Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee: Terje Rypdal; John Brunner.

[Terje Rypdal, from Odyssey, 1975]

John Brunner's The Traveler in Black (1971) is a quiet, unsung gem. I revisited it recently, having purchased a used copy from one of the dealers at Arisia. Uncorking the bottle, I found the wine as full-bodied and heady as it was when I first savored it...I first met the Traveler c. 1970, in the two Traveler short stories that appeared in the Ted White-edited Fantastic.

Less precious than Dunsany, less mordant and cynical than Vance, not so filigreed as Clark Ashton Smith-- though owing a debt to each of these--Brunner in his Traveler tales finds hope in the melancholy, taps into a wry pity for human folly.

I love most of all his terse style. Few fantastistes (Leiber also comes to mind) conjure so much strangeness with so few words. Listen:

" 'Igoroth!' said Gostala in exasperation. 'Dumedinnis! And likewise Algorethon!'

Three odd-looking gentlemen--one in blue, one in white, one in green-- walked through a nearby wall and stood before her. None of them was entirely normal in appearance, though it was hard to say in what particular respect.

'Get rid of that--object!' directed Gostala forcefully.

The three peculiar personages looked at her, then at each other, then at her again. Premeditatedly, they shook their heads, and departed, taking her with them."

And this:

"...after great labor he incarcerated Wolpec in a candle over whose flame he smoked a piece of glass which thereupon showed three truths: one ineluctable, one debatable and one incomprehensible."

And this:

"Tyllwin's huge round head, like a turnip-ghost's, turned to watch them, and a smile curved his dusty lips."

Long live the Traveler in Black!

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