Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

The Vorrh The Vorrh
by Brian Catling
Hodder And Stoughton

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten

In the introductory notes to this novel the author is described as a poet, sculptor, painter, and performance artist. I gather from that description that The Vorrh is his first published novel.

The book commences with three quotes one of which is from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad; regrettably there was not a companion quote from Titus Groan/Gormengast by Mervyn Peake as that would have properly set the tone for the ensuing opus. I hesitate to use the term novel as the separate story strands of the work did not entirely cohere: indeed one strand set totally apart from the rest of the work for the whole book – but I digress.

The titular vorrh is a primeval forest, possibly the primeval forest abutting the transplanted (brick by brick, beam by beam) European city of Essenwald. Those who enter the vorrh risk losing their memory, perhaps their soul and definitely run the risk of being eaten by one-eyed anthropophages: apelike creatures whose heads are within their chests. But former Sergeant Williams, a British colonial policeman, and now oneofthewilliams is making the crossing; an endlessly travelling French dissipate has been invited to sample a day in the heart of the vorrh by a citizen of Essenwald; and Ishmael, a putative Cyclops also resident in Essenwald, are travelling into the vorrh.

Somewhere this set of tales, and the rogue one I shan’t mention again, was meant to tell a story. I think the vorrh consumed that story and left this listless hulk in its place.

On the upside this was a very well written work, with wondrous imagery and a brilliant use of ideas. Unfortunately, the parts stayed parts and never came together as a functioning whole. A shame and great opportunity missed.

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