Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The Roaring Trumpet - L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt

This is the first of several novels and novellas featuring Harold Shea and his companions. Making use of the Mathematics of Magic, Shea is able to transport himself into other, parallel, metaphysical realms – lands of ancient myth and legend. In itself this sounds an interesting concept, especially as it posits the notion that the world we live in exists in part because we think it exists in that way. However, in the hands of these authors, it becomes so much more.

The writing and story are fairly straightforward. Stylistically there is nothing special about this book, but it does tell a roaring good tale with the language getting in the way; which is no mean feat. The real pleasure of the book, however, is the humour. Understated, dry, and reliant entirely on the world and characters they create, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Shea is a wonderful creation. A psychologist whose own inner life is a mass of neuroses and who has a somewhat inflated opinion of himself and his abilities, he is ripe for humour and the authors don’t miss a thing. Yet it is never cruel. Shea is also reasonably amiable, and the authors seem fond of him.

This is whimsical fantasy at its best, gently subverting the genre without ever getting pompous. Pure entertainment that is all the better for a rigorous approach. And at 105 pages it passes an evening in the most agreeable fashion.