Saturday, April 28, 2007

Geraldine Harris

It seems my main blog site might be about to give up the ghost, as the site is down more than up these days. I'll be transferring lots of posts over to my other blogs from that one. This is one of those.

I didn't know that merryone was going to start a discussion about what makes a novel sell, nor did I know gracepub was going to discuss friendship. But the two discussions seem to fit in nicely with my thoughts this week about wanting to introduce some of my friends to this community.

Geraldine Harris is not a name most readers here will recognise, I think. I've heard some years back that her series The Seven Citadels faces some publisher disputes (she's one of the two to which I was referring in my comment at merryone's), but I can't find much information online about that dispute. I don't know if it is privacy issues or what, but it seems information about any dispute is kept rather quiet (though I see sly side remarks here and there). The gist of it, from what I heard years back, is that there is some legalese that prevents the books being distributed in the US. I am not sure how accurate that is, as it was just word of mouth information, but if it is true, it is a real pity. This story makes my list of top five favorite fiction pieces of all times. The series is that good.

The story of Kerish-lo-Taan, Prince of the Godborn, is a compelling one. His journey keeps the reader engaged, and watching the spoiled-rich-kid type learn to negotiate his way in life is always fun. Kerish does learn to negotiate, eventually. His relationship with his brother Forollkin provides many very poignant moments in the book, for me. Each of the seven gates builds up tension, and creates a desire in the reader to know what is coming next, and to see Kerish succeed in his quest.

But for me, it is the Gidjabolgo story that is most moving. I suppose I am a sucker for the little monster in any story. I love Gollum, and Frankenstein... so Gidjabolgo was set to steal the show for me, I guess. He is a very well-written character. Indeed, I feel that all of Harris's characters are well-written. I love the complexity to them. Each has rough edges (not in the writing, but in their person). Seeing them work their way through the tasks they meet in life, indeed walking beside them as they do so, joining in the struggle... that's been one of the great joys of my reading life.

Harris is seldom mentioned in the same breath as the names of fantasy's "greats," such as Tolkien or LeGuin. At least, she is not mentioned in connection with them by many people besides me. But I mention her not only in connection, but at the top of that list.

Her books can still be bought second hand, though The Seven Citadels is now out of print. At one period of time, they were rather costly to lay hold of. Trick Falls pointed out to me a few months ago that Amazon had them for a few cents per book (4 books in the series). I bought several sets at about 25¢ per book. I like to keep copies of the series around to give as gifts to people who I think will like it. These that I found at Amazon are old library copies, and are in very good condition. I've given a set to my nephew, managed to complete a set for my godchildren, and given 2 sets to friends, all since October. It is one series of books that I am always eager to pass along to other friends. It's a rich complex narrative, thoughtful -- perhaps even contemplative -- and certainly writing that pulls you in.

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