The Gnole by Alan Aldridge
14 January 2003


Not bad, for a fantasy. I am pleased to see that the ecological venting used fantastical characters, so that not once did an animal need to speak. There's something intrinsically revolting about talking animals.

But none of those here. Fungle the gnole is a sweet little creature and I was able to accept the odd bit of pompous language in order to follow his fortunes. His friends, a gnome and another gnole, are equally plausible as characters. They have warm and interesting relationships, and it was for them that I kept reading, not for the sake of the occasionally crass storyline. (In brief, Fungle is sent by the God of Forests to destroy an evil stone called Baphomet.)

It got a bit more interesting after Fungle was captured by humans. Obviously there's a bit of self-interest there. The best part of the whole book, though, would have to be his escape from the city with the "grimawkins" - essentially goblin-like hoods:

A white Lincoln Continental shot into an intersection, slewed around a corner, and accelerated, fishtailing before righting itself. A reek of burned rubber filled the air.
A tinted power window whined down and a cloud of cigarette smoke billowed out. A muscular, spike-braceleted arm tossed a full can of Rolling Rock beer like a grenade. The Lincoln screeched to a halt. The can arced ahead of the Lincoln to explode foamy white across a metal sign that read KEEP OUR CITY CLEAN!
... The Lincoln jinked right toward the curb. Brake lights flashed as the rear end screamed past the front. Laughter from the driver's seat. "They don't make 'em like dis in Japan!"
"Detroit iron!"
"You know dat, Skat."
"Rolling stock!"
"Absolooly, Skat."
"Mean machines! Steals on wheels! Motah-city madness!"
"Shut up, Skat."
The Lincoln leaned into a hard right and accelerated. It passed poor unarmed Charlie Auerbach trying to flag it down from the sidewalk.
"What's his problem?"
The driver's window slid down. "Hey, man! Steal y'own damn' car!"
"Hey, Ali, Ali! Whyntcha give our frien' a liddle R an' R?"
"Comin' up, Skat!" Ali lobbed a Rolling Rock grenade.
The Lincoln slammed to a halt. Three heads turned to look out the back windshield. The ballistic beer can arced down and exploded on the sidewalk a few feet from the guard.
... Silence.
Pshhhh! "Anybody wanna nudda beeyah?"
Lock your doors, hide your wallets, send your daughters out of town. The grimawkins have arrived.
I just love the grimawkins. And the "metrognomes", sewer-dwelling, irreverant, fun-loving creatures who also aid Fungle's escape. And Aldridge's representation of a Tennessee accent: "You don't lak that, boy?... Whats matter, boy, huh? Your hey-ud still hurtin' you?... You scairt a theeyis?"

In fact, it would seem that the whole evil-stone bit is superfluous, except that Fungle needs a life to escape back to. But the two sections don't fit together very easily, so perhaps it would have been better to give Fungle a normal task to return to. Like rescuing his family, for instance. I'm far more interested in their welfare than in the evil-stone thing. The story actually closes on Fungle setting off to find his family (with a few platitudes about how humans aren't that bad, really), leaving me anxious and dissatisfied and actually not terribly concerned about the future of Baphomet.

Sequel, please?


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