Monday, 1 September 2014

Book Review - Somnium - Steve Moore

The only annoying thing about this book, and no fault of those who felt they should support it with afterword and praise, is that the publisher and Amazon, fit Alan Moore's name in as co-writer when in point of fact he is not. Apart from his afterword all the text, all the wonderful prose is that of his namesake Steve. This perhaps was done to encourage those who know of the famous Moore to at least sneak a look at the less well known one.
Now anyone who knows anything of Alan Moore will tell you, it was Steve, a couple of years older than Alan, who taught the mastermind behind V for Vendetta, Watchmen and From Hell the art of creating comic books. Here though it is Steve Moore's turn to shine and shine like Floyd's crazy diamond he does.
This novel is a pleasure beyond belief and yet it shouldn't be.  Apart from his work in the comic book field Steve Moore has worked for Fortean Times, as founding member and at one stage its editor, but also has written a wealth of essays and articles and books. It is hard when considering that body of work to find one single thing that stands out above the rest but for me Somnium does just that.

Somnium is Latin for 'the dream.' This is an accurate description. However, this book, sharing the same title as an earlier work by Johannes Kepler, is very different. It is the modern equivalent of Beowulf but without that tomes talent to bore long dead corpses rigid. Somnium, you see, sparkles with fleet footed prose that in reality is poetry. The whole thing has a rhythm to it, a cadence that tugs at your imagination pulling you deeper into its arcane  heart.
A  multi-threaded tale linked by one single deity, Selene, is intertwined with mirrored copies of the same story spun across centuries where one tale weaves into the other and back again using prose that flows, as I said before like poetry, forming a single thread.

From the 19th century we travel back to Elizabeth 1st's era and as we do so the prose alters to suit the age. This is a true case of Steve Moore showing us near genius as he changes the voice, the prose to suit the era it is written in so that it resembles that period. Blended into this comes a letter from the 21st century. It too is about the same subject as that of the 19th century version which in itself is a warped same of Queen Bess's period. A triumvirate narration linked as one.

It is an astounding achievement. I found the part where the current world enters the story via a screen play or script a bit hard to follow but I think that was more my fault than the authors desire to complicate things. Other, smarter people than me, will find it appealing.

There is a subtle sense of the erotic littered throughout but gently coerced into the telling. Fundamentally this is an occult love story with one central amour, that of Selene/Diane/Cynthia but with three male lovers who tell their tales spread across time.

This is key to the story, having three authors who all appear to write the other into the tale, not only key but a staggering concept. Like one of those supremely well crafted EC Comics stories where what appears to be one thing in reality is not as the stream of narrative turns back on itself revealing darker truths.

Undoubtedly a classic but one I fear, like so many others, will fill the back shelves of forgotten libraries. Due in some part to the authors desire to create something, a wonderful piece of fiction for my part, that simply doesn't fit any one period nor any one given category. Nonetheless, this is a magnificent achievement.

After this showing I hope the too often overlooked Moore (the one with Steve before the M) will receive as much recognition as his good friend. He  deserves it.

Sadly though, such recognition will now be posthumous as Steve died earlier this year. I didn't know this sad fact at the time of writing this post and have left it as first written. The following is from 'Strange Attractor'....

We’re deeply sad to announce that Steve Moore, author of Somnium and a regular contributor to Strange Attractor Journal, passed away over the weekend, under a beautiful Spring full Moon.

Steve was a warm, wise and gentle man, with a surreal sense of humour and an astoundingly deep knowledge that covered history, the I Ching, forteana, magic, oriental mysticism, martial arts cinema, science fiction, underground comics and worlds more.

Steve was amongst the earliest members of the Gang of Fort, who launched Fortean Times magazine in the early 1970s, and the author of a great many influential comics and short stories for publications including 2000AD, Warrior, Dr Who magazine and, most recently, the Hercules series for Radical Publishing. At the time of his death he was working on a number of new projects, including his ongoing, privately published Tales of Telguuth and The Bumper Book of Magic, with his lifelong friend Alan Moore.


Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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