Whew! This was one looooong novel but it had been sitting on my bookshelf for several years and I finally decided to take a deep breath and jump in. Cannonball style. Weaveworld is The Wizard of Oz meets The Stand with a healthy does of Gothic tentacle rape. This one is not for the kiddies. How does the same author give us the following passages in a single tome?
Upon entering the fantasy world (The Fugue) , our heroine (Suzanna) finds…
“…the journey showed them collisions of elements so unlikely they defied any attempt to synthesize them. Dogs grazing beside a tomb, from the fractured lid of which rose a fountain of fire that ran like water; a window set in the ground, its curtains billowing skyward on a breeze that carried the sound of the sea. These riddles, defying her powers of explanation, marked her profoundly. There was nothing here that she hand’t seen before – dogs, tombs, windows, fire – but in this flux she found them re-invented, their magic made again before her eyes.”
In another instance, an unfortunate character (Elroy) is raped by a ghostly demon…
“He raised his head slightly, wanting a better view of those sumptuous breasts, but in doing so he caught sight of another figure behind the first. She was the antithesis of the ripe, gleaming woman that rode him: a stained, wretched thing, with gaping holes in her body where cunt and mouth and navel should have been, so large the stars showed through from the other side… He started to fight afresh, but his thrashings did nothing to slow his mistress’ rhythm. Despite his panic he felt the familiar tremor in his balls.”
In this fantastical setting we actually find a story that is one long chase scene. A really, really, really long chase sequence involving two humans (Cukoos) trying to help a gaggle of mystical beings (Seerkind) reclaim their hidden home world (The Fugue) which is entwined in a magical rug and threatened by a police inspector (The Law), a sorceress (Immaculota), a schizophrenic archangel (The Scourge), and a human conman (The Salesman). The chase is relentless but not hyper-paced. In fact, despite the length of the story, the tension stays pretty even throughout. It would be wrong to describe the action in this novel as slow, because so much does happen, but maybe because of the relentless nature of the action it becomes a bit rote and loses its impact amidst so much colorful craziness. Only in Weaveworld can the lining of a coat become sinister; a rug become a prize, and a horny baby be a hero.
Generally, Barker’s narration is simple and reminiscent of Stephen King’s plain speaking style. Barker doesn’t over-reach and instead lets the wonder unfold in straightforward terms. Blessedly, he doesn’t announce each plot development with fanfare or cryptic self-importance. Many authors seem to get caught up in their cleverness or underestimate the reader – and as a result foreshadowing is often too obvious. Barker avoids this temptation. What’s more, his characters don’t have the time for a lot of navel-gazing and internal monologue. Their actions and dialogues tell you all you need to know about them. Weaveworld is so present and simply told that it keeps you flipping pages rather than dissecting and parsing and gawking at the language.
With a book this length, it cannot all be terrific so I will point out a few things I found to be less than stellar. You can decide for yourself if they are deal breakers. First off, the stakes are not nearly high enough for such a lengthy tale. It is one epic and exhausting journey and it is all to save a world that is roughly the size of a small American city. It does not even appear that losing the Fugue world will have any concrete effect on humanity – there is no clear connection between that world and the human desire to dream or create poetry, art, etc. What’s more, the Seerkind themselves do not seem deeply connected to it, despite protestations to the contrary.
Secondly, the characters are inconsistent – they accept mind-bending experiences with wonder and joy and even disinterested acceptance at times, but then conveniently find themselves distracted by flights of fantasy right when clear and present danger is threatening. For example, Suzanna follows the male protagonist and male antagonist into the heart of the Fugue – hoping to save the world – but is distracted by a tree-man growing off the trail. Really? It was a cool concept but the entire time I’m thinking, “Seriously?” It happens often and the device does wear thin… just at the moment the baddie could be killed, our heroes are distracted or lose focus. The good guys are always just a little too slow and the baddie always takes advantage of it. It starts to make the heroes seem flighty and completely uncommitted to “saving the world”.
The Worm’s final word? Weaveworld was fresh and twisted and an easy read. It really could have been a little slimmer and a few escapes could have been removed entirely but it was worth reading and not easily fogotten. By far the most memorable and moving characters were Hobart (The Law) and Immaculota (the sorceress) and it was worth lugging this book around for several days just to get to know them.