I have a feeling that Lord Foul’s Bane may come as a surprise to many readers. It’s on the ‘fantasy’ shelf, and fantastical things do occur, but this isn’t meant to be how fantasy works. At least, not these days.
Some history is in order. Lord Foul’s Bane is one of the most important books in the history of the genre. It came out in the epochal year of 1977 – in October, I think. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons had been released in stages through the year, with the Monster Manual released sometime that autumn so far as I can make out. Tolkien fans would have been at fever-pitch with the long-awaited release of The Silmarillion in September. In January that year, Terry Brooks had released his own shameless rip-off loving homage to Tolkien. Up until then, fantasy was mostly the soft fringes of science fiction, itself already a niche genre. Pern and Earthsea were established, but otherwise it was a matter of writers like Vance, Moorcock and Leiber, who did not exactly write for the masses. Anne Rice and Stephen King were just getting started, but keeping themselves carefully distant from the ‘fantasy’ label, despite their content. Rice, King, Brooks and Donaldson were all early representatives of the Boomer generation, a generation that had grown up with Tolkien and Lewis, and that in 1977 were just beginning to put their stamp on the genre they had inherited.
What happened next is obvious. Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara became the first fantasy novel to make the NYT’s bestseller list. The Silmarillion reached #1 at the beginning of October and stayed there until the middle of March 1978. AD&D was a cult success, and went on to raise up a generation of new fantasy fans. Even The Book of Merlyn made it to the list, the long-belated fifth novel of T.H. White’s old Once and Future King tetralogy. And Donaldson went on to sell 10 million copies of his first two fantasy trilogies. Fantasy went from being a strange half-genre of isolated works to a full functioning world of its own – and a profitable world too.
Inventory and Standard Orthography
Cargnèt has, for its location, a relatively but not incongruously large phonemic inventory. It has the voiceless stops /p t k/, and the voiced stops /b d g/ – the coronal stops are typically dental. It has a large fricative inventory: /f v θ s z ʃ ʒ h/ – the interdental stop is unmarked for voiced, and is often voiced intervocalically, although conservative and careful speech keeps it voiceless throughout. The glottal fricative is often in practice fronted, sometimes as far as velar, and may be voiced. In addition, there are four affricates: /ts dz tʃ dʒ/. There are three nasals: /m n ɲ/ – these are not distinguished in coda position, where they are typically realised as velar when utterance-final or followed by a word beginning in a vowel or semivowel, and otherwise assimilate to the place of articulation of the following consonant. In the standard form of the language, there are a further three sonorants: /l λ ɾ/ – the palatal lateral is in fact closer to alveopalatal, or even palatalized alveolar, while the rhotic may in some cases be trilled, particularly in intervocalic syllabic onsets. Finally among the consonants, there are two approximants: /w j/.
Unlike many nearby languages, Cargnèt has no phonemic gemination. However, word-final voiceless stops may in practice be realised as geminates when followed by word beginning with a vowel or semivowel. Conversely, word-final voiced stops in these situations may be realised as fricatives or affricates.
The problem with The Last Continent is that it’s a fantastically funny, if rather light, novella about the Faculty of Unseen University.
This is a problem because it is actually a novel about Rincewind.
Pratchett often does this thing where his books are split between different plotlines that have little or nothing to do with one another. But part of the genius of Pratchett is the way he’s able to weave his plotlines together to make them feel as though they do belong together.
He does not do this here.
As you may have noticed, I’ve been reading Discworld again. All of it. In (mostly) order.
At this point, I’m now halfway through, in that I’ve (re-)read 20 books of a total of 40. Now, technically I haven’t read the first 20: I’ve read the first 19, and then #21, because nothing is ever simple with me. (I read and reviewed Hogfather before I had the idea of this complete re-read project, and I’m not sure about re-reading it again. I’ve decided that I do want to re-read it as part of this project, and I was toying with reading it for Christmas, but that didn’t happen. So now I don’t know whether I’ll be reading it next, or whether I’ll maybe leave it for next Christmas instead). And maybe
I should shamelessly copy Nathan’s halfway roundup halfway through is a good time for a bit of reflection.