Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Religion

I just finished Tim Willocks most recent novel, The Religion. I'd never read him before, and sort of blundered on this one at the right time. It's a hefty tome set during the siege of Malta in 1565. It's not exactly a straight historical novel. It's more of an historical adventure, part detailed research, part bodice riper, part heroic war novel. I enjoyed it, but in recommending it I do want to give a few caveats...

You ever notice reviews (Amazon, blogs) wherein the reviewer trashes a novel mostly because something rubbed them the wrong way and that aspect of it trumps all else? Well, this is one that I could see having the effect on people. So, be warned that...

1. It starts off with a very unpleasant and sexually violent scene.

2. This is a highly sexed novel. The main character, Tannhauser, is frequently, um... engorged. As it happens, there's not one, but two attractive female characters that both rather fancy him.

3. The battle detail is graphic.

4. There are A LOT of unpleasant body fluids in this.

5. It's the first in the "Tannhauser" Trilogy, so it kinda stands to reason that the main character is gonna pull through the novel's dangers just fine. No surprises on that front.

6. There are also aspects of the resolution of this novel that might not stand up too well to a feminist critique.

And yet I'm mentioning it here, and I only do that when I like a book... Yeah, well, go figure. For me this just works as a big historical melodrama, filled with old grudges, coincidences, love affairs, impossible missions and a cast of varied characters. It's a bit Bernard Cornwell, a bit Victor Hugo... It's an entertainment, but it's not without lots of intelligent historical detail.

Anyway, I won't summarize the plot, etc. Instead I'll point you to a few other folks that review the book in more detail...

Here's what the NY Times thought.

Here's's take on it.

From the Blog-o-sphere, check out Tomes and Flicks review. (The author responded to it!)

And here's an interview with the author at Bookslut.

You could buy it here. Mass market, you know, just $7.99...

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Blogger Corby Kennard said...

I'm not sure I would be the right target for this one. I just like to say things like "I've actually been to Malta. It was beautiful - we walked across the whole thing. It's only 4 miles across. They filmed Popeye there, and the set was still standing when I was there."

Now that I've made it all about me ... I'm almost halfway through Acacia. It's picking up a bit for me. Your prose is very literary (which only makes sense considering your publishing pedigree) which makes it a little rough for me personally, but I made it through The Terror, I can make it through Acacia - that was supposed to be a compliment, please take it that way. :)

4:18 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Paranoyd, yep, I'm not recommending this book for everyone. Just if it sounds like it would strike your fancy.

As for Acacia... yeah, that old literary influence. Maybe I'll kick it completely one day, but for the time being it's part of who I am and how I write. Another part of how I write is that the build-up tends to be slower, but the plot gets more involved and moves more quickly as it rolls toward the end.

7:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, don't kick the literary style, not even a little bit. The world needs more literary fantasists (and most particularly more literary epic fantasists). Where else would I go for entertainment if the few of you up to the task all stopped? I'd be the only one left trying to write the stuff, just listening to my own voice ECHO ECHo ECho Echo echo cho ho o o o o...

Too sad to contemplate.

My best, as always,
Bryan Russell

11:19 AM  
Blogger Corby Kennard said...

I have to agree with Bryan - please don't kick the literary influence. It is what makes your book stand apart. Just because I'm a bit of a literary neanderthal doesn't mean you should be reduced to writing at my level.

Besides, the story is compelling, and while the build up is slower, I'm more than halfway through and it is really picking up, as you said.

It is a good book that makes a reader move out of their comfort zone, whether that zone is genre related or stylistic issues.

3:18 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Paranoyd wrote...

"It is a good book that makes a reader move out of their comfort zone, whether that zone is genre related or stylistic issues."

Thanks for that. That is exactly the balance I'm out to achieve. It doesn't work for everybody, but so far things seem to be going well.

Honestly, I can only change the way I write as part of a slow evolution. Part of that includes a desire to connect with more and more readers, and that means making some changes. But... Well, it also means persevering in the belief that more and more readers will come to recognize my work. So, it's a little bit of give and take on both sides...

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey David,

I thought I should add that if you'd offered up a more typical style of prose (I was going to say cookie cutter, but that seems too mean) you probably wouldn't be up for things like the Campbell award. I think (or at least hope) that it shows there is a hunger out there for stories and writing in this field with real depth and vividness. As both a writer and bookseller I'd like to believe that.

My best, as always,
Bryan Russell

1:43 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

I think there is a hunger for it, too. But I also think it takes longer to connect with the readers at that level. That's fine, though. Makes me feel that the best is yet to come.

9:37 AM  

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