“A MAD BASTARD OF A BOOK” – TOR
Never has a more perfect description been written.
This is a mad bastard of a book, the likes of which I have never encountered before, or really expect to again.
Theatre of The Gods has soared straight to my list of favourite novels, and now has pride of place on my already overflowing bookcase. There are a few main points I want to get across:
- It’s brilliantly funny. In a dark, slightly sadistic type of way. The main character, M. Francisco Fabrigas, reminded me a lot of Terry Pratchett’s Rincewind the wizard. Seemingly hopeless but actually superbly quick-thinking (or simply very lucky), they both exude a certain charm that comes with being cynical to the point of paranoid.
- It is a fantastic adventure story. Not only does it involve travelling through multi-universes, but it’s fast pace and nautical theme (space ships are quite literally ships) add to its nostalgic sense of swashbuckling adventure.
- It is set in an intriguing new sci-fi world. Matt Suddain’s imagination ran wild when he conjured up the dynamics of his universe. It is a world in which man-made spheres float alongside planets. Whole spheres are often dedicated to cities, or in some cases one district is spread out a number of different spheres. On one occasion the palace of the Queen is described as being spread out over a number of different spheres, with smaller ones purely dedicated to the palace gardens. The actual Physics of how the spheres stay in place is never explained, but I will forgive Suddain this because, after all, he did manage to create a world which makes little sense to me but that I feel could be completely and totally real. Suddain has said that a sequel is not yet on the cards, but I certainly hope we get another novel from him set in this wonderfully interesting world.
- It’s steam-punk at its finest. While other novels of the same ilk are often much grittier and more morbid than Theatre of the Gods, this is a lighter take on the steam-punk genre and could be a good starting point for someone who would like to give it a go.
- The characters are just. so. lovable. In spite of all their flaws (and there are many). There’s the perfect mix, although the only downside to them is that they often seem unpredictable- their personalities don’t seem coherent throughout the story. You have Fabrigas, who is Rincewind incarnate (although actually intelligent instead of simply lucky). Lenore, the green girl from another world or another time (we’re never quite sure), who can’t grasp human grammar and depends entirely on her nose and a deaf boy named Roberto. Lenore is often depicted as fragile, innocent and to a point, naive. However towards the end of the book you see her slightly darker side, which is both empowering but confusing to boot. Then there is the Necronaut, a swaggering teenage drunk and captain of the unlikely crew. The Necronaut is one of my favourite characters in the book, probably emphasised by the fact that Lenore favours him above the others as well. My only quibble is that, sadly, annoyingly, his accent sometimes disappears, and at other times is exaggerated to the point of it being a caricature.- These are merely the main contenders in the book, but I want to explain that even the smaller characters have great heart.
It’s author is Matt Suddain, but from the very first page of the book (and I do mean the very first page ), it is decsribed as being written by the mysterious author Volcannon. Volcannon, it explains in the publisher and author notes, spent years tracking down the famous explorer M. Francisco Fabrigas. Finally finding the old man on an orphaned moon, Volcannon then slowly extracts the story of his incredible life, which he then turns into this memoir.Throughout the book “Volcannon” himself interjects his own opinions and talks to the reader directly, often apologising for having to go off on a tangent in the middle of a dramatic episode.
In relation to dramatic moments, one of my favourite things about this extraordinary novel is this; Whenever the pace speeds up and the tension builds, or when we are left on a large cliff-hanger at the end of a chapter, the author directs you to page 620, the “little page of calmness”.
The little page of calmness is filled with calming things. It encourages you to take deep breaths and picture kittens: “Unless you are afraid of kittens. You should not be afraid of kittens. Of all the creatures in the universe to be afraid of, the kitten should not be the main one. They cannot even hold a gun! Imagine. A kitten trying to hold a gun in its tiny paws. Is that not adorable?”
These quirky interjections by the author make the story come to life, giving it a magical reality that may not have been achieved without his involvement. The author “Volcannon” also stops on occasion to explain how difficult certain pieces of information were to get out of Fabrigas, or the look of fear or nostalgia that crossed the old man’s face as he retold certain aspects of his life. I know that a lot of people do not like this type of interjection, but I for one adore it as long as it is done either smoothly or in good comic timing. I never needed to use the little page of calmness, but I must say that it was reassuring to know that it was there.
Things happen in this book. Dramatic things. Sad things. Brilliant things. I obviously can’t divulge too much, but know this- it may be filled with wit similar to the likes of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, and it may have mindbogglingly bizarre quirks like the little page of calmness or Volcannon’s interjections, but it is also filled with heart. Worry will fill your heart at times, and there are moments when the characters are so touching that you may, like me, sob unashamedly because it’s just so damn heart-warming.
Matt Suddain, I have a message for you-
The world needs to know what happens. It just does. I’m sorry, I know you have said that there isn’t a sequel coming any time soon, but I just can’t accept that. I loved this book so much that I cracked the spine really early on. It’s so used, so warn, because no matter where I was I had to read it.
The ending to Theatre of the Gods was, fair play, superb as far as endings go. But it has to carry on. I have to know. We all need to know.
Ok? ok. Deal.