fire and hemlock people

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sat Aug 20 06:30:37 EDT 2005


Charlie wrote:

>I too like both *Fire and Hemlock* and *Archer's Goon* a lot - and find it
>interesting that two such different books were written so close to each
>other. What do non-F&H people dislike? I can only guess. Perhaps it's
>something to do with the way that DWJ maintains our uncertainty about how
>far the events are magical, for so long: I love that myself, but I can see
>how others of a different temperament (or expecting a different kind of
>book) might find it irritating. Maybe it's to do with the length of time
>covered in the book - it might feel a little too leisurely compared with
>the fast, almost chaotic, pace of AG.

My feeling about the two books is that AG is more like a romp, and involves
no specific cruelty, even though the casual way the family are running
everything is horrible; F&H has far more of a feeling in it that wings
might be pulled off individual flies, and that Polly and Thomas are being
victimised.  I know that's absurd, what with the roadworks and the noise
and so on in AG, but that's the way they *feel* to me.  In AG there is a
feeling of bored teenagers who happen to be centuries old, whereas in F&H
there's a deep wickedness going on.

The same feeling as in F&H is in *Time of the Ghost* and *Hexwood*: really
nasty people (or godlings) choosing victims.  It ought to be there in *The
Homeward Bounders* as well, but somehow it isn't, and I think that may be
because the They lot are universally victimising everyone, rather than one
or two chosen and viewpoint or near-viewpoint individuals.  The larger the
nastiness and the wider it is spread, the less one identifies with
individuals being picked on through no real fault of their own.  Sort of
like the difference between global warming and somebody trying to build a
supermarket on one's local kids' playground: it's a lot easier to feel
personally involved and upset about the latter, even though the former is
far more important and worrying really.

This may well not apply to anyone else, though.  I certainly don't expect
my reasons for preferences in books to be universal, or even to make sense
at all to anyone else!  Also, I don't *prefer* either of the two books: I
like each but for different reasons, and they're both on the "often
re-read" list, unlike *Castle in the Air*, which I ought to love but
somehow simply don't.

Minnow


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