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The Vorrh Hardcover – 21 May 2015

3.6 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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  • The Erstwhile: Book Two in the Vorrh Trilogy
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Coronet (21 May 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1473606616
  • ISBN-13: 978-1473606616
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 4.2 x 24.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 259,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

I am glad to have the book as a companion on my own dark quest. (Tom Waits)

Catling's novel reads like a long-lost classic of Decadent or Symbolist literature, with that same sense of timelessness. It's peculiar, wildly imaginative, unafraid to transgress and get lost, and is unlike anything I've ever read. (Jeff VanderMeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy)

Darkly imaginative. . . . Packed with striking images . . . real beauty and power. (Kirkus)

One of the most original works of visionary fiction since Mervyn Peake. (Michael Moorcock The Guardian)

This is fine stuff. Like the best fantasy writers Catling succeeds in creating a compelling and believable parallel dimension. (Daily Mail)

Although comparisons to Michael Moorcock and Mervyn Peake will inevitably be drawn, The Vorrh offers something more...It reminded me of Odilon Redon: a combination of the luminous, the luxurious, monstrous flora and dark wit. (Stuart Kelly TLS)

The English language has given birth to some great works of unbounded vision and imagination, and here is another one... It's a very sophisticated and subtle exploration of the decadent, primitive and the mythical. Many books are said to be like nothing else, and aren't, but Brian Catling's really is. (Philip Pullman)

I really loved Brian Catling's The Vorrh. It's a hot storm of a novel bursting with art and history, sex and nature. A visionary fantasy epic that is incredibly fun to read. Wildly different, but no less remarkable. (Max Porter The Guardian)

Book Description

Prepare to lose yourself in the heady, mythical expanse of the Vorrh.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I finished reading the Vorrh early this morning. It is a beautifully written novel, full of compelling imagery and deep insight; the level of detail from facial expressions that are so clearly described that you can mimic them whilst reading, to historical references like the tarred power cable attached to one of Edison's lights lured me in and kept me utterly engaged. The story itself is strange and weird yet utterly enjoyable and ultimately very satisfying.

There's a defiantly steampunk feel to the novel, with a bizarre (yet real) handgun ([...]), so powerful it can split a man in two, a bow that has a symbiotic bond with its carrier and strange electrical / photographic machines that can rewire the brain -- all set across multiple timeframes and couched in the dying embers of empire. The vision of the bakelite robot servants still lingers with me and the book is heaving with strange mechanical contraptions.

This is a phenomenal piece of work with a vast scope and it never feels engineered or contrived -- you are left with the sense that this world, this forest really exists somewhere and can be reached, if only you could remember where it is...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It’s the early twentieth century. Essenwald, a European city, has been imported piece by piece to ‘the Dark Continent’ and reassembled on the edge of the Vorrh, a limitless, memory-sucking, sentient forest.

Brian Catling’s 500-page novel takes us inside the city and the forest via various sets of characters: the real-life surrealist poet Raymond Roussel; a flighty young woman called Ghertrude Eloise Tulp; a Cyclops raised in a cellar by robots made of Bakelite; an army officer named Williams who carries a bow made of human flesh and who is on some kind of mystical journey; Tsungali, an assassin hunting Williams. A semi-imagined life story of the photographer Edward Muybridge is also chopped up and thrown into the narrative soup.

It’s a work of rich, perhaps over-rich, imagination, often reading like a version of ‘Locus Solus’, Roussel’s ignored novel about an inventor’s country estate and his bizarre machines. There are a huge number of fascinating ideas running through it; unsurprisingly, given Catling’s main vocation as an artist, sight and perception are the dominant leitmotifs.

It’s not much of a novel, to be honest. Too many of its mysteries are never explained. The narratives and themes don’t cohere.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Every so often, a book comes along that defies genre. 'No Country for Old Men' is more than a thriller or a western. 'The Big Sleep' is more than a crime novel. And what exactly is 'The Catcher in the Rye'? Brian Catling's masterful 'The Vorrh' is another such book. This is not just another Fantasy. There are remnants of the Western in there, Adventure, Crime, Romance. And still, it transcends these genres as well. It is simply 'The Vorrh' and is a much better book because of that.

Of course, due to the supernatural themes and the slight eccentricities of some of the characters, it will inevitably go down as a Fantasy novel. This isn't entirely wrong, nor is it a black mark against the book, indeed, it's a genre that hold some weight. 'The Vorrh' is, however, a new breed of Fantasy. Catling creates a world of wonder and imbues it with Cormac McCarthy-esque violence and a tension that is entirely it's own. Again, it is simply 'The Vorrh'.

I enjoyed the book greatly, from the richness of the language to the idiosyncrasies of the alternate world that had been created. There were times I feared that there were a few too many characters, but, as I read on, I realised just how necessary they all were. There were a few characters I would have liked to have seen slightly more of, but, again I soon realised, that that would have ruined the mystery surrounding them.

Put simply, 'The Vorrh' is a book that is hard to define owing mainly to its stark originality. If you're looking for a book where the language is rich and the storytelling is masterful, look no further. And, in this world where there are a few too many shades of grey, who isn't looking for that?
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Format: Hardcover
Like many others, I hate to give up on a book, especially one lauded by our most imaginative writers but this book defeated me. The endless descriptions weigh down any momentum or plot in the novel. By page 110 I didn't care about a single character and picking up the novel to plough on felt like a dutiful return to homework rather than being swept up in a gripping, imaginative tour de force that I had hoped for.
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Format: Hardcover
The Vorrh is one of the best samples of fantasy fiction that has been written in the last decades. Moreover, it is a book that walks skillfully across genres, like only very good literature can do. It is as much fantasy as it is historical fiction and steampunk, playing all along with Jungian archetypes. The Bowman, one of the protagonists-narrators is such a one. The eye, and everything related to that (blindness, cyclopes, photography and much more), is another. More protagonists include Sir William Gull, one of Queen Victoria's personal doctors and the one who first understood and named anorexia nervosa, Eadweard Muybridge and his famous zoopraxiscope and Raymond Roussel, the author who influenced the Oulipo and the surrealists.

It is from Roussel's novel Impressions of Africa that the Vorrh takes its name. Brian Catling's Vorrh is a vast, unmapped territory with not easily defined forms of existence and irreversible effects to whoever goes too deep or stays inside for too long. All the themes of the coloniser and colonised are revisited but in a new way, one of an author that has been exposed to and digested postcolonial rhetorics; this has a very interesting effect that feels at the same time recognisable and entirely new.

The Vorrh is also a metaphor for the savage, for the woman and the unknown. But most importantly it is a metaphor for reading. It is dense and intense and it will have an irrevocable effect on the reader, same as the forest has to those who dare enter its core. I cannot recommend it enough.
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