May 10, 2010

The Ninth Wave by Russell Celyn Jones – A Review

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"You cannot be a true Mabinogi fan without reading this book

The Ninth Wave is a retelling of ‘Pwyll, Lord of Dyfed’ from the First Branch of the Mabinogion. Jones paints a world in the future where planet earth is out of oil. The horse is the preferred mode of transportation, sailing ships rule the seas and centralized governments have failed. Cars, trucks & vans are all roadside relics many of which are now inhabited. Wales is ruled by cantrefs (like our counties), which are inherited or won by conquest. While this Mad Max setting is intriguing, it seems slightly unpolished or needing more thought and attention to detail to make it work. However, there is enough here to make an interesting tale as long suspend your disbelief and ignore the awkward parts of it.

When Pwyll drives, his mint condition saved and stored Bentley convertible on a tour of sacrifice while using its last tank of gas. The climax being to drive into a lake on another Lord’s property as a peace offering, yes that is what I said! (Here my lip trembles) I got out my hanky, well I will spare the details just saying it ended up wet and snotty.

I have sat on this review for some time now, hoping to gain a more unbiased view of the work. In rereading the original tale of Pwyll, you find a young Lord who meets the Lord of the Otherworld. He swaps places with him for a year and a day including total shape shift of bodies. Slays (only a human can kill a god) the only competing Lord of that realm. Kills the suitor of the woman he wants to marry, has a son, son is kidnapped, wife is blamed and punished. Son is restored as a teenager and Pwyll rules happily ever after. Briefly an awkward paced fast then slow tale, deserving more space for a retelling.

Jones by the nature of the assignment follows the same path but does not take enough space to fully develop the tale, as should be. The old tales involved a ‘Geis’ a magical binding or prohibition laid upon central character of the tale. Geis are behind the mythological tales in folklore, but now writers do not use Geis. A Geis would place a hero into legend, but now we must build a mighty saga to do the same.

Considering that, Seren wants only novella length tales this is still a fine story. By explaining the limitations set for the task and then having my wife read the book her experience was thus. Struggled through the first half of the book not being a fantasy or science fiction reader, and then enjoyed the slower paced second half.

There are pleasant surprises such as the return of the surfing son with a talent for leadership. The landscape of desolation will give you the shivers. You cannot be a true Mabinogi fan without reading this book.

Buy the book HERE

Review by Bill Tillman

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