Saturday, January 20, 2007

Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories - Garth Nix

I first learned of Garth Nix's collection, Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories from after The Creature in the Case was published as a World Book Day in the UK; and it's this story which is the first in the Across the Wall collection. I've wanted to own Across the Wall ever since and I was pleased when it was finally published in the UK. My patience was rewarded too, as there are some fabulous pieces in this collection, each one of which is introduced by Garth Nix.

The other 12 stories in the collection are as follows:

"Under the Lake": A tale based on Arthurian legend told from the viewpoint of the Lady of the Lake, who's less nice than so many of those film versions would lead you to believe.

"Charlie Rabbit": A dramatic war story about hope, faith and survival, featuring two small boys.

"From the Lighthouse": A rather different sci-fantasy story of conquest.

"The Hill": A family story set in Australia about property, inheritance and ownership.

"Lightning Bringer": A horror story about power.

"Down in the Scum Quarter": A parody of the Role Playing Game books beloved of my younger brother when he was a child, where the reader chooses their own story based on options at the end of each paragraph.

"Heart's Desire": Another tale based on Arthurian legend, this time about Merlin and his ill-fated love life.

"Hansel's Eyes": A retelling of the classic tale in a modern setting - and quite macabre in its way !

"Hope Chest": A cowgirl takes on a supernatural cult, guns a-blazing. Garth is a fan of Westerns but as he says in the introduction, he cannot write a story without a fantasy element creeping in somewhere. This was my favourite of the shorter stories in the collection - and together with "The Creature in the Case" made the book worth its price.

"My New Really Epic Fantasy Series": A piece originally presented by Garth at a panel session at the 1999 WorldCon; it's completely tongue in cheek and therefore very funny.

"Three Roses": An interesting little tale about love - completely unsentimental.

"Endings": A tale of sorrow and joy with alternate endings - and another one (besides "The Creature in the Case" - that I had read before as it's in the Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales I read and reviewed last November.

In the introductory note to "Hansel's Eyes", Garth mentions that his mother made him a gingerbread house, complete with a witch made of sweets; for his eighth birthday, she made puppets of all Tove Jansson's Moominland Midwinter characters and a puppet theatre, then performed the book as a puppet play. How fantastic is that ?! He notes that

without the influence, example and encouragement of my mother (and my father, whose collection of fantasy and science fiction books supplied me with reading matter for my most formative years), I would not be the write I have become, or indeed, a writer at all. (p. 272)

If you're a Garth Nix fan, this book is a must-have; if you've yet to try any of his books, then this book is a good place to start - you can dip in and out of it, and The Creature in the Case, although it's set after the events of the Old Kingdom trilogy, is still a good introduction to Nix's worlds. As mentioned before, Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories is available from Garth Nix's website has recently been relaunched and you can sign up for regular news updates. I was pleased to learn this week that he'll be in the UK later this year - I hope he appears somewhere near Oxford as I'd love to meet him !

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