Friday, January 29, 2016


It could become a great story. It is not one yet.


Do not enter this book believing that the adventure will come to a full end. You would be mistaken. This is a first volume OF a series though I cannot tell you if it is going to be two or three or more volumes.

This being said you will find the book interesting. This novel is written for an audience between 12 and 16, when young people, and I think mostly boys, are still very much uncultured in the fantasy genre of literature written for young teenagers. If they were they would react like adults would and that’s where I am going to start because the deeper meaning comes from there, but it would destroy the pleasure of these young teenagers.

This story is original but it is great patchwork. The human world on top and a fantasy world under, that’s a classic in teenage literature. It is first active in Stephen King’s The Talisman (1984) in which King is associated with Peter Straub. The human world on top is polluted and irresponsible and that has severe consequences on the fantasy world underneath in which the young teenager hero has to retrieve a talisman to save his mother in this world. Strangely enough the human world is superior in the fact that what happens in it determines what happens in the world underneath. Stephen King will use the fantasy world again in The Eyes of the Dragon (1987) that takes place in what is the fantasy world of The Dark Tower. But it is mostly self-contained; the superior human world is not really used as such. In the series of novels known under the generic name of The Dark Tower (started in 1982, hence before the two titles I have just quoted, and officially terminated in 2004, with yet an extension in 2012) is fundamentally based on that division of the world in two, the real human world, essentially New York, and the fantasy world that is going through a deep crisis of death due to the mismanagement of the human world, yet this fantasy world has no real future since the vast picaresque journey officially to salvage it ends at the exact same point as when it started, hence it starts all over again, hence it is circular, not cyclical, since there is no change between the starting point and the finishing points that are exactly the same.

None of that in this book where the human, world is an escape or refuge world and nothing else for the endangered people in the world underneath.

You will of course think of Tolkien or even George Martin, but in these authors there is no superior human world. The whole story is absolutely contained in the fantasy world. There are many authors along that line. It is in fact a whole genre per se.

But you cannot avoid thinking of C.S. Lewis and his Narnia saga. The great difference is that in Narnia we are dealing with books that are all self-sufficient. Each volume brings the story of the volume to a complete end. It starts most of the time from this world, concerns young teenagers who pass to the other world where they have some adventure and they come back to this world when the adventure has come to a close. You can have some follow-up elements from one volume to another but they are not basic, meaning they do not build the architecture of each volume, they build a wider architecture you do not need to enjoy each volume.

There is one essential difference. This here volume is a first volume that does not bring to a close the various plots and stories. It calls for a subsequent sequel, which is slightly frustrating, but which is in full similarity with Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, though maybe more suspenseful since the epilogue of this here volume is really dropping all business in absolute suspension.

The world underneath is divided between a white Zara and a black Darken, the two antagonistic parts of this fantasy world known as Orchestra, whose inhabitants are Orchins. There are two kingdoms that are hostile and we enter the story when the two kings have been eliminated, when the son of the good Queen Belle has been saved into the human world and when the bad Queen Abigail is dominating the whole Orchestra but yet misses one element to be supreme, one of three diamonds, the one that was evacuated into the human world along with Queen Belle’s son, James Clyde. The whole story is to bring James Clyde back to his Zara throne as the Savior, to bring the green diamond back to this Orchestra world. And we find ourselves in the middle of the war started by Queen Abigail to conquer the green diamond, to kill James the Savior and to establish her power as paramount with the help of a sorcerer, Imorex. You can note I totally push aside the plot elements that take place in the human world. So far they are not significant in the Orchestra plot.

It all ends up as unfinished business at all levels, but rather advanced in a couple of domains.

This black and white world cut in two spheres is the typical world Salman Rushdie imagined in his story book for young teenagers Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990), and I am sure it has an older model or pattern in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) with the Queen of Spades against the Queen of Hearts as an adapted extension of the original story that only has one bad queen, the Queen of Hearts, and further becoming the good White Queen and the bad Red Queen in the more than famous adaptation by Walt Disney. We cannot attribute this split to Lewis Carroll himself but it was introduced rather fast into the story by various adaptors and plagiarists. We could also think of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (1904) though then the two worlds are really defined differently, one being the world of normal life when awake, and the other the world of children’s dreamlike fantasy.

