Prepare to lose yourself in the heady, mythical expanse of The Vorrh, a daring debut that Alan Moore has called "a phosphorescent masterpiece" and "the current century's first landmark work of fantasy".
Next to the colonial town of Essenwald sits the Vorrh, a vast - perhaps endless - forest. It is a place of demons and angels, of warriors and priests. Sentient and magical, the Vorrh bends time and wipes memory. Legend has it that the Garden of Eden still exists at its heart. Now a renegade English soldier aims to be the first human to traverse its expanse. Armed with only a strange bow, he begins his journey, but some fear the consequences of his mission, and a native marksman has been chosen to stop him. Around them swirl a remarkable cast of characters, including a Cyclops raised by robots and a young girl with tragic curiosity as well as historical figures, such as writer Raymond Roussel and photographer Edward Muybridge. While fact and fictional blend, the hunter will become the hunted, and everyone's fate hangs in the balance under the will of the Vorrh.
"Catling's novel reads like a long-lost classic of Decadent or Symbolist literature, with that same sense of timelessness. It's peculiar, wildly imaginative, unafraid to transgress and get lost, and is unlike anything I've ever read." (Jeff VanderMeer, author of The Southern Reach Trilogy)
"A phosphorescent masterpiece.... Easily the current century's first landmark work of fantasy.... A brilliant and sustained piece of invention which establishes a benchmark not just for imaginative writing but for the human imagination in itself.... Read this book, and marvel." (Alan Moore, author of Watchmen and V for Vendetta)
"Brian Catling is simply a genius. His writing is so extraordinary it hurts, it makes me realize how little imagination I have." (Terry Gilliam)
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- Christopher Torgersen
Plodding and largely pointless
The Vorrh would be better if it had a plot. And dialogue. And character development. And if it were not a collection of perverse and puerile ramblings. And if it were anything at all like the plot summary given in the description.
If you like to read engaging fantasy stories filled with interesting character doing interesting things... this is not for you.
If you like to read dense and often grotesque prose devoid of dialogue and meaning, then buy this book right away!
The most disappointing thing about the story in the Vorrh is that there really isn't one.
The Vorrh boils down to five hundred pages of descriptions written in excruciating detail, in an acerbic and clever writing style. This works okay for about the first fifteen pages. But you keep waiting for the payoff; for something, anything, to happen, and it never really does. It really is just five hundred pages of densely worded prose in a cliched stream of consciousness.
Of the hundreds of pages that make up this book, you could probably fill only three with actual dialogue; two if you don't count the feverish whining of a dog having a dream about forcing himself on another dog. That is an actual sentence that I typed because of the Vorrh. This book is that bad.
There are characters in the story, of a sort, but again, they don't actually do anything. Some of them have done things, certainly, and in those cases we are treated to long backstories in stream of conscious monologues. These backstories occasionally intersect with other characters like billiard balls. This is as close as the Vorrh gets to a plot.
I should note that there are women in this story, if your definition of a woman is a thing that men want to sleep with. Oh, and they can also die horrifically to give men motivation. So there's that.
My favorite scene is when a Lawman viciously mutilates a child, just because he is standing in his way.
Actually that was terrible and awful, and I wish I'd never read it, just like the rest of this book.
There aren't really any characters in this book. There are descriptions of characters certainly, but that is as good as it gets.
I feel I should note that Alan Corunder is fantastic throughout, and performs a skillful and entertaining narration despite the overwrought prose he has to slog through.