Friday, 3 October 2014

What I've been Reading: The Thirteen and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear

If I were giving prizes, this one would cheerfully sweep the board on the weirdest damn novel I've read this year. But I'm there, I've done it and, in the last couple of 'lives' it actually started to develop something resembling a plot.

It was strange.

Very strange.

And, actually, quite a lot of fun. It takes the shape of a series of very tall tales, each piling absurdity on to fabrication until some part of your mind just goes, "You know what? I can live with this." And after that, it's a pretty smooth ride, even when the narrative comes blundering through the fourth wall with all the subtlety of a tractor on amphetamines (I don't deal in spoilers - I will simply say, "Congladitorial Duel".)

It has swash and buckle in reasonable quantities, bizarre coincidences in spadefuls and so much deux ex Machina that Moers names a character after it. Plus, it tells you what really happened to Atlantis.

I'll be honest. This is not a book to be undertaken lightly - it will eat a good month out of your reading schedule. And, in the main, it isn't really a novel in the conventional, modern sense of the word. It's an exercise in creativity, in verbal dexterity, in performative storytelling.

I've encountered a lot of discussion as to whether it's a children's book or not, but that isn't really relevant. It's a book for a certain type of person. Personally, as a child, I would have found the book high-handed and frustrating - but that does not mean it isn't suitable to children. As a teenager, I would been put off by the illustrations, the fact the protagonist is a bear of middling size (I was pretentious as hell)... But other teenagers may well enjoy the satire of it. As an adult, I thought it was a brilliant laugh.
Yes, I have issues with it (the characters are all rather shallow, there are so few women in it...) but I'm finally the kind of person who will pull up a stall and let Captain Bluebear tell me all about the cinnamon and wood-smoke smell of adventure.

No comments:

Post a Comment