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The Vorrh

Lu par : Allan Corduner
Série : The Vorrh Trilogy, Volume 1
Durée : 17 h et 19 min

Prix : 32,76 €

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Description

Prepare to lose yourself in the heady, mythical expanse of The Vorrh, a daring debut that Alan Moore has called "a phosphorescent masterpiece" and "the current century's first landmark work of fantasy".

Next to the colonial town of Essenwald sits the Vorrh, a vast - perhaps endless - forest. It is a place of demons and angels, of warriors and priests. Sentient and magical, the Vorrh bends time and wipes memory. Legend has it that the Garden of Eden still exists at its heart. Now, a renegade English soldier aims to be the first human to traverse its expanse. Armed with only a strange bow, he begins his journey, but some fear the consequences of his mission, and a native marksman has been chosen to stop him. Around them swirl a remarkable cast of characters, including a Cyclops raised by robots and a young girl with tragic curiosity as well as historical figures, such as writer Raymond Roussel and photographer and Edward Muybridge. While fact and fictional blend, the hunter will become the hunted and everyone's fate hangs in the balance under the will of the Vorrh.

©2015 Brian Catling (P)2015 Random House Audio

Critiques

"Catling's novel reads like a long-lost classic of Decadent or Symbolist literature, with that same sense of timelessness. It's peculiar, wildly imaginative, unafraid to transgress and get lost, and is unlike anything I've ever read." (Jeff VanderMeer, author of The Southern Reach Trilogy)
"A phosphorescent masterpiece.... Easily the current century's first landmark work of fantasy.... A brilliant and sustained piece of invention which establishes a benchmark not just for imaginative writing but for the human imagination in itself.... Read this book, and marvel." (Alan Moore, author of Watchmen and V for Vendetta)
"Brian Catling is simply a genius. His writing is so extraordinary it hurts, it makes me realize how little imagination I have." (Terry Gilliam)

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  • Global
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Christopher Torgersen
  • 05/09/2015

Mixed feelings

I have rarely found it so hard to explain how I feel about a book as I do about The Vorrh.

On one hand, the use of language and imagery is absolutely beautiful, and the world described is unique and full of original ideas. The book itself is singular - I can't think of another book that is anything like it. The closest I can come, in terms of imaginative originality, is China Mieville's Perdido Street Station, which is one of my favorites.

On the other hand, it is no Perdido Street Station. The Vorrh skips between numerous story threads that gradually converge somewhat to paint a larger picture. The thing is, the picture it paints, while original, isn't all that interesting. Some of the characters are interesting, particularly the cyclops, but overall there is a feeling of style over substance that pervades the story. Other reviews have complained about the book's bleak hopelessness, and it is bleak indeed, but I like bleakness, for the most part, and hopelessness works if it serves a story. Here, though, I didn't find a character I could really care about.

A character doesn't need to be very likable - some of the best are detestable - but I need to care about what happens to them. I didn't feel much connection with any of the characters here, though, other than a bit for the cyclops, but he was only a small part of the story. There is a coldness to all the characters, and they are partly obscured by the flowery language around them.

At the same time, I could appreciate the book almost as a different kind of art form. It was more like looking at a beautiful painting than reading a book. The imagery is so evocative that at times it didn't even matter that the story was meandering on its way to nowhere.

I'd recommend the book to anyone who is comfortable with dark themes and can handle unlikable (though interesting, even if cold and distant) characters in service of an evocative image painted with words. But for most readers, particularly those looking for heroic adventures or big, sweeping ideas, the book will be incredibly frustrating.

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  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • JackFaust77
  • 11/01/2017

Pantheon Level Classic

What made the experience of listening to The Vorrh the most enjoyable?

The narrator's voice and delivery is superb, rich, and a perfect compliment to Catling's gorgeous, evocative prose.

What other book might you compare The Vorrh to and why?

I think that this is a genuine classic work, one that can be easily be held alongside Tolkien, Le Guin and Wolfe. It's visionary and feels oddly timeless, as if it's always existed, like myth of fairy tale archetypes.

Have you listened to any of Allan Corduner’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, but I'll seek him out. What a vioce!

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Ugh! an awful question! This is in its perfect form as a novel and/or audiobook.

Any additional comments?

I wrote an employee pick review of this at a bookstore where I used to work: it sold 180 copies in one year. Yes, it's that brilliant (the book). And three customers I directly recommended it to thanked me the next time they saw me. It's not for everyone, mind you, but those who click with it will remember it forever, and pass the word along again and again. It's the most amazing fantasy I have read bar none.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Joe Kraus
  • 30/08/2019

A Glimpse of All that Fantasy Might Make Possible

Fifteen pages into this one, I was ready to declare it a masterpiece. The opening scene describes a man constructing a bow from the bones and sinews of the woman he has loved, a woman who, supposed to have various dryad like powers, has just died. It’s haunting and memorable, a cross between a love story and a fever-dream fantasy. And then it goes even further when the man ventures into a mysterious forest – “the Vorrh” of the title – finding his way by shooting arrows from his bow/lover and then following the path they trace for him.

A hundred pages into this, I had almost resolved to give it up altogether. I wanted more of our original protagonist, but the book had spun into at least half a dozen seemingly unrelated tangents. There’s a story about a cyclops being raised in the basement of a well-preserved old mansion (where disembodied creatures keep a vague but terrifying order) by creatures made of bakelite plastic. There’s a native hunter, resentful of the British who have trained and armed him, who determines to kill our bow-explorer. There’s a “Frenchman” who, as various footnotes and commentaries explain, is Raymond Rousell, the French surrealist poet, who determines to venture into the Vorrh in dilettante fashion. There’s the pioneering photographer Edward Muybridge who’s venturing around the world taking pictures and dipping a toe into the Victorian occult. There’s a vicious Scottsman, MacLeish, who oversees work crews of slaves who are the only ones able to harvest the timber of the Vorrh – and then only because they are near-zombies.

And those separate plots – I may have missed a couple – all have further branches that divide into ever smaller tributaries of narrative, only some of which later come together. It’s so busy, so crowded with strange characters and radically shifting metaphysics, that it seemed – after those first 100 pages – an impenetrable mess.

But I did keep reading. For a time it was out of perversity, with a sense that I wanted to be able to counter some of the great hype I’d heard about the book. Then I felt a growing curiosity as I saw some of the different elements beginning to cohere. And at last I discovered an unexpected and deep joy: this was a book that seemed never to exhaust its inventiveness. It implies familiar fantastic tropes, mythological possibilities, and historical touchstones, all of which come together in a balance I could never have predicted but that I can still somehow appreciate.

Nothing here turns out as you would expect. [MAJOR SPOILERS:] Williams, our bowman, loses everything – his bow, his memory, and finally his life. Ishmael, our cyclops, gets a second eye and becomes a dull figure inclined to settle down with the woman whose sight he has restored while remaining friends with the woman who “raised” him and now bears his child. The economy of the great city by the Vorrh begins to falter as the slave work crews have fled and no one can bring in the wood. What begins as a quest concludes as a murder but, maybe, we see our hunter Tsungali assume the mantle and proceed in what will be the second part of the trilogy.

[END SPOILER:] The surprising and, to some readers I imagine, disappointing outcomes are only part of what makes this a concussive, memorable work. This is – as Alan Moore says in his spectacular afterword – an effort to wrest the fantasy novel from the narrow tropes and signifiers of the post-Tolkien experience. This is fantasy written by someone who may never have read a word of George R.R. Martin, and that’s all to the good even as Martin does many things very well.

Moore’s point, one I’ve tried to make without Moore’s articulateness, is that the imagination ought to be freer to follow its own course. All of this book is vaguely familiar, yet none of it proceeds as we expect it might. This is a glimpse of how we might free fantasy from the tyranny of the Tor paperback, those punishingly long “high fantasies” of kingdoms governed by rules from what Blake would have called “Newton’s night” rather than from a truly unfettered imagination.

I see some reviewers comparing this to the Gormenghast trilogy, and I do buy it. Gormenghast is haunted by what-might-have-beens, though – a fine ambition, but one that makes it feel as if we are coming too late to the real magic of its vision – while this feels more like ever-unfolding possibility.

By way of comparison, I’d add Drew Magary’s The Hike and Josiah Bancroft’s Sendlin Ascends, recent books that explore a similar refusal to play by “the conventions” of the quest narrative and, instead, plunge into the surreal and imaginative. Solid as each of those is, though, neither is at this level.

Instead, the only comparison that really holds for me is Alan Moore’s own Jerusalem, a vast and ambitious novel that begins not with the surreal but with the lower-case-D divine of Blake himself.

I’d rank Jerusalem even above this – it’s more coherent while achieving a similar sense of deep wonder – but I have two more books of Catling’s trilogy to go so maybe it will get there by the end.

You’ll know if this sounds too busy and too strange for you, and, if it is, stay away. If you’re intrigued, though, if you think there’s a chance that the deep weird might attract you, then give this a shot. With Moore’s Jerusalem and a handful of other books, it’s at the heart of a set of novels showing the potential for the true fantastic to produce a literature as vast and colorful as dream.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Christian J Olson
  • 27/08/2015

Slow and unsatisfying

Slow and meandering, unanswered storylines that left me unfulfilled. At times seemed pompous. If you were looking for entertainment in something you read look elsewhere.

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  • Red Eagle's Legacy
  • 12/05/2015

A Dark Story Devoid of Hope

There is a dark place in the world.

Essentially this place has been captured by Brian Catling in his novel The Vorrh, an alternative history of a soul sucking forest in the midst of Africa in the early 20th century. I finished this somewhat plotless book that reads more as a descent into madness than a traditional novel while questioning myself the whole time, “Why are you going on?” In the end, I probably shouldn’t have, and you probably shouldn’t either.

There seems to be a lot to explain as to why I would not recommend you reading a book that for most purposes was well written and, at least if you believe the reviews, well received. I’ll try my hand a some key points.

