"It is a curious quirk of the Irish that they are the one race of people on this earth who are completely immune to psychoanalysis."
It's a cold, bitter day outside, I'm too sore to try and exercise, I have a rather acute, onset case of the blues (or "Seasonal Affective Disorder" if you're into the more contemporary patois.)
LETS DO THIS!
In addition to me SERIOUSLY needing to update from my last and utterly abysmal journal entry, it's high time I make good on a promise I made last April.
One of the things I truly love about Deviant Art and why I can unashamedly say it's become a huge part of my life in the last four years, is the ability to connect with not only talented people, but with really sharp, clever, cool, intelligent people.
I've long stated that the internet is a double-edged sword, making it all the easier on the one hand to connect with awesome people an ocean away with a few keystrokes, but concurrently, it's all the easier for any itinerate scoundrel with a wi-fi card to bestow upon themselves the honorific of those unscrupulous, subterranean, Scandinavian monsters of old.
I only wish we could turn internet trolls to stone by exposing them to sunlight too.
Well, in any case, I've said time and again that one of my very favorite things visa vi the internet is Deviant Art, notably for having a correspondingly higher percentage of people worth talking to than most of the internet.
And probably one of my very best and longest standing friends on this illustrious digital destination is the prodigiously talented.
I'll always remember how I came to DA as an outsider wanting to get in. How I started off as a lurker, only admiring other people's pieces and never contributing anything myself.
In those first, formative months I did make a few friends who helped me establish myself into the pissy, ambitious little writer and photographer I am today.
Of those few contacts I've made in those formative months, only one friendship has really stood the test of time. That of BarbecuedIguana
So it was that my fellow writer friend and I pursued our own individual projects and shared ideas with each other.
Well, last april, my good friend's dream was realized, and he released the self-published eddition of his first book;
"The Celtic Shelf." www.amazon.com/gp/product/1451…
And of course, being the nice guy who makes Tom Hanks look like Charles Whitman that he is, he was kind enough NOT ONLY to give me a "Thank you" credit for my online support in the dedication page, but he actually went so fat as to SEND me a free copy for my own thoughts and analysis.
Unfortunately what he hadn't counted on was the fact that I'm an unfailingly slow reader, and on top of that, I have the habit of reading about 5 books at any one time, either in the normal, typed, printed-out version, in my car on audiobook or otherwise. Which was why he released the thing last April and I'm only just getting around to writing it NOW!
Well, in any case, this afternoon i read the last of the 609 pages of my good friend's literary achievement... And I must say... Very nice.
Of course there is going to be the disadvantage in me writing this piece that I promised to in exchange for the free, advance copy.
I am, undoubtedly, biased as all hell toward my friend, and I am by nature more than reluctant to hand out criticism, even when they are deserved or even outright asked for, for the sake of tact and sparing people's feelings.
But it would be the least I can do to be honest in my opinions, as my friend has been unfailingly honest to me in the past when he's encountered bits of my writing that he did not care for.
Having said that though; I can honestly say that the book is good. Very good. Absolutely obtaining and reading for the sheer, epic scale and adventure.
I suppose it would behoove me to give some explanation as to the premise of the piece.
12,000 years ago, during one of our planet's less temperate periods, a good deal of the world's water was locked up in the polar ice caps, and correspondingly, the sea level dropped significantly.
In this world of burgeoning human culture, there was much more land to try and eek out an existence on than there is today, and the book follows the story of Aegia, a young girl raised in a coastal village of cave-dwellers in what is now a land completely covered by the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Ireland. What Scientists call "The Celtic Shelf."
In her life adventures, Aegia is sold into slavery, befriends unlikely accomplices, escapes and sets off on a journey of astonishing breadth as she ventures to reclaim her lost family and to ultimately forge a society of her own, based on equality and justice.
Overall the tone and scale of the book is simply wonderful, and that in addition to the adeptness with which my friend is able to fabricate the lost world of the Celtic Shelf with initiative, deductive reasoning and a marvelous working knowledge of the natural sciences.
It's rare for someone as introverted and scientifically-minded as me to read a work of fiction that I know with all certainty was written by someone smarter than me in the realm of science. Skill with prose and language greater to mine I encounter constantly, but to have that gift in conjunction with such scientific insight is quite remarkable. Quite remarkable indeed.
The characters are really marvelous as well. Not that i would have expected anything less from my good chum, but he holds true to the rule that all characters should have a backstory to give them their respective motivation, but that that backstory doesn't necessarily need to be told in the narrative. It is a problem in writing that if you're not careful, failing to treat your characters as if they're real people will make them feel stiff and lifeless, rather than fresh, spontaneous and believable.
In all honesty though, if I did have to pick something to criticize, it would be the length.
