Eight books that won the Immerse or Die contest. See why they won! But the deal is almost over...
I'm going to start by pointing out that I have a soft spot for Sabriel, the first book in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series. Clariel, which I just finished, is a prequel to the series and I'll get right to "reviewing" the book after I explain why I have a soft spot.
Many years ago (1997) my first novel came out and I did my first reading at Bastion Books in Nanaimo, British Columbia. When I was finished, Thora, the bookstore owner, said, "I want to give you a book as a thank you." And she handed Sabriel to me (bookstore owners seem to have an ESP when it comes to choosing the right book for the right person). I fell in love with the tone, the magic, and the ability of the author to make a new and interesting fantasy world ring with truth. So that's why I have a soft spot. I, of course, I read the following two books in the series.
Flashforward to now. Clariel, the prequel, was released almost twenty years later. I wondered if Nix could return to that world and capture the same voice. I'm pleased to say that the book rings with the same believability and authenticity as the trilogy (in other words the Old Kingdom still feels real). Clariel is a strong character with stark choices to make in her life. And the story itself does not feel as if it's a retread of the other novels. In fact it's a pleasure to see the Kingdom in its more idyllic days (uh, not that everything is rosy--far from it--there are intrigues within intrigues in the palace and, on top of that, the constant threat of free magic creatures). And it's a pleasure to have Mogget, the cat who is more than a cat, come back to life again (one of my favourite characters in fantasy fiction). All in all, a tale well told.
When I was finished, I began reading Sabriel again. The two books work well together (even though the stories take place hundreds of years apart). So if you haven't read any of this series start with Clariel. Then follow the path from there...
The Short Story:
An author attempts to explain the upcoming Canadian election using The Lord of the Rings references. Apologies to JRR Tolkien.
The Medium Story:
Liberals = Elves
NDP = Dwarves
Conservatives = I'll let you find out
The Full Story
Canada is a democracy. This may come as a surprise to people outside the country who assumed we were still a monarchy. We just let the queen visit sometimes and ooh and aaw when her progeny have progeny and put them in fancy clothes. But we are a very complicated democracy and the prime minister is head of government for Canada. There are 338 seats across the country and three major parties vying for those seats and the Canadians use a 'first past the post' system which means...oh, what am I saying? Boooring! The winner will be whoever gets the One Ring of Power. Simple as that.
A Story Told from the Liberal Point of View
Liberals are a middle-of-the-road, today-I-lean-left-tomorrow-I-lean-right, type of party. Or as they like to say: we're a big tent party (don't confuse that with a big party in a tent). This "big tent" means they enjoy camping. And who doesn't enjoy camping more than Elves? Yes, the Liberals are the pointy-eared Elves of the Canadian electoral world. They enjoyed a golden age of rule over the kingdom. Then the great sponsorship darkness came and they had to retreat into the backwoods of Middle Earth and hide from the electorate. The leader of the Liberals is Justin Trudeau, or, as the party likes to call him, Legolas Trudeau Longhair. See my bow? My arrow? Watch me slay Orcish policies and wink at the same time. The Liberals are locked in a good-versus-evil struggle with Stephen "Sauron" Harper. Alas, when the Liberal Elves were busy patting themselves on the back for being such great rulers sneaky Sauron Harper forged his One Ring of ultimate partisan power and stole the throne. The Liberal Elves are going to destroy that ring and get the power back--Elves are the rightful rulers of Middle Class Canadian Earth. But who keeps shouting in the background? Tom Mulcair, the leader of the NDP. It's obvious who he is: Boromir. The man with a great beard who wants to grab the ring for himself. No way, Boromir, you can't have it. That ring is ours! In fact, the parliament is ours forever or my name isn't Legolas Trudeau Longhair. Long live the Elves!
A Story Told From The NDP Point of View
The NDP (or New Democratic Party) finds its roots in the Canadian socialist movement of the deep dark past (it's described on page 1254 of the Silmarillion). If you're American just insert the word communist every time you see socialist and it'll all make sense. The NDP are a left-leaning party that lately has been swerving their ideological wagon to the middle of the road. They draw support from all types of workers: the farmers, the hewers of wood and the miners of metals--so obviously they are the Dwarves of this story. And Dwarves hate Elves. For over a thousand years the Dwarves have been crouching in their mines, watching those cute little Elves rule. Then came Sauron Harper with his One Ring of Power scattering the Elves. Oh, how the Dwarves laughed until they realized the Dark Conservative Lord was worse than Elves. So the New Dwarves Party grew their playoff beards and climbed to the great mount of Opposition Party Status. Their leader is Tom Mulcair and, unsurprisingly, he has a beard. What's his dwarf name, you ask? Oin? Gloin? No, no, no, it's Gimli! He was given The Great Axe Of Chopping Conservative Ideology by Tommy "beardless but still a dwarf" Douglas. Gimli Mulcair is also good with a hammer, using it to build a wall around Quebec. He'd even forge a coalition with his mighty hammer if the people would let him. The Dwarves have made their own union-approved Seven Rings of Power. And they will use them to get the One Ring. But that silly Legolas Trudeau Longhair is in the way. Stand back Elves! It's time for Dwarven rule!
