Aspects by John M. Ford (book review).

June 20, 2022 | By | Reply More

While most people look forward to retirement, a pension and the hope that they will be able to do what they want without an employer always demanding more, a few don’t even consider the prospect of retirement. It is not surprising then that there are those who leave behind unfinished work when they die.

Most will have heard of Shubert’s ‘Unfinished Symphony’. Writers are the same, frequently leaving behind unfinished work. The Tolkien Estate has done well from J.R.R.’s unfinished work and the notes he left. Some, such as David Gemmell, had enough in the form of notes for his wife, Stella, to complete the ‘Troy Trilogy’. A number of other writers have tried to complete Charles Dickens’ ‘The Mystery Of Edwin Drood’. John M. Ford died in 2006 leaving behind more than four hundred pages of the project he had been working on. ‘Aspects’ is the first publication of that material.

Ford was a very fine writer with a very creative imagination. In ‘Aspects’, he has created a world that has many aspects similar to our own and has reached a level of civilisation equivalent to the Industrial Revolution. Ironways (railways) are beginning to make inroads into the more remote parts of the world. The focus is on the Republic of Lescoray. They got rid of the monarchy some time ago and are governed by a Parliament. The upper house is made up from hereditary Corons. There is a Commons but, so far, it has only had a casual mention. The religion is belief in the Goddess and the Holy Book shows great similarity to a pack of Tarot cards. The readings of this have some veracity as this is a world where there are sorcerers. Talent is tied up with magic.

The action opens with a duel, giving an idea of the honour structure of the society. It introduces us to Coron Varic, who at this point is not a particularly sympathetic character. He has an arrogance that comes with the aristocracy about him. He is also a politician.

Coron Lady Longlight has travelled to the capital to put a petition before parliament for help with the bandits causing problems in her Coronage. Hers is one of the regions at the edge of the country where the Ironways have yet to penetrate. She fails, then misses her train due to the press of people trying to get away for the Equinox holiday. Varic comes to her aid and he and his friend, Silvern, persuade her to spend the holiday at Strange House, where she meets most of the other important members of the cast.

This book was intended to be the first of a sequence and it is very frustrating that there is no more of what was beginning to take shape as an engaging epic. A lot of thought has gone into the background of this world with an ancient empire that has long ago crumbled but nevertheless left its mark, much like the Romans in our reality. Much of ‘Aspects’ is an introduction to the world and the characters, the politics and the society, their mores, fashion and the way the magic seeps into all aspects of it. There are very few hints as to the direction Ford intended the novel to take, a shame because it is beginning to shape in to a tour de force. The only indications are a series of sonnets intended to begin each section.

The book is worth reading for the skill of portraying character and setting and allowing the reader a complete immersion into an alien world.

Pauline Morgan

June 2022

(pub: TOR, 2022. 471 page hardback. Price: $26.99 (US), $35.99 (CAN), £22.25 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-250-26903-4)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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