Zod Wallop

Abe Gross argross at bigpond.net.au
Sun Feb 29 04:05:25 EST 2004

> On Sat, 28 Feb 2004 18:00:31 +1100, Abe Gross wrote:
> >Melissa wrote (with rest of stuff snipped):
> >
> >> (Right now we're in the middle of a long set
> >> of serious books:  _Life of Pi_, _Zod Wallop_ and _The Blind
> >
> >I'm curious to know what you think of _Zod Wallop_ when you've read it.
> >Haven't read it myself, but it was recommended to me by someone.

Melissa replied:

> I've read it already--I was the designated guinea pig to decide whether we
> wanted to read it as a group.
> Plot summary:  A famous children's writer named Harry Gainesborough went
> slightly nuts after his daughter's death by drowning and went into a
> hospital.  There he wrote a very dark and horrifying book called _Zod
> Wallop_, which he later rewrote to have a happy ending and had published
> great acclaim.  However, a young fellow inmate, Raymond Story, read the
> original and is convinced that it represents reality...and that it's
> actually coming true.  Most of the book involves a quest that arises out
> the young man's delusions--or are they?  It's hard to say more than this,
> because the essence of reading it is discovering how reality intersects
> fantasy and what, exactly, is the truth behind _Zod Wallop_--both the
> manuscript and the book by William Browning Spencer.
> It's very interesting.  I'd put it at the high end of literary fantasy;
> more lyrical than Jonathan Carroll but less mythic than, for example,
> _Little, Big_, if that means anything to anyone.

I can't comment on _Little, Big_, but it does sound reminiscent of Joanathan
Carroll, and as a matter of fact, it was recommended by someone on a list
for his books. So it's very interesting that you've made the allusion to
him. In particular, although the plot's different, it's kind of reminiscent,
from what you say, of Carroll's first novel _The Land of Laughs_, in which
two characters are researching the life of an author, except that it sounds
as if the horror elements work differently in the book (don't want to say
more--there's be spoilers galore).

> The descriptions are
> phenomenal.  It was like a really vivid waking dream in parts.  I think
> descriptions were what drew me in; the first scene is of a bizarre
> complete with monkey, and you can see everything as clearly as if you were
> standing there with the groom's flabbergasted parents.  The invented world
> of Zod Wallop is wonderfully dark and horrible, made more so because the
> reader rarely gets to read the actual manuscript--it's all revealed in
> the characters recall, and that makes it creepy.  One woman in my reading
> group who also finished it said she had nightmares for several days
> of one of the horrific creatures from the book.
> Aside from the beauty of the language, what makes it work is that it's not
> typical example of its kind.  In most books where the hero (in this case,
> the way, it's the author Harry Gainesborough, which is not immediately
> clear) is dropped from our world into a fantasy world, he spends way too
> much time in denial when it's clear to the reader that the fantasy world
> does, in fact, exist, and he's really there.  In _Zod Wallop_ there's a
> measure of doubt for the first several chapters about whether Raymond is
> right or not, and Harry's doubts make perfect sense because this is
> our world--but then one weird thing happens, and another, and the reader
> drawn in just as gradually as Harry is.  I like that.
> The ending is fantastic.  Partly because it *is* a happy ending after
> and pages of awful stuff, and partly because there's a point where I
> realized just what the center of the book really was, and the ending fit
> well.  It's just what I'd hoped for everyone involved.

That's always *so* satisfying when that happens.

> I have trouble knowing who to recommend _Zod Wallop_ to.  If it were the
> kind of literary fantasy that relied solely on language, it would be
> But the fantasy plot is so well done that I think it would appeal to most
> readers who like complicated fiction.  _Zod Wallop_ is out of print and
> relatively difficult to find; we've been passing the library's two copies
> around ourselves.  If you *can* find a copy, I'd say it's worth reading.

Thanks for that description, Melissa. I actually do have a copy, which I
found in a second-hand shop some time ago, and it's been sitting on my TBR
pile since then! The horrific elements put me off a little, but everything
else you say sounds extremely appealing.

I just realised that somewhere I also have a copy of _Little, Big_, also
unread. I'm not being accurate; it's not a TBR pile I have, but rather, a
TBR double bookcase!


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