A Story Told from the Conservative Point of View
Long ago there was a party called the Conservatives, a middle-of-the-road, right-leaning party. Then they became the Unionist party and after that named themselves the Liberal-Conservatives and finally settled on the Progressive Conservatives who would lean right and punch with the left. Then came the Reform Party and the Alliance and...ah, this is so confusing. They're the Conservatives again. Simple, right? And they are Hobbits. I know. I know. You can't see it at all. Short? Hairy feet? Cute? But think about it. Hobbits are rural. Conservatives sprang from rural ridings. Hobbits are about bread and butter and beer issues. Pierre "Proudfoot" Poilievre is their spokesperson. And it's obvious that Peter Mackay is Sam Gamgee and Stephen Harper is Frodo. And--
Wait. This isn't working.
The Conservatives are in power. And the only group who had power at the start of The Lord of the Rings is the Dark Lord and his forces. I know, I know: it's a cliché to paint the Conservatives as the Orcs and Goblins of this story. Here is the real truth: Stephen Sauron Harper is a great, kind and strong leader--he even has the cowboy hat to prove it. And this Sauron is really sore on taxes (get it?).The CBC and other liberal media gave you that whole "the Elves and Dwarves and Free Men band together to defeat the Dark Lord" story. Blah. Blah. Blah. It was total communist propaganda. Friends, let's be perfectly clear. The Elves were running the government for thousands of years and giving money to their cronies. The Dwarves and their unions conspired so that all you good citizens of Middle Earth were paying far too many taxes. And the governmental system was bloated with Hobbits. Bloated Hobbits, I tell you! So Stephen Sauron Harper forged the One Ring of Power with elements of metal given to him by Mulroney and Manning. He took that one ring and brought the country a new vision, the vision of a Conservative Middle Earth where taxes were low and no one had to ever, ever, ever, ever fill out that long form census again. Down with the gold spending Elves! Boot out the union-loving Dwarves! Sauron Harper will cut the taxes on your flaxes (the motto is working great in the Shire). That's the real story. It's better than news, because it's truthful.
Just like the novel, this political story is a nail-biter right to the finish. Will the Liberal Elves rise out of the forest and claim their long lost throne? Will the New Dwarves Party succeed despite the fact that Canadians don't always trust people with facial hair? Or will Sauron Harper don his blue sweater of softness and unleash his Sword of Ten Thousand Tax Cuts. How will it all end? Well, as was mentioned before, Canada has a 338 ridings and a "first-past-the-post" system and with an estimated 25 million votes it all comes down to election day when ... oh what am I saying? Whoever gets the One Ring will win. Or to put it more poetically:
One election to rule them all, One election to find them, One election to bring them all, and in a representative democracy bind them.
Elizabeth May is Galadriel. She's an elf, there in the background. Reminding us we should probably save the environment.
Gilles Duceppe is Wormtongue. Well, according to everyone in Western Canada. To the Bloc Quebecois he is Frodo. And it's a long, long way to Mount Doom.
David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, is Gandalf. Just add a long white beard and it'll totally make sense.
I apologize for the maudlin post but Dust has been out for ten years now. I launched the book on September 21st, 2001 in Saskatoon's Western Development Museum: 1910 Boomtown. It was the first time I'd launched in such a big and perfectly-themed venue (I wish I could find the pics but they are in storage somewhere). Here's a pic of the museum interior.
I honestly had no idea how successful the book would become and am still surprised by its reception. It went on to win several awards including:
*The 2001 Governor General's Award for Children's Literature *The 2001 Saskatchewan Book Award for Children's Literature *The 2002 Mr. Christie's Book Award (this came with $ and cookies. Mmm) *Nominated for a 2004 Edgar Award.
Here I am with Adrienne Clarkson, once the Governor General of Canada. She's presenting me with a leather-bound copy of DUST.
There are a few things you may not know about the novel. Here's the first draft of the Canadian cover:
The American version is about 5 pages longer. Because it came out in 2003 I was able to have one more crack at the book and I fine tuned it a bit more and added a few smaller scenes, including one at the end that helped explain the townspeople's reaction to their "forgetfulness" about their children disappearing. It's a particularly poignant scene.
There have now been 13 movie companies that have shown interest in the rights, including 4 major Hollywood studios. So far no one has come up with the money to make the movie (or pay off my mortgage).
Work on a graphic novel was started with Christopher Steininger but, as of yet, it has not been picked up by a publisher.
The book continues to be popular in Canada and I've received hundreds of emails and letters about it. It eventually went out of print in the U.S. and was never sold to any other countries.
With the advent of ebooks I was able to re-release the book in the US as an ebook (and in the U.K., too).
So it is good to have the book come back to life. It was briefly the #12 bestselling horror novel on Amazon U.S. and the #2 bestselling horror novel on Amazon UK. If only it would stay in those positions I could finance my own movie! : ) It has been rather fun for me to see the book gain a new readership.
So there you have it. A decade of Dust. Happy birthday! Here's to another ten years....