By D. F. Lewis
Published by Inkermen Press, 2010.
D. F. Lewis is perhaps most famous for his Nemonymous collections, a remarkable series of books featuring many major horror writers. A recipient of a British Fantasy Society award, he has had over 1500 short stories published, Weirdtongue is his first novella. As he states on his website his main aim is “writing fiction creatively beyond his own experience”.
This is the part of the review where I would normally summarise the plot. Breaking it down to its major components without any spoilers, I wont be doing that here. Not that there isn’t a plot, there is, it’s just that attempting to describe it would be like attempting to juggle jelly. Maybe I should concentrate on the cast of characters. Folk like Padgett Weggs, Feemy Fitzworth, Modal Morales or the main player Gregory Mummerset, a remarkable cast who in some equally remarkable locations tease the reader into the story but again remain virtually indescribable.
But lets not worry too much about plot or character here, this book is all about words and more specifically the creative power of words, “vexed texture of text” as the author puts it. “A circus of wild wordplay” ensues and what a circus it is. It’s akin to walking in a foggy landscape, every now and then a familiar shape appears which one can recognise, then other shapes appear which may or may not be what they seem and then there are others which remain completely unrecognisable. Here is a typical example, “even single neologisms from his mouth became separate believable dictionaries of semantic force”. Now I think I know what that means but don’t ask me to explain it. Have you ever laid back and watched the clouds with a friend, every know and then you see a shape but you find your friend sees something different. The words in this novella are like those clouds, forming indistinct patterns which occasionally create powerful resonances with the reader but often just drift away.
Still, this is no mere exercise in language or confusing the reader. If you want that read Bob Dylan’s Tarantula, a stream of consciousness, an impenetrable wall of prose which left me baffled. Weirdtongue is not like that, it tests the reader (and I was often found wanting) but rewards with some remarkable imagery, worthy of a Terry Gilliam film. Often I found myself riding a wave of words, never quite in control but just enjoying the ride. Above all though Lewis has created something original, social commentary, jokes, pathos, fantastical worlds, all through the power of words and it stands out like a beacon in the sea of post apocalyptic, zombie repetitiveness. It’s a book that will repay further exploration of its hidden depths, just be prepared to put a little effort into that journey….oh, and take a dictionary.
Rating 4 out of 5