Moers' Rumo story
, ostensibly the second in a series based in the fantastic world of Zamonia, is a friendly and captivating read. It's a thick book of about six hundred pages, but they go by fast --- when I was about five hundred and seventy through, I found myself contemplating the dwindling thickness on the right side of the spine with a tinge of sadness. Moers is an illustrator as well as a writer and his talent is displayed amply in the pages of the book --- carefully detailed drawings help you get a sense of the more ostentatiously hideous or bizarre characters in his world.
The book centers around Rumo, a "Wolperting," and his adventures from the day he's born to the day he achieves his heroic quest, which is to follow his "Silver Thread" to its end. The story is served up as pretty straight forward fantasy, without much in the way of moral conflicts or reflections on the "real" world. There are no conflicts, past or coming, with humans in any form, and most characters are, in some sense, either good or evil, without anything in between to encourage the reader to indulge in any soul searching about what the true nature of moral responsibility is. It's a fairy tale that rarely deviates from its desire to wrap everything up in a fairy tale ending.
What got me the most about the book was the exhaustive nature of Moers' story telling. Every landscape Rumo wanders through, every weapon he uses, every enemy he fights, and every organ he dismembers or is sprayed with the blood or bile of, is listed and labeled carefully. Where the names might not convey the nature of the being, a simple drawing finishes the job. Alongside the drawings and the invention of monikers for everything, Moers dabbles in cogitations on Death, Love, Evil, Knowledge and other sundry topics, though without ever taking more than a gentle swipe at the subject, rather as one would run a hot butter knife health-consciouly over a slab of butter to get the merest teaspoonsful, instead of finishing the entire block with by scooping out shovelfuls of it. What is more interesting is the matter-of-fact way in which Moers, and his characters, treat these issues -- many things in the novel simply Are, and taken as such, without any analysis to slow the characters' lives down. Moers slyly calls this attitude of his characters into question at the very end, through characters who take matter-of-factness to a rather amusing extreme.
Sometimes the attention to detail can meander into a stultifying style, something I last felt when reading the description of each new circle of Hell in the Inferno
. Yes, people are wretched here, we get it, I would have liked to say to Dante, can we move on? But you know that moving on is precisely what Dante, and Moers, don't want you to do. You have chosen to be in this world, and you have to stick with it till the end. I guess this is also what Rowlings did with the soap opera minutiae of the Gryffindor teenagers' lives but somehow, Moers' exhaustiveness is different. It is like a charming defect, one that grows rather than grates on you. In fact when you realize that none of the characters (except a few that immediately meet a gruesome end at the very beginning) in Rumo
are expected to behave in ways that are remotely human, contra,
say, Rowlings, Tolkien, Pratchett, Pullman, Herbert, Clarke and Asimov, among others, you encounter the unexpected pleasure of not having to relate to the characters any more than you did with the animals in Aesop's Fables or Andersen's tales.Rumo
is a satisfying story of heroism, that leaves open the question of who true heroes are, and what combination of their destiny, talents and environments leads them to the successful ends of their heroic quests. Moers playful and yet weighty style is something I'm looking forward to reading more in the first of his Zamonia series, The Thirteen and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear