Saturday, November 21, 2020

Book Review: The Cloud Walker

Book Review: 'The Cloud Walker' by Edmund Cooper

5 / 5 Stars

'The Cloud Walker' (216 pp) was published by Ballantine Books in April, 1973. The striking cover illustration is by John Berkey.

I first read 'The Cloud Walker' in 1973, and at the time I thought it was a great book. How well does it hold up when read a second time, 47 years later ?

Quite well, in fact.

The novel is set several centuries after two consecutive nuclear wars have returned civilization, and the British isles in particular, to a medieval existence. In Britain, the Luddite Church serves as the national authority and is deferred to by the seigneurs who have carved the island into their personal fiefdoms. 

Believing technological progress to be responsible for the downfall of the First and Second eras of Man, the Church views the construction of machines as sinful. Any man who violates the teachings of the holy Church and its precepts is targeted for extirpation.

In the seigneur of Arundel, young Keiron Joinerson is apprenticed to the painter, Master Hobart. Keiron's talent promises him a bright future as a portraitist to the landed gentry. But Keiron's real ambition is heretical: he wants to fly.

With the aid of a crumbing book printed in the days of the First Men, Keiron begins experimenting with the construction of hot-air balloons. Well aware of the Church's proscriptions, he hopes to evade inquiry by disguising his efforts as a form of elaborate toy-making. But even as he progresses in his understanding of flight and flying machines, Keiron (mockingly referred to as 'Keiron head-in-the-air' by his fellow villagers) draws the unwelcome scrutiny of the Church........and with it, the likelihood of being burned at the stake........

Of the three or four novels by Edmund Cooper (1925 - 1982) that I have read, 'The Cloud Walker' is his best and does much within its small span of only 216 pages. 

Cooper does a number of things right here. The plot is straightforward, and the chapters short and to the point. The narrative is suffused with a foreboding atmosphere, one derived from the ever-present threat posed to the main character and his allies of condemnation, and execution, by the Luddite Church. For dialogue and exposition, Cooper skillfully uses a prose style that evokes the mind-set and beliefs of a medieval-era England without being so stylized as to be opaque. And by introducing a major plot alteration at the novel's mid-way point, the story remains engrossing right until the very last page.

Summing up, 'The Cloud Walker' not only is the best of Cooper's sci-fi works, but among the best sci-fi novels of the 70s. This novel is well worth searching out. I note that while the mass market paperback version is steadily increasing in price, the 'Edmund Cooper SF Gateway Omnibus', which includes 'The Cloud Walker' as one of its three titles, remains affordable.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Thorgal: The Archers, part Two

Thorgal: The Archers
By Van Hamme and Rosinski
Part Two

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Thorgal: The Archers, Part One

Thorgal: The Archers
By Van Hamme and Rosinski
Part One

First published in 1985 as 'Thorgal: Les Archers', this English translation was issued in 1986 by The Donning Company. Printed to the same dimensions as the European versions of Thorgal, on glossy paper with very good color separations, it's a nice book.

'The Archers' features some fine artwork from Grzegorz Rosinski, and a plot from Jean Van Hamme that showcases one of the more sadistic archery contests I've ever encountered......along with double-crossing bandits, for good measure.

I'll be posting this story in two parts.