When you can’t knit ganseys, you can at least read about them. And when you read about them, you can find out that the person who writes about them recently published his first novel, which you can also read.
In my lifetime, I have read thousands of books, mostly fiction. When I was young, I would check out more books from the school library than any other student. I would devour them, dodging chores and ignoring the great outdoors; scurrying through homework assignments, oblivious of people around me as I escaped into one fictional world after another. I read about the Incas, about the great San Francisco fire of 1906, about secret rooms and murders, romances and families, creatures who lived in the core of the earth and much, much more.
By the time I was an adult, I was much more discriminating about what I would read. First and foremost, a book has to be well written. This requirement includes proper vocabulary, correct usage of grammar, the avoidance of trite phrases (“somewhere a rooster crowed”), and resisting the urge to modify every noun twice or thrice over (“The pretty blonde girl sat on the bright blue sofa and looked into the sparkly mysterious brown eyes of her gallant, unexpected, handsome visitor.”). I also detest predictable plots, the inclusion of every minority group an author can think up for no reason at all (ostensibly because it might help get him published), the propensity to ignore completely the fact that one or the other sex exists, the inclusion of the “obligatory sex scene” when it does nothing to further the plot, and other crimes for which the perpetrators go sadly unpunished. Often the books that offend are actually quite popular, a fact which causes me to ponder the eventual literary extinction of our race.
Secondly, the book must have an intriguing and logically viable plot (even if it’s only viable within the world the author has created).
And thirdly, the author must make me care about the characters, and must respect them himself (for example, don’t make me care deeply about a character and then kill him off, never to mention him again, ever).
The advent of eReaders such as Kindle and Nook, coupled with the ability of anyone with a computer, an internet connection, and the will to self-publish a book has led to a confusingly vast array of books presented to the world via that very means. Editors may or may not have had a hand in these books, but certainly the mainstream publishing houses– which up until recently filtered our literature through a sieve netted with their unique take on what readers will or should like– have not. This is both good and bad. Because authors may now thumb their noses at publishers and bypass them completely, we have the opportunity to read great books we might otherwise have been denied, but we have to sift through the trash for our treasure.
This is all a very long way of saying that Gordon Reid’s book, An Inquisition of Demons, is one of those treasures. Reid is a master of the English language; he wields his words with deft artistry.
Set in medieval times, the novel nonetheless utilizes modern language. Historical events and characters figure into the plot, and though we are not hit over the head with the hammer of philosophy, we are nonetheless compelled to think about our humanity and how our failures are sometimes the very things that make us better. This is not your faddish vampire or zombie story; your soul will not be in mortal peril if you read it, and you are unlikely to have nightmares about it. Did I say it was refreshing?
Is this a literary masterpiece? No, it is a very entertaining and well written first novel. But be patient– his second novel is just around the corner, and it is brilliant.
Read Reid. You won’t be disappointed.