7 January 2007

Ben Okri, Astonishing the Gods, 1995

Depending on whether a mainstream fiction reader also reads any fantasy at all, that reader could either agree that Astonishing the Gods is “a modern day classic” or, if not fooled by pull-quotes so easily, astonishingly bad. I certainly defer to the latter; what starts out as a quest for an understanding of invisibility set on an invisible island in an invisible city (which is somehow also made of stone, or fire, or is it water?) then immediately descends into a clichéd fantasy of bridges and riddles, randomly altered states, know-it-all spirit guides and universal laws. Formless, vague, boring, pedantic and ultimately completely pointless, there must be mountains of this kind of thing deservedly sitting unread in slush piles the world over, but this is by Ben Okri so it gets published, although I honestly can't see why. I shall inevitably give him another chance with one of his slightly-more-down-to-earth works, but this was absolutely not the best place to begin reading Ben Okri.  PY


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