blend of the familiar and the inconceivable. It’d be wonderful, if it worked.
But it doesn’t. The language is too richly poetic; you can’t begin to understand or empathise with the inhuman, mostly revolting characters. By the time narrative light breaks through, in the last quarter of the book, it’s too late. There are many startlingly vivid images, but no cohesion to give them relevance or meaning.
You can’t see the wood for the trees. Tom Holt The title stems from surrealist Raymond Roussel’s 1910 novel Impressions Of Africa, in which it’s the name of a forest.