Monday, October 31, 2005

He's done it again

Magnus Mills, oft-namedropped by myself as the current main man of lit (of any stripe), has just cemented his position. He has well and truly sat himself down atop the podium of bookish excellence, tipped a sack of Blue Circle into a sturdy barrow, mixed it up gradually with water (taking care to maintain a good working consistency), and spaded the lot of it all around his seating area. That's not bad going, considering he sat down before getting started on the cement, when he perhaps would have been wiser to stay on his feet a bit longer. Of course, you may well be wondering what the hell I'm on about?

EXPLORERS OF THE NEW CENTURY, that's what.

What starts out as a kind of tally-ho adventure story about two rival teams hoping to navigate their way across increasingly rough terrain towards The Agreed Furthest Point, slowly turns (in classic Mills fasion) into a study on life itself. In this case, communal life - how we live alongside others who we don't necessarily get along with, and what to do about it if you decide you cannot. The trick in this novel (needless to say, "trick" is not the word, but I'm in a hurry) is that, for the first half of it at least, we get to know the characters isolated outside their natural environments. We're interested in how they cope with the obstacles they meet, and don't even think about the kind of world they come from (and hope to get back to). We kind of assume it's a recogniseable world, much like our own (or the one we used to have, about 100 years ago), based on their speech and habits and apparent morals, but we don't know. And neither do we know the real reason for this race to The Agreed Furthest Point. But when these two things start coming clear, this becomes a dark novel indeed.

Pure and simple, I am overjoyed that we have Magnus Mills out there in the world, prancing around on his ancient horse, pen in hand, hacking down the nasty dragons of formula fiction and spearing the barbarians of boredom. He is an original. He is THE original. READ THIS BOOK.

And pay attention to the mules.

3 comments:

Ray said...

Seconded on Mills - he is a rare writer, one who's able to give us the world in the shortest possible page count and who writes books that demand to be re-read.

Charlie Williams said...

Did you know he still does a day job of driving a van around? Knowing that, I now look upon white van men with a newfound respect.

The Time-traveller and His Dog said...

Indeed "Explorers of The New Century" is an excellent book - almost as good as "All quiet on the Orient Express".