'How could the Outsider have chosen such a bungler? ...When had he ever offered a single sacrifice, however small, to the Outsider? Never! Not one in his entire life. Yet the Outsider had extended infinite credit to him... Certainly he would never be able to repay the Outsider for the knowledge and the honor, no matter how hard or how long he tried.' (Gene Wolfe, Nightside The Long Sun)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Paranormal Arthurian

'I'm chasing a phantom, he thought, an illusion.  I may need that four-wheel drive.'

-Castleview


I'm only three crisp chapters in to Gene Wolfe's 1990 standalone novel, Castleview, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly.  It very quickly and effortlessly builds up a pleasurably eerie ghost-story sort of feel with equally convincing and engaging contemporary 'family drama' realism.  Surely there haven't been too many novels in the 'paranormal Arthurian' category.  That alone is a treat.  But additionally the pacing and atmosphere are just totally engrossing for me so far.  And there are these delightful little moments of quietly odd humour like the line I quote above.  And really, it's already moving beyond the enjoyably spooky toward hints of the more truly numinous and otherworldly.

Considering all this, I have to admit I'm thinking there's no way this accessibility can keep up!  I'm guessing it's going to get complex and enigmatic in typically Wolfean fashion at some point soon here.  Otherwise this would surely be a better known novel.  Once it goes really lupine and I feel a bit lost, I'm sure I'll still find it rewarding, but in the usual you-have-to-work-for-it way Wolfe's fiction generally requires.  Regardless, I'm really delighted with this opening brush with this work.  Truly good fun.  I leave you with a sample from chapter 3:

'She drove past the motel without stopping, forcing herself, actually, to slow down to take the mileage at the sign.  Five miles, Emily had said, by road.  What was it called?  Meadow Gold?  That sounded like butter.

'An antlered buck stepped daintily onto the road and halted, spellbound by her headlights.  Icy-footed mice scampered up and down her spine as she stopped.  Not only because she might have hit the buck (though that would have been horrible) but because for a fleeting instant the graceful buck had seemed an object of supernatural dread.

'Like the horse and its rider.

'She blew the horn and the buck bounded away--no more than a common deer, a deer to be shot in all probability on the first or second day of hunting season.  Or had hunting season already begun?  Perhaps it was over already.  Who would want to hunt in this rain?

'She had started forward again when she saw a dark something in the rearview mirror.  It swelled and roared around her, tires screaming and throwing up combs of rainwater, a rusted-out sedan without lights.  Already it was gone, leaving Old Penton Road as dark and silent as before.'