August 9th, 2013

earthsea

August Books 6) The Gods of Pegāna, by Lord Dunsany

      The King said unto the prophet: "O Prophet of All the gods save One, shall I indeed die?"
      And the prophet answered: "O King! thy people may not rejoice for ever, and some day the King will die."
      And the King answered: "This may be so, but certainly thou shalt die. It may be that one day I shall die, but till then the lives of the people are in my hands."
      Then guards led the prophet away.
      And there arose prophets in Aradec who spake not of death to Kings.
This is another book available in its original format online, complete with illustrations by S.H. Sime. It is quite a remarkable achievement, a short collection of fantasy vignettes illustrating a new pantheon, led by the always-capitalised creator god MĀNA-YOOD-SUSHĀĪ, who has fallen asleep and must not be woken (which may sound familiar); the people of Pegāna, and their prophets, have a very uneasy relationship with the various deities.

Both J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft, teenagers when it was first published, claimed to have been inspired by The Gods of Pegāna and one can see the links, though of course they took it in quite different directions. (Lovecraft also mentions Sime's art, and one can see its influence in Tolkien's drawings too.) Looking at it from the other direction, you can detect the influence of W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, both of whom Dunsany would ave known well, along with perhaps some elements from his mother's cousin Sir Richard Burton. But Dunsany took all of these and made his own secondary creation; I don't think it is mch of an exaggeration to say that he helped set the tone for a whole genre.
rebus

August Books 7) Standing In Another Man's Grave, by Ian Rankin

'I'm saying Rebus got results the old way, without seeming to earn them. He did tat because he got close to some nasty people in a way you couldn't. This is what you're good at, Malcolm.' He tapped the desk. 'Rebus specialises in something a bit different - doesn't necessarily make him the enemy.'
Rebus is back; though retired from the police, he is helping out at a cold-case unit as a civilian contractor, and remains as determinedly individualistic as ever. In this story his determination to identify and track down a serial killer by whatever means necessary is a uncomfortable contrast with the structures and systems of the modern force, which Rankin suggests has lost sight of the ethical forest for the procedural trees; the story is at least as much about Rebus' relationship with his former workplace as about the crime. An excellent addition to the series.