Finished John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things during an afternoon stint at the library on Saturday. I'd put it aside the middle of last month in order to focus on David Copperfield and because I thought it would make an excellent selection for Carl's upcoming Fairy Tale/Fantasy challenge. The challenge doesn't begin until March 21, however, so, for me, it will have to remain an outlier and one I recommend others include on their official list.
The Book of Lost Things is at heart a quest story. Young David, still mourning the death of his mother and bitterly resentful of his new stepmother and baby brother who take much of the attention when his father--a code-breaker during WWII--happens to be at home, is lured into an alternative world after hearing his mother's voice call to him for rescue. This alternative world is a dark reflection of the fairy tales he's partial to and part of the pleasure of reading about this world is in recognizing the original stories that Connolly has added his kinks and twists to. Suffice it to say, if you prefer a Disneyfied-spin on the Brothers Grimm, you're going be to be very uncomfortable reading this book.
I managed to somehow get through my son's dragon phase without realizing that "wyrm" was the word usually used for such in medieval lit; the connection was made for me after reading A.S. Byatt's "The Thing in the Forest," whose creature was certainly more worm-like than dragony. There is a similar beast in The Book of Lost Things (which quite handily and gruesomely deals with some German tanks that have made their way into this alternative world), and I've found it curious that both my exposures to the legendary wyrms of Britain have come in contemporary stories dealing with children who have been sent from London during WWII to avoid the bombing.
Yesterday I started Dan Simmons' The Terror. I bought this one for L., since he has a soft spot for Arctic exploration, but since he's been complaining about his vision lately, I doubt he'll attempt this behemouth until after his next eye exam and new set of glasses.
Based on Sir John Franklin's 1845 attempt to find the Northwest Passage, the books begins this way:
Captain Crozier comes up on deck to find his ship under attack by celestial ghosts. Above him--above Terror--shimmering folds of light lunge but then quckly withdraw like the colourful arms of aggressive but ultimately uncertain spectres. Ectoplasmic skeletal fingers extend toward the ship, open, prepare to grasp, and pull back.
Temperatures are at negative 50 degrees and the HMS Terror and her sister ship Erebus have been lodged in the ice within the Arctic Circle for more than a year. Low on food and morale, the men who aren't yet dead are being stalked by something out on the ice that may prove to be supernatural.
So far very good.