Friday, 31 March 2000

Alan Dean Foster: Spellsinger (1983)

Edition: Orbit, 1984
Review number: 467

My memory of reading Spellsinger the first time, in my early teens, has left me with an impression of a rather better novel than is really the case. It is enjoyable, but distinctly unchallenging. It has one of the more annoying central characters in a fantasy novel (and, indeed, series) and though it sets up some potentially interesting situations, doesn't really resolve them or even use the tension which could quite easily be generated (for example, between Jon-Tom's desire to return home and his enjoyment of the clearly more interesting and fulfilling adventures he is having).

The plot is a humorous version of that staple of the fantasy genre, the normal Earth person who suddenly finds themselves in another world, where there is magic and where they are expected to be a saviour hero. (The sort of humour involved can be seen in this example: the summoning magician is searching through other worlds for an engineer, and finds student lawyer Jonathan Thomas Merriweather, who works in his vacations as a caretaker with the job title "sanitary engineer".)

Spellsinger fits comfortably into the tradition of non-satiric humorous fantasy which uses the absurdities of the conventional gestures of the genre to generate laughter. It is not up to the standards of the best of these stories (examples such as de Camp and Pratt's Incomplete Enchanter), but is enjoyable.


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