Monday, December 26, 2011
P. C. Hodgell
My absolute favorite book, other than Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is called Godstalk* by PC Hodgell. I have no recollection where I got it, but I know that I loaned it to a friend and didn't get it back for at least a year. Mine is a very beat up Berkley edition from 1983. I have no idea how many times I've read it, and I can't believe it's not more well known.
Her world building includes one of the concepts that I remember from tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Fritz Leiber, that gods exist because of belief in same, and must have followers to continue. This idea continues most recently in Neil Gaiman's American Gods.
I loved that this book had a female protagonist, a girl with no memory. She comes to a city called Tai-Tastigon and gets taken in by an innkeeper. Then she has adventures around the city, which has various organizations that of course include a thieves guild. Magic exists, and gods and other dimensions too. It's all fascinating stuff.
From Chapter 1, Jame (short for Jamethiel) staggers around the city on its most dangerous night:
Her legs betrayed her, and she went down, too spent to remember her bad arm until she tried to break her fall with it. Pain dazed her, spiraled her senses toward darkness. "Don't go," she heard someone cry. "Don't leave me alone, not again!" Yes, it was her voice, but this time no one answered. For a moment she clung to the image of that empty hallway, the last of her old home that she would ever see. Then it too slipped away.
The cobbles beneath her hand were hard and cold, glazed with ice from the bitter rain that had begun to fall. She lifted her face to it. It seemed to wash away everything - icy street, shuttered windows, even, at last, itself. Jame let them all go. Numbly, like a sleepwalker, she rose and stumbled on, beyond guilt and grief at last, moving blindly forward until the night swallowed all.
*Which isn't in print any more, you have to either buy a used copy or as part of an omnibus (also out of print) or reissue.