Wn adventure is vely off the map
instance, Blayney also ranks experiences on a scale of one to 10 according to their smell. This has no instrumentality in terms of the plot, but is an intriguing point of character construction, the youth as a sensory taxonomist of his surroundings.
Sometimes, however, there is too much detail simply recounted. One example is the frequent reference to Blayney’s club of boys, the Commandos. We hear about them often but never really get to see them in action. It’s an example of where the writing maxim ‘‘ show don’t tell’’ might have been better heeded.
The main issue, however, with The Cartographer is its voice. Unlike Huck Finn, whose voice pulls the novel together, Young Blayney’s first person narration is inconsistent. Too much adult sensibility bleeds into the 11-year-old’s account and disrupts its immediacy. Take this sentence from page 150, for instance: ‘‘ A pale citrine stream of urine flowed delicately down one of its legs, like a twisted metal Christmas decoration.’’ It’s an elegant sentence, but not the kind of language a quasi-delinquent 11-year-old boy for whom street smarts are far more important than school smarts is likely to use.
This sentence on p351 is more like it: ‘‘ Shit, he was good, that Mr S. And I know when I’m licked.’’ Perhaps a retrospective frame might have given the more adult voice and its sensibilities a proper place in this story. As it stands, they prevent sustained absorption in what is otherwise a fresh and rollicking take on the Boys’ Own Adventure.
Finally, although it might be construed as cheating, some kind of a graphic of Young Blayney’s map might add to the reader’s enjoyment of The Cartographer. A cover image perhaps? Ed Wright is a Newcastle-based author, poet, musician and literary critic.