David Ross (dyvyd) wrote,
David Ross

The Deepening

Having just finished John Crowley's first published novel "The Deep," it gives me pause to reflect how the craft of his fiction has not so much metamorphosized over the years leading to his more current magisterial works, but how rather it has lengthened and deepened.  It is almost as though his first novels, sparse, but  long enough, are gestural works unsure whether they might find favor with the reading public if they were fully expanded. But counter to this idea is a developing assuredness within the reader, after reading many Crowleyian pieces, that the negative space, the unanswered questions, the things left unsaid, are meticulously planned by the writer-- that the true story must be constructed from the "unsayables" the narrative surrounds. 

The story depicts either a new covenant with God, or a devil's bargain (take your pick) for the human race in which utopia is found in an artificial re-creation of eternal feudal warfare.  A world is constructed as though the flat-worlder's were right all along. The brilliant physical description of this world is one of the most mesmerizing elements of the tale.  The feudal factions are The Reds and The Blacks, and from these are brought forth the Kings that rule.  One faction,  The Just,  function as a resistance movement, and as the final arbiters of the delicate balance of society.  The Grays, equivalent to the clergy,  remain aloof.  Among these factions walks a sentient non-human being whose function is to record, and to perform certain acts that he has forgotten due to damage he sustained upon his arrival.

On his journey, while damaged, he must think for himself and thus he learns things his maker never intended him to know.  What question, what single question does he burn to ask the maker when he returns?  We never know, but neither can we forget we must try to remember it.

There are many wonderful twists from the familiar into the alien in this story.  Such as transmuting the idea of midwives into Endwives.

I leave you with the words of demi-god-world-keeper Leviathan:

He has sails, and I do not. We are not alike.  He is busy and wide-ranging; I am sleepy and stationary. He has sails; sails like woven air, that fine; large as the world. Many of them. They are his speed.

The above may also be taken as a description of what sets John Crowley apart from other writers.

Tags: artificial intelligence, john crowley, medieval, sci-fi

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