Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Who's Afraid of Beowulf?

I was, perhaps, a little unkind to Tom Holt and “Who’s Afraid of Beowulf” a week or so ago on Facebook when I posted the following:

I would like to retract part of what I said. Because first of all the Dounreay site in Scotland was not a nuclear power station, but rather two stations, one used to develop fast breeder reactors and the other for submarine reactor testing. Second of all, because Dounreay didn’t appear all that much in “Who’s Afraid of Beowulf.”

The rest, well, it pretty much stands.

Although I liked WAOB more than I thought I would. Or at least I think I do.
I do know I like this passage:

"I wish you all didn’t have to go,” [Hildy] said. “There’s so much you haven’t seen, so much you could do. We need you in the twentieth century.”

“I doubt it,” said Arvarodd. “There aren’t any more wolves to kill or sorcerers to be overthrown, and I think we’d just cause a lot of confusion.”

“Let’s face it,” said Brynjolf, “if it hadn’t been for you, Vel-Hilda, I don’t know what would have happened.”

Hildy blushed. “I didn’t do much,” she said.

“No one ever does,” said Arvarodd, smiling. “What are the deeds of heroes, except a few frightened people doing the best they can in the circumstances? Sigurd had no trouble at all killing the dragon; it was a very old dragon, and its eyesight was starting to do./ If he’d waited another couple of weeks, it would have died of old age.”

“Or take Beowulf,” said Brynjolf. “Weedy little bloke, got sand kicked in his face on the beach as often as not. But he just happened to be in the right place at the right time. It’s not who you are that matters, it’s what you do.”

“No said Arvarodd, “you’re wrong there. It’s not what you do, it’s who you are.”

With its mixed up, relativist moral, this passage sums up the book for me.

I know fantasy requires a good suspension of belief. This book required a bit too much suspension. It’s hard to believe a group of people could pop out of the ground after 1,200 years and adapt to society so quickly. Holt addresses this problem in “Flying Dutch” by having his immortals really live in that time, revisiting society once every seven years. This hapless group of Vikings didn’t have that luxury. And it’s probably a good thing, as the Evil Genius sorcerer mentioned here could have wiped them out easily, except when it came down to it, he didn’t want to. He just wanted to play a board game.

So no big battles. Not even any real psych9ological battles. The opposing sides meet, clack swords a few times, and then, well, they all go to Valhalla. I mean, it’s okay, but not really all that satisfying.

No comments: