Friday, November 26, 2004

Ex Libris: The Undying Struggle

Let there be light!

There, now that we have a little illumination of my bookshelf, we can look at this... no, not that one, this one. The thin and dusty black book.

In this book contains one of the saddest stories of the fantasy world.

Which one is that, you may ask? Is it the death of Flint in Dragonlance? Is it Frodo and Bilbo's leavetaking of the Middle Realm? Is it the first publication of Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule? (Okay, I'm just kidding... okay, I'm not.)

No, what we have here is the failure of a midlist fantasy writer to finish what could have been one of the best series around due to lack of sales.

This is The Morigu by Mark C. Perry.

I first remember picking up Perry's The Morigu: The Dead at a local bookstore, one of my first forays into the realm of speculative fiction. At first look, it wasn't much. Printed by Questar/ Warner Publishing in 1990, it had a savage-looking cover art of a half-naked elf battling a dragon. And it was light, clocking in at 200-pages.

But then I looked at the back copy and I was blown away by its premise:

The mightest champions ever seen: the full armies of the elves, dwarfs, and humans. Beside them-- the hero Nial Trollsbane, sorceress Dermot, and Anlon the unicorn god. A war so dire that even Lord Death has chosen sides.

The greatest enemy they will ever know:demon princes, traitor gods, the Queen of Magic; and all the slavering hordes of goblins, trolls, undeads led by the last Dragon. Monsters who do not conquer-- only destroy, as they poison the wombs of women and seek to kill the very land itself.

Between them stands the Morigu: a creature made with the power of the Goddess, an elf possessed by the Earth's pain. The defender who must ease his agony with slaughter, the Morigu is Nature's passion, destined to soothe the shattered land with a sea of blood.

Despite being the second book in the series (the first being The Desecration), I dove in and found out that Perry doesn't hold back. In this fantasy world, there is war-- bloody attrition, massacres galore, last stands and the whole lot. And in this pseudo-Celtic world, the good guys are barely holding on against the bad guys.

I'm kind of hard put to make a summary of this book because for all of its thin size, a lot happens within its pages. But in essence, Margawt, the last of the Morigunamachamain, and an alliance of elves, dwarves and humans as well as gods and goddesses have to turn around a soul-scorching war that has almost destroyed their land. Likewise, the forces of good discover an evil plan to gut the ranks of its heroes. (And it's a good plan, actually.)

Sounds cheesy, I know. You may say: it's the same old story of Light versus Dark, Good versus Evil. It also uses the usual fantastical complement of dwarves, goblins, elves, vampires, and dragons. But Perry uses these to great effect to tell an epic story with an economical use of words and fast pacing. This is a book that most Big Fat Fantasy (BFF) authors could learn from as Perry does in half a page what BFF writers do in three chapters.

Anlon and Margawt burst through the door seconds behind their prey and so intent were they on the Outsider, they did not realize the demon was not alone, not until it was too late.

They waited, in full physical form, and the room vibrated from their power. They were three: Apkieran, Lord of the Undead; the Shadowlord, the most powerful of all the fomarians; and Fealoth, once God of Light, now the blackest traitor of all. They waited and sprang upon the unicorn and the Morigu before either truly knew what had happened.

Likewise, though Perry uses a lot of clichéd characters, he adds shadings to give depth to his varied cast. Granted, he uses tragedy to color his most powerful characters; it works however because it gives the readers something to connect to. (For example, the elfin High Prince Cucullin is unbeatable as he rides into battle naked except for his magic axe and armor. However, these magic items are actually the emblems of the one and only failure in his life: his inability to avenge his father.)

Prose-wise, Perry falters a bit as his language turns schizophrenically from workmanlike to high-flying epic. However, one can't fault Perry as his characters are too heroic in size to work with in such a small space as 200-pages. It is the same thing that powers another quibble of mine: the number of armies that eminently march, battle and get slaughtered here and there.

So, after all this overpowering praise, why do I say this is one of the saddest stories around? According to Perry, he was forced quit being a fantasy writer because of bad sales and later moved to Hollywood to become a scriptwriter (as Mark Leahy). In his wake, he left behind an epic tale left hanging (the Morigu is kidnapped by the bad guys, the Unicorn God is killed) and a slowly-growing following of believers.

So: what do you do if you know that a story you've come to love won't ever be finished?

1 comment:

Shawn said...

These two books... it is so strange that for us real fantasy fans; that is, those that aren't in love with the current romantic fantasy garbage brought on by Dragonlance "saga" influence, have to endure the tragedy of never seeing this epic tale finished. There aren't two better books out there, period. I don't understand M.Perry in this digital age, there are other ways to get this tale finished. So disappointing...