May 18, 2009

Congratulate the Devil, Howell Davies, (2008) Parthian Library of Wales

Congratulate the Devil, Howell Davies, (2008) Parthian Library of Wales

This Howell Davies science fiction novel was originally published in 1939 and has been re-published in paperback by Parthian Books under their Library of Wales imprint.

Congratulate the Devil is a revelation: engaging, unique, relevant and vibrant, seventy years after its initial publication. The narrative is subtle, darkly humorous and cheerfully bitter. Davies solidly built his characters: mannerism by action by reaction, as protagonist James Starling evolves steadily and subtly, from useless playboy to doomed and unwilling witness to tragedy and, ultimately, himself its victim. Starling visits a friend from his school days, Roper, to find that Roper, now a chemist, has made the startling discovery of a new drug which gives its user omniscient control over the actions and attitudes of others. Use of the drug also alters its user and provides Davies his platform to discuss which has greater effect and so is more destructive: malignant lust or good intention.

This new edition includes a marvelous, sparkling foreward by Howell Davies' grandson, Adrian Dannatt. Rather than another writer's hopefully very interesting impressions of the book, the author and the author's style or ability, Dannatt shares with us memories of his grandfather, intimate snapshots of Howell Davies as an individual that no acquaintence or contemporary could provide.

Congratulate the Devil is a classic, "Golden Age", sci-fi masterpiece of the 1930s, easily on par with any other work of its time and which never received the recognition it deserved. Unlike its American counterparts of the Joseph Campbell era, Davies novel is not pulp, it's a novel. There aren't any spaceships, aliens or gadgets and the science in the story is not the focus, its details and particulars are barely described. Fictional science is the catalyst that directs all the characters' narrative thereafter but the characters, their interaction, their fates and how they are effected by a product of science, are the story.

Parthian's Library of Wales series features works of Anglo-Welsh literature (works by Welsh authors in English) and their catalog can be found here.

"Nothing remains for me now but to congratulate the Devil on all his works." Howell Davies (1939)

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