When all that is said – for adults – we can wonder about the meaning of the story. Such stories are always based on simple ethics that can be made more or less complicated, subtle and refined. In this case it is an all-out opposition good versus bad; white versus black; knights versus monsters (Volen and Dakotas); human and empathetic versus inhuman, un-human and by principle cruel; faithful and trustworthy versus treacherous and deceitful. Then the only subtleties you can have are about the level of intelligence of the characters (swift, smart, brilliant, etc., or the opposites) and the level of self-pride that can reach total vanity. That makes simple-minded people and heroes. They could be worked upon slightly more in depth.

The reference to twelve knights is a real schematic symbol because there is never any list of them. But being obstinate I found the following names: Gabriel, Joel, Lance, Joseph, Nathan, Tobias, Eric, David, Noah, Wilmore, Ethan, Matthew, to which we have to add Kila, which makes twelve since Wilmore is dead, and moreover Gilbert cannot be considered as a member, though he used to be their leader, since he is the traitor. We can note of course the pattern of twelve containing a traitor and that traitor being taken out we come back to twelve again and the twelve knights are at the service of the Savior, James who is of course the brother of Jesus, close enough, from a father who was Jacob, hence the same reference again.

More complex is the diamond trinity. Since the first one we meet (in fact the third one of the trinity) is associated to the color green we would like it to lead to the three audiovisual colors Red Blue and Green, in which green is naturally the third diamond, the last diamond, the missing diamond. Our author here knows these three colors since he must have a computer that tells him regularly Red Green Blue or RGB. But we saw the second diamond when it was stolen by Gilbert, then transferred by Imorex to Queen Abigail, and it never had anything more than a glint and no color. Too bad. This trinity would be enriched if it were a trinity of colors, the audiovisual trinity or the painting trinity (Red Yellow and Blue). But it is a trinity nevertheless and as such a pattern, the most distant and ancient pattern of all divinity in all civilizations: the divine is always ternary in a way or another, three gods for example, and the most famous trinity in European mythology is the Triple Goddess that became the three weird sisters of Shakespeare. We cannot of course ignore that it is also the basic nature of the Christian god, though the Jewish god is binary and the Muslim god is absolutely unitary.

To thus bring a ternary pattern in a basically binary world is quite significant and it reflects the impossibility of our modern world to clearly choose between one way or the other, between progressive reform or conservative reform, constantly questioning that binary choice with ternary election results that create a third power somewhere that slows down or blocks the basic binary choice. Maybe after all it is not that simple and the world should not be reduced to two contradictory antagonistic elements. Note in this story the earth, the world of the humans is the ternary element, the escape and the refuge from the binary world underneath.

All those are patterns and they all are significant and signifying. They build in the child’s mind some fuzzy structure in which there is a dual existential swinging or swaying movement between two poles and yet some kind of magical, supernatural and superior escape from this into a third universe. That should build in the readers the idea that you always have to keep some option in store in case the basic dual options did not work. Between two black and white (or black and red if you prefer) extremes it is most of the time a complex combination of the various hues and shades of the in-between grey(s) that is the alternative, the escape, the refuge. This is the main post-post-modern consciousness of our world. After the fundamentalisms of the 19th century that outlived themselves up to the early 1950s we thought there was no truth but only a myriad of points of view, and now after 50 years of post modern belief we come to this simpler approach that humanity is always divided between two contradictory and antagonistic extremes and yet the truth can only be in-between in the palette of all the grey(s) you can imagine.

Between the extreme red and blue, infra-red and ultraviolet, the existential truth is in the vast spectrum of yellow and green provided the two extreme margins are never completely annihilated, even if they could ever be.

This is rich literature for teenagers, though it could be make even richer by working more on the in-between shades of plot, characters, genders and monstrosities. The next volume might enrich this vision. Let’s hope so.


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