The Vorrh

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Rated dvd & blu-ray -

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.

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