Here are many of Garner’s données. The hyperintelligent, emotionally fragile man, and the woman who takes (by choice, vocation or default) the ministering role. The cutting between periods and not-quite-parallel, fraternal-twin stories. Nonsense rhymes and ritual language. Science and poetry. History and simultaneity. Culture and nature. The careful hammering out of a dish that can hold different ways of thinking, of being, and not shatter. Madness. Colin wandering Alderley Edge in his Oxford academic gown, like some great prelate of the grove.
We’d expect to see a good number of these in any book of Garner’s, I think. But here he seems more deliberately to be pointing to his previous books and asking for their reinterpretation in the light of this one. This isn’t just a sequel to the Alderley books; it’s a sequel to every book he’s written since. As he knaps away at the stone that will reveal Boneland, their flakes and sparks shoot momentarily to light. Blue silver. Motorways and galaxies. A broken man as could mend. Engrams. “You really shouldn’t have done that.” Graffitti. Rhododendrons. Dimension stone. Boundaries are dangerous. Singing the land. There are flecks of other books, too. Golding’s The Inheritors is in there. Did I even see a glimmer of A Wizard of Earthsea? But mostly, of course, Gawain and the Green Knight, which is used really well and subtly, or my name’s not Bert.
The ending made me very sad, however.