WIR #32: Lud-In-The-Mist

Hope MirrleesLud-in-the-Mist was Helen Hope Mirrlees' only fantasy novel (published in 1926) and it is, by far, one of the best such novels I have ever read. I am amazed that, as Michael Swanwick says, "Lud-In-The-Mist is simultaneously one of the least known and most influential of modern fantasies." One of the least known? How can this be? This novel is worthy of far more applause and adoration than being buried in virtual anonymity.

Wrote Neil Gaiman, as I quoted in my earlier post on this novel, "The writing is elegant, supple, effective and haunting: the author demands a great deal from her readers, which she repays many times over . . . a little golden miracle of a book." The repayment Mirrlees gives her readers is worth many times more than the cost of the book itself. It is, as the old cliché goes, priceless.

Early in the book are planted little clues, not quite foreshadows, of things to come, and when Mirrlees springs them upon you, you can't help but scream with joy.

Lud-In-The-MistThe ending is no less satisfactory, too. I didn't want the story to end, but end it did, as all books do.

It is plainly obvious why this book would become so influential among those who know of it and have read it. The "detective story" part of the tale to which Neil Gaiman referred was handled masterfully. I can easily see myself rereading this book again and again in years to come. I can also see this book having an influence upon my own writing, to be honest, and I hope that I can do as well the things Mirrlees did that I admire so much.

My only complaint has to do not with the novel itself, but with Cold Spring Press (they appear to be a small press with no web presence), the publisher of this particular volume. It is hideously typeset, with elipses (...) breaking between two lines, and paragraphs, which have been broken with poetry verse set as block quotes, whose continuing lines are set as if they were new paragraphs. There are many typographical errors, as well. Simon and Schuster, a much larger publisher, served as the distributor of this book, and, not surprisingly, they obviously had no say or quality control over the many typesetting faux pas that beset this masterpiece.

2 comment(s):

tyrionfrost said...
December 30, 2009 3:32 AM

Hi there, thanks for this review. It really is one of the least known..yet most influential, which is so strange. For me, it's one of my most..if not the most..favorite book I've ever read. Theres something about it that's so magical..and special.

You can see my review of it here, if interested/bored ;P

http://tyrionfrost.wordpress.com/2009/12/18/lud-in-the-mist-by-hope-mirrlees/

It's truly a gem.

g d townshende said...
December 30, 2009 2:41 PM

Yes, it is, Tyrion. I think it compares to Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter and The Charwoman's Shadow.

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