Have you ever had a friend that thinks that he is so clever when he turns a phrase? Maybe like a non-sequitur or a simple play on words that gives his sentence an unintended, but to him, serendipitous meaning. Now imagine having to read a book full of these crafted sentences. Sure maybe one in five come off with some power, but honestly, it becomes a slog rather than the occasional moments of delight like they can be. The author is trying too hard to get a little nod of the hat with each phrase. Some may see this as lyrical, but hundreds of pages worth makes you long for the spartan description of Hemingway.

Now let’s talk about description or world-building or character development or anything else besides, say, a plot. This is what Mr. Catling offers to you in this tome – which is supposedly the first of a trilogy. I couldn’t tell you what the next volume could be about because I’m not sure I could tell you what the story of this one is. There are a bunch of fleshed-out characters and the world of The Vorrh is elaborately assembled with such dark intention that makes the reader ready to escape. A story, such as it is, more or less develops just because the characters kind of bump into each other – not because there is any direction to the tale. Several long “side” stories have virtually no relation to the main characters or the Vorrh at all. It’s almost as if separate stories were just cobbled into this novel because they exhibited the same mood as the others and it would thicken the book. I love world-building and character development, but there seems to be a sad tendency – especially in the fantasy genre – to substitute worlds with stories. I’m sorry, but give me an O. Henry short story every day that has a plot than 500 pages of an immaculate world with no point. It is like many modern authors are trying to be Tolkein but missing the point.

Finally I need to mention the evil. The Vorrh is a dark place. It turns everyone that goes into it a hollow shell of a person. Make no mistake: this is the intention of this book to those who read it. Every single character is a dark, twisted caricature of a person. There are no heroes, no good guys, no noble purposes. The one character who should be a bright spot is a woman who receives back her sight after being born blind. In such a gloomy, oppressive world, surely this one would find joy in her sight. Almost purposefully as soon as the reader thinks this, the author spends the time to show the ugliness of the sight of flowers in this character’s mind. The gift of sight is actually a curse – for really to all the people that inhabit this world, life is a curse. I rarely psychoanalyze authors, but Mr. Catling has presented a worldview that sees corruption and evil in all things. I don’t know if I know anyone who I think would like this book, and if I did, I would be scared to give it to them because it might sink them beyond hope.

I usually don’t bring up the Bible in non-Christian works, but the author has taken perverse pleasure at bringing up many illustrations of it and making them horrible. In Phillipians, Paul says “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” I cannot think of a better antithesis to that statement than this book. It is a mire of thought. Avoid it.

Side note for Audible listeners: The narration by Mr. Corunder was solid. In fact, his quality of storytelling probably had a lot more to do with finishing the book than the story itself.


2 stars out of 10

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • David_in_Tennessee
  • 07/11/2015

Surreal fantasy

Beautifully written and well performed this strange and surreal fantasy leaves you deciphering what you just read and experienced as it feels antique and yet post modern, a deconstructed abstract like a Picasso that fuses colonial hegemony, Victorian morality, mythology and religion, gothic horror and the explorer adventure story into a bizarre concoction. It will not appeal to all, but those that embrace it will be haunted and left grasping for the deeper embedded meaning.

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  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • lisa kadison
  • 02/07/2019

Disorienting plot, amazing writing and narration

This is one of the strangest series I've encountered and it's difficult to describe. I'm not usually a fan of the surreal-fantasy genre, and almost stopped listening several times in the first book. But every character is so interesting and well written! It's one of those stories where you find yourself missing characters in-between their chapters.

The narration is absolutely perfect for the story. Corduner's voice is expertly varied for each character and somehow always soothing to listen to.

I'm nearly finished with book 2 now and will instantly dive in for book 3. I highly recommend giving the series a listen despite (or, because of) how weird it is!

  • Global
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Mark
  • 04/01/2019

Brilliantly-Written Story I Don't Like

You may love this. Author Alan Moore gives an extroduction (at the end of the book) and delineates the brilliant, marvelous talents of Brian Catling, and I can't disagree with anything Moore said. Catling's prose occasionally took my breath away, and in several places in "The Vorrh", my jaw dropped at the sudden plot twists or turns.

So why didn't I like this? The various threads of "The Vorrh" are deeply ensconced in the 19th or early 20th century colonial mind-sets, and while it's obvious that Catling doesn't expect us to treat his major protagonists as role models, too many of the things they did I found despicable, and many of those acts were never addressed again, much less brought to any semblance of justice. And for the flow of his narrative, we might understand why they wouldn't be.

It all still left a bad taste in my mouth.

That said, I'm not taking "The Erstwhile" off of my wish list just yet. The depth of Catling's writing may well echo in my dreams to the point that I _will_ want to know what happens next.

  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Emily Pelous
  • 24/10/2018

Required Reading for school became one of my favorites.

This started out as a required reading for my college class, British Literature Post 1800 and quickly became one of my new favorites. The voices for all the characters line up beautifully with the story and makes it really hard to step away from. Allan Corduner is one of my favorite narrators and I look forward to the rest of the series being read by him.

  • Global
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Max
  • 10/08/2018

Poetic, unique, disjointed, boring.

Poetic, unique, disjointed, boring. Titles say it all. This is a love it or hate it audiobook... there is no middle ground.