Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wolpertings, Vrahoks, and Cuddlebunnies

Monday night I completed Rumo: And His Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers. It’s a German novel translated into English. I don’t know how they managed it with all the fanciful words Moers uses, for it doesn’t feel like a translation at all. Ickie claims there’s a British sense of humor, whereas I sense more of the German penchant for fairy tale weirdness.

Either way, Rumo is an impelling read. The storyline is elaborate with large sections of exposition and enriching backstory. The protagonist is Rumo, a wolperting (a fierce warrior dog with horns who walks upright). He is assisted by his worldly mentor Smyke (a shark grub) and his talking sword with two conflicting (and hilarious) personalities. The creatures in the book are unlike any I’ve seen before; whereas most fantasy stories borrow monsters from traditional tales, Moers invents so many that are utterly original, not to mention frightening and bloodthirsty. In addition, the book is filled with fantastic drawings and maps.

There’s not room here to summarize the plot, and it would be impossible to do so without spoilers. The gore and violence classify it as an adult book, but it’s also full of dry humor and camaraderie. There are themes of bravery and self sacrifice, but you spend little time considering the moral implications because the action never lags. Rumo is a long book (700 pages), so voracious readers like me don’t have to worry that the experience will end too soon. Just be sure you’re in the mood for the bizarre!

While we were in San Francisco last week, I purchased a discounted hardback copy of Rumo (quite a find!) and another book by Moers, A Wild Ride Through the Night. In A Wild Ride, Moers bases his story on a collection of images by Gustave Dore, known for his illustrations of The Divine Comedy and other works. Moers has written another story set in the same land as Rumo and called The City of Dreaming Books. I'm definitely looking into that one!


Ickenham said...

It was a good read, and unlike anything I've ever read before. It reminded me of a Miyazaki film in some ways.

Kevin said...

I read A Wild Ride Through the Night in the 36 hours after Al picked it up with the two of you at the bookstore. It was quite witty at times, but a bit disjointed. It reminded me, in some ways, a bit of a very strange book I read a few years ago, Naked Came the Manatee. This was originally published as a serial novel in the Miami Herald's Tropic magazine. Each of the 13 chapters was written by a different Florida author with no overarching structure. Each contributor simply picked up his/her own chapter where the previous one left off and headed off in whatever direction he/she wanted. An interesting idea, but I'm not sure how successful it was in producing a good story.

It seemed like perhaps Moer took the series of Dore engravings (many of them from Don Quiote), shuffled them, and then tried to write a story around that order, having to connect with a picture ever 4-5 pages. Granted, his story did have a better overarching structure and direction than did Barry et al.'s (goodness, how does one make a latin appreviation possessive?), but I thought it was still disjointed. Nevertheless, it was a fun read and I look forward to Rumo.

blakbuzzrd said...

I'm not sure how I'd feel about reading a novel under impulsion.