Having had reasonably regular contact with BarbecuedIguana
,I know how much time and effort into crafting the piece, and it shows. The structure of the text is almost completely without flaw, and potholes are nonexistent. If I had to pick one thing to cite as a possible flaw, it would be that the story seems a bit drawn-out.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I'm not a fan of lengthy texts. Because I am. One of my very favorite books ever is "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville, and another lengthy tome I have a soft spot for was written by resident of my hometown; Mansfield Connecticut, Wally Lamb; "The Hour I First Believed."
Is "The Celtic Shelf" better than "The Hour I First Believed?" ... Sorry Wally, But I'm going to have to say yes.
Is it better than "Moby Dick." ... Well, here I have to admit to my own biasses again and say "not quite."
Even though I agree with Stephen King (who is really one to talk on the subject given the length of "Under the Dome" and "The Stand.") who said "All stories are collapsable to a degree."
Which isn't to say that the piece suffers for it. By the time you near the end you feel like you've undergone a long journey through the megafauna-populated landscape of prehistoric Ireland right along with Aeiga and her fellow cavemen... and cavewomen, and are satisfied at having truly accomplished something.
Ahab had his white whale, and Aeiga has her own demons to overcome, and each go about slaying them in their own captivating way.
Another thing I might cite as something worthy of a critique would be the graphic sections of the text.
As you might have surmised from little more than imaginative guesswork, the standards and acceptable practices of our current culture have been a long time in developing, and the further back into history you go, the more permissible truly gruesome things became. To a small degree, this is reflected in the text.
But to be fait, this doesn't truly count against the book, and if anything adds a layer of gritty verisimilitude to the text and makes the actions of the antagonist and his acolytes all the more monstrous.
So, as Penn & Teller once said; "If you've got the cups and balls to stomach blood and guts and gore and more, come along and join us on our magic and mystery tour!"
On the whole, this is an adventurous read that after you've finished makes you feel like you've been pitted against the elements in a horrific struggle for survival, have come out on top, and it feels good, very good.
And one comparison I found myself making toward the end of the book was between Aeiga, our protagonist, and King Arthur... But not King Arthur as you know him. The REAL King Arthur.
When you think of Arthurian lore and conjure up images of knights jousting, buxom women wearing traffic cones on their heads and big, stone castles... You've been lied to. The real King Arthur lived about a thousand years before any of that ever came on the scene in Europe.
We have scant evidence for the period when the historical Arthur lived, which was way back when the kingdom of Saxony was attempting it's (ultimately successful) invasion of England.
What we do know is that in a key, decisive battle in the early days of the invasion, victory on the field was claimed by a king named "Arthur." Beyond that though, we know little about him.
In time, with imported tales from France combining with local legend about the Celtic hero Arthur, what we know as Arthurian lore came into existence. Canonized by T.H. White in his immortal opus; "The Once and Future King."
In time, the legend that built up around Arthur became the widely-accepted truth of the story, of the sordid affair between Guinevere and Lancelot ultimately undoing the shining example of a utopian society that flitted into existence, was a reality for it's shining, fleeting time and then ultimately fell from grace.
A motif that is captured perfectly in "The Celtic Shelf."
All stories in fantasy (and real life I might add, see the Kennedy administration.
) seem to run on a motif that when a wonderful, forward-looking, progressive, equal society comes into being, it can't last. It's the central, recurring tragedy.
You could see Aeiga as an Arthurian figure, who in the end, after spending years on the shit end of the stick (literally) fulfills her dream of creating a world where all are truly equal.
Of course, with Camelot, we all know the fall from grace is inevitable, as with "The Celtic Shelf." We all know that one day the ocean will rise and swallow this perfect society, no matter what state it might have reached. That it ultimately can't last.
But when reading, one mustn't lose sight of the main thrust of the story.
It's not important that the perfect society will fall one day. What matters that, for a time, it DID exist.
It gives us something to strive for in our day-to-day lives, it shows us that if we have a lofty goal we can better ourselves both on the small scale and the large scale.
It's the difference between being thrust into the labyrinth naked, and being given the twine to help you find your way out.
It may seem small, insubstantial, and trivial. But it could be the difference between life and death, or at the very least, give you something to live for.
Well, anyway, thinking about all the times my pal BarbecuedIguana
has said to me (when it was sorely needed), "Hey, SilverVulpine
You're being stupid! Stop that!" And who is alternately able to cheer me up when I'm down and has an unending flair for artistry and the written word, how can I say anything other than;
"BUY THIS BOOK! IT'S AWESOME! SO BUY IT!!! BETTER YET, BUY A COPY FOR EVERY ROOM IN YOUR HOUSE SO YOU'LL NEVER BE FAR FROM IT!!!"
But you know, in a dignified, self-impowered way. www.amazon.com/gp/product/1451…www.amazon.com/Celtic-Shelf-Go…
(or buy it on Kindle!)
Happy Reading, Everyone!
"If you should not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, you should either write things worth reading about, or do things worth writing about."