Monday, September 20, 2010

Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land



by John Crowley (2005)

Lord Byron never wrote a novel - although there's reference in a letter to him starting one and then tossing it in the fire. John Crowley has written that unwritten novel (called "The Evening Land") in accurate and accessible Byronic-style. Background info to enrich subtleties of the Evening Land are provided by annotations written Byron's daughter, Ada Lovelace (a familiar character to readers of Gibson/Sterling's Difference Engine, which also features a quite different Byron, as well as to Steampunkania). Both texts are in turn supported by a third string - contemporary e-mails and letters detailing the discovery and deciphering of the novel (Ada had put it in a cipher) and further historical and academic insight Byron and Ada.

Crowley's prose is fluid and strong and the chapters jump from string to string without ever lingering too long. Each string has a very distinct period voice yet Crowley keeps you jumping from one to the other without disorientation.

My only complaint is that I felt that the last chapter was pointless, following the last chapter of "The Evening Land" with the modern-day introduction to the first-printing of the Evening Land, which I felt simply put all the aforementioned historical and academic info you'd picked up throughout the book in one place.

This is the first piece by Crowley I've read and I confess I see why his reputation is well deserved. I look forward to grabbing a copy of Little, Big soonish.

-d.d.

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