Posts Tagged ‘James Brogden’

Adventures in Bookland: The Realt by James Brogden

Thursday, June 25th, 2015
The Realt

The Realt

What’s real? At the end of The Realt, when all expectations (at least mine) have been confounded, that I suppose is the question that remains. What is real? I suspect we all dream of other worlds, although where we place them may differ: among the stars above, in the hope of heaven and the fear of hell, in realms of faerie within hollow hills or beyond the turn of tide. Even when our own world was still without known limits, we dreamed of other worlds; how much more, now, when the bounds have been sent the earth bent back upon itself: travel far enough now and all we shall accomplish is to return to where we started from.

In The Realt, there is another world, a world to which we all have access, although some of us see more of it than others: the dreamworld. This is a real, physical world, split from our own in ages past, and much like ours, although rather picturesquely caught in a quasi-Victorian era. It is not, itself, a world of dreams, but dreams, and dreamers, from our world may enter it, and, bringing their dreams, wreak havoc there – CS Lewis was all too right in making the Island Where Dreams Come True the most fearfull of all the isles the Dawn Treader encountered on its long voyage into the uttermost east.

Keeping the worlds apart is a shadowy but ultimately powerful organisation called the Hegemony, which wields exactly what it says on the security pass. But between the worlds, monsters lurk, Lovecraftian (without all the turgid prose) gods of horror and despite, waiting to be woken from their millennial sleep so that they might rise, and feed.

Brogden’s writing ripples with imaginative energy and taut prose, the horrors leavened with staring-into-the-face-of-hell wit, as he propels his cast of characters towards the, for me, completely unexpected denouement of this second volume of the Tourmaline trilogy. I know, I know the middle instalment is supposed to darken and deepen things – I remember my story making lessons from Joseph Campbell via a deep-frozen Han Solo – but I can safely say I didn’t expect it to get that dark and that deep! Now that James Brogden has thrown every expectation I had as a reader up against a brick wall, leaving them broken and shattered, I can only wait with a mixture of excitement and some little trepidation what he has in store for the final volume of the Tourmaline trilogy.

For readers of dark fantasy with a gritty urban feel – you can’t get much grittier than Birmingham after all – this is quite exceptional work. For myself, I’m only glad that I get to read Brogden’s work rather than live in his world. It’s a tough question: I too dream after other worlds but, if I could, would I want his world to be real? It is a world of wonders, after all, much like, say, the Warhammer 40k universe is, but also a world I’d much rather visit in the imagination than reality. But if the choice was a flat, so-this-is-all-there-is universe and Tourmaline, I’d probably plump for Tourmaline (at least at the beginning of the book: having read the sneak preview of volume three that comes at the end of the book, I’ll have to read it first to see whether I’d still want to visit!). But, leaving that aside, if you enjoy books such as Stephen King’s Dark Tower sequence or Neil Gaiman’s urban fantasies, the Tourmaline trilogy should go straight to the top of your reading list. Just remember to thank me when you dream!

(And a final point: this is the second great cover design from Snowbooks – let’s see if they can make it three on the trot with The Amity, the last volume in the trilogy.)

Book review: Tourmaline by James Brogden

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
Tourmaline by James Brogden

Tourmaline by James Brogden

How to review a book about dreams when I don’t dream? For me, sleeping is the great blank, the slip into non-being in between the daylight bouts of consciousness. If death is sleep, my sleep, then it can hold no real terrors for me (although I don’t believe it is like my sleeping). That’s not to say I never dream, just very rarely. Unfortunately, my dreams, when they do occur, are nothing like the wonder and terror-strewn dreams of Tourmaline, but genuinely, undeniably boring: has anybody else ever dreamed on the rates of VAT? All of time and space, every imagining and phantasm, they are all there at the disposal of my dreaming self and it chooses rates of VAT. J’accuse my subconscious of terminal tedium.

By the reading of it, James Brogden’s subconscious isn’t boring at all. Judging by Tourmaline, going to sleep at night for him must be a trembling upon the brink of fear and excitement, a step out upon the high board poised above the roiling waves of unconsciousness personal and collective, looking down and seeing the monsters and wonders below and knowing they are waiting for him. Would I enjoy this sort of sleeping? I’d like to give it a try! But, failing that, I read Tourmaline, and was transported in my waking to worlds of wonder, bordering our own in sleep – a theme of Brogden’s writing in this and his excellent first novel, The Narrows. There, through those Narrows, people went between worlds through thin places made physical, here they pass mainly through dream doors, although some enter by way of paintings and pain.

We live in a world that has somehow been drained of wonder: dreams are, for most people, one of the few remaining channels back to that wonder and Brogden takes dreams seriously, examining them, turning them under words so that they live in everyday, waking light and become flesh, not phantasm. Would I want to live in a world where arakas – psychic parasites living in the dream layers of consciousness – are real? Well, yes, so long as I didn’t get one in my hair! A tamed, stolid world cries out for monsters to crash through its walls and bring it down – we can see that in the way bored young men turn to the terrors and thrills of Isis and head off to Syria and Iraq. Indeed, a history of civilisation could be written as the caduceus of security and boredom, with wars proceeding ultimately from the suffocation of peace and prosperity: Nietzche’s raging against 19th-century complacency eventually issuing into the carnage of the first half of the 20th century.

For those who dream, however, there is escape from boredom, at the expense of the great, the question that arches over everything: is it real? Is it true? Or is it just a dream? In Tourmaline, the dreams are real, and they bite. Read it.

Book review: The Narrows by James Brogden

Friday, November 21st, 2014
The Narrows by James Brogden

The Narrows by James Brogden

When you think of urban fantasy, almost inevitably somewhere like London or New York comes to mind. Despite being a Londoner (a born one at that, so I can look down my nose at all the dick-come-latelys [dick after Dick Whittington of course] that pretend they understand the Great Wen) even I have to admit that leaves a lot of urbanity out of the picture.

So thank you, James Brogden, for bringing a city long overlooked out of the shadows, or the Narrows, and into the enchanted ley light of literature. This is a wonderful book that succeeds in doing something most people – and certain any Londoner – would consider impossible: it casts Birmingham as a believably magical place – although I think it more than appropriate that the Bull Ring should be the putative site of the Apocalypse, as our evil villain seeks to drill down to the core of the worlds and become, well, God, or at least, in Brogden’s theological imagination, the usurper of Aristotle’s unmoved mover (although presumbably Barber apotheosised would have adopted a more hands-on approach to deity).

Hugely enjoyable and I would be straight on to reading Brogden’s next book, Tourmaline, if any borough in the London Libraries Consortium stocked it. Shamefully, none do. I may be forced to actually pay for it myself (yes, Brogden really is that good).