Sunday, January 31, 2010

Review: Face "One of the Greatest Fantasy Novels of All Time"

Book review: The Face in the Frost 

I may have reviewed The Face in the Frost here before.  I consider it one of the greatest fantasy novels of all time, and utterly unique.  It is one of those things you can pick up at any place any number of times and be sucked in, to the absurdity and the funniness and to the terror.  Briefly, it tells the story of Prospero ('and not the one you are thinking of, either') and Roger Bacon (who is exactly the one you are thinking of), the best of friends, as they try to figure out who or what is trying to kill Prospero and what is cursing the land so that everybody is afraid of the dark, while no one knows exactly what they are afraid of.  There are grumpy magic mirrors, monks who garden, and many small, ridiculous kingdoms all living together in the hodge-podge of the South.  "The Dolphin Cross" is the unfinished manuscript of the sequel, which was lost until author Ellen Kushner moved and cleaned out her boxes of papers and found the copy that Bellairs sent her in 1980.  NESFA (New England Science Fiction Association) Press published it last fall with all of Bellairs' non-YA works, which are also all of Bellairs' out of print works: Magic Mirrors.  

St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies is a series of parodies of pre-Vatican Two American Catholicism, beginning with the account of St. Fidgeta's life, through the hilarious architectural pastiche of the guide to the cathedral of St. Gorboduc, all the way to the Prayer for the Speedy Demise of a Bishop and 'A Chaplet of Devotions, Causes, and Societies To Which The Catholic May Safely Adhere.'  The Pedant and the Shuffly is the short tale of Sir Bertram Crabtree-Gore, Esq., and his fight with Snodrog the Pedant, with motions to include a Shuffly and Telemann's 400 Variations on the Equilateral Triangle, originally scored for cembalo, glass beads, and augmented ratchet.  Snodrog menaces passersby by convincing them that they do not exist, at which point they turn into Flimsies, stained linen napkins that fly about and do his bidding.  'There arose a sound like 10,000 bouzoukis, and from the four known points of the compass Flimsies came rustling, turning the night sky into a gravy-stained wonder of whiteness.'  Then Sir Bertram wanders through his wood and a battle to the death ensues.

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