Pariah & the Joy of Reading
I put all of my work to a stop this week because one very special present to myself came in the mail yesterday: Pariah by Dan Abnett. Roughly twenty four hours later, the book is read and life may resume.
As much as I would like to devote this space to a review of the book, it’s still very fresh and I don’t think I can manage that task without truly giving away everything about it. Instead, this book made me think about the joy of the written word and craft in which it delivers its unadulterated pleasure. This book in particular did that, but that’s only because it was written by a gawd-damned master of fictional art.
Its so simple, really, and inconceivably amazing and abstract at the same time. Words to the brain. Inserted there by ink on paper/data bits displayed on a screen/raised bumps/spoken into your ear. I’m awestruck at times at the ability of a strong storyteller’s art.
Who in the world gets through their day without talking? Every single person has the capacity to create a story, but the craft, precision, and determination to fashion words into a book or novel is as unique as the ability to craft a skyscraper, sew a dress for a fashion show, or talk a man off the ledge of a building. Whom do you know that has or can do any of those things?
Let me tell you a little story of how I fell in love with the work of Dan Abnett. He had written a few short stories that I purchased in a now-defunct little magazine called Inferno!, published by Games Workshop’s literary wing, The Black Library. They were fantastic, they formed the base of his (arguably) most successful book franchise, Gaunt’s Ghosts. I loved them, I still have those lil’ undersized magazines tucked away in my geek-cabinet.
Some time in the spring of 2001 I was on a date with my high school girlfriend and we were killing some time at a Barnes & Noble before a movie or something like that. I happened upon the Sci-Fi section of the store and found the latest Black Libary publication, Xenos, the first of Abnett’s Eisenhorn books. The manner in which this book is written puts the reader in Gregor Eisenhorn’s head. Its all in the first person and is a sweeping adventure that goes from world to world, planet to planet, all at a break-neck pace and with total immersion into its universe.
What’s even better, these books were the first look at the back of the Warhammer 40,000 world – what happens in the world of a game that is all about two armies meeting. There was nothing before like it – these stories were as far from the battlefield of the game than anyone had dared stray before. Once you wandered away from the guns, the armor, the space marines, orks, genestealers, tanks and titans, you found a flavorful & deep world of human conflict, drama, and suspense. This is now known in the Black Library lingo as the Daniverse, the world away from the tabletop, the world which he trail-blazed.
An hour later, I was fixed into the upholstered chair of this B&N, tucked in a corner, and 87 pages into the literary ride of my life. My date was ruined because I disappeared and I couldn’t wait to ditch her to get back home and continue with the story. I became a Dan Abnett addict that day.
There were three Inquisitor Eisenhorn novels, then three Inquisitor Ravenor novels, and now there is Pariah, which is promised to become the first in a new trilogy that ends the trilogies.
I have to admit, 200 pages into this book, I was concerned that this wasn’t the book I wanted or expecting. I wasn’t sure of who’s side the protagonist was on, who was pursuing her, where my beloved characters from six previous novels were and besides one singular connection that this protagonist had the same name as another character from those previous novels, I was completely convinced this was not that person and this book was trying to swindle me of that emotional attachment.
“My, the power of words.”
The last third of this book, Pariah, concussed me with revelations and answers to these doubts in a way that no book had ever made up for so-called lost ground. Twenty pages from the end I looked at my SO and said, “Oh man, I think I just hit a major foreshadow. How can there be foreshadowing when there’s this much left in the book?” while holding up the remaining unread portion. Three pages from that, a meteor dropped out of the book, scalded through my brain, and craterized my afternoon.
There was another meteor – nay, this was a well-predicted yet warmly welcome flaming debris in comparison- at the very end, but I was already rocked.
Its all in the words. If you look at my previous post about the Walking Dead, I’m at sorts with the series because of the promise it had and the direction I feel it is headed. I know nothing (and feel very bad about this) about the comic the show is based on, but I feel that novels, books, and even comics hit us much more wholly and comprehensively than movies and television shows ever will because the message, the words, are so much more focused through the one individual’s message to you.
Living in LA, I’ve been able to gain a new perspective on how many, MANY, different minds affect a television show’s character structure and overall direction. There’s a Director, his A(ssistant)D(irector), the 2nd AD, the P(roduction)A’s, the 2nd PA’s, the 2nd 2nd(haven’t figured out that one, yet), the lighting and camera coordinators, the sound, the prop master, the set coordinator, the writers and woe-be-gone-if-they’re-here Producers. All of those people are manipulating set, sound, and actors into portrayal of events that become your television shows and movies.
Reading this book, there was only the author assisted by his editors and me, the reader. The words mean different things to different readers. The messages, the theme, the whole ambiance and direction; they can work for some where they don’t work for others. And its all so personal because the words go straight into your brain which is your space and no one else’s. There is pure joy for me in that thought.
If you are a fan of Mr. Abnett’s, go out and read this book. Dan has grown wild of late, he’s had some space to stretch in worlds of his own with books being published by Angry Robot (I LOVED Triumff with the same passion as a Monty Python skit – Embedded was a darker, more Asimov-ian tale) and you can see that in this novel. I kept a notepad next to me while reading this for words I had never seen before, but could glean the meaning of which by context. That note was in danger of getting very full and I’d like to boast that I have a very strong vocabulary. The man is a master of his own universe and that place is a joy to explore. He definitely took his time with this one in letting the desperate fans get the Inquisitor fix they were seeking, me included, but the view was wonderful on the way there.
It is an immense joy to read your favorite author and I’m constantly impressed by the manner in which authors are able to craft the stories they are weaving. I’m continuing to hone that skill, if I might, and learn a thing or two by the masters.
Read a book. They’ll always do better than the movie.