By Mary Gentle

Time and again I try to read something by Mary Gentle. Her Usenet persona is so engaging — even though also a little bit tactless and clowning — that I figure her books must be great. And others do think them great,
So there must be good stuff in them.

  • Title: Grunts
  • Pages: 464
  • Published: 1995 (1992)
  • Publisher: Roc/li>

So far, I’ve tried Ash and Scholars and Soldiers. I stopped reading Ash about where the young heroine gets pissed on by her future husband — literally. I tried a few sneak peeks in later parts (Ash is in four parts because the US publishers thought it was a bit too fat; us Europeans get it in one hefty volume), but couldn’t get the thread back. Scholars and Soldiers was slightly more grabbing, but none of the people appealed even a little bit to me, and, well, if I read a book for the language alone, I’ll read Wodehouse.

So my hopes weren’t too sanguine when Irina came home from a book buying spree with a second-hand copy of Grunts. Still, one wants to do the decent thing, so I gave it a try.

Grunts is the proof that Mary Gentle can do different kinds of books, even though her writing style is always immediately recognizable. Grunts is a bit ‘Let’s take Two Towers, and invert a few things, add some ‘realistic’ gore, and, hey — instant slapstick. The idea is not too be-whiskered, seen from the right angle, I think.

But I didn’t find it very funny, not even the famous Orcball game…

Perhaps I simply do not belong to the class of readers who appreciate something good when they read it, maybe I belong to the class of readers who want their mind-candy sweet instead.
But I often think when reading reviews on Emerald City that people who prefer ‘realistic’ literature — even when it’s SF (or fantasy, but that almost never qualifies) do so because it gives them a feeling of superiority: they are the people who go about with their eyes and mind wide open, because they recognize how bad everything is. Because, if it ain’t bad, it ain’t realistic, innit?

I think that C19 definition of ‘realistic’ out-dated baloney, to tell the truth. There’s fun, too in life, and love, and that’s just as realistic as all the starkness, and perhaps even more.

Anyway, no more Mary Gentle for me.