Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wheelchairs with hidden machine guns: McGann, Oisin (2009). The Wisdom of Dead Men, Corgi.

Ancient Appetites was one of my favourite YA sf novels and I've been eagerly awaiting the sequel. The Wisdom of Dead Men is a damn good successor. It is not an easy sequel, it has a host of new political directions, and some uncomfortable discoveries.

The Wildernstern clan are unsually long lived and have a special relationship with gold (it heals them) and with the living animals that turn up from time to time. If the share blood with one, it will acknowledge them as its master.

In Ancient Appetites , the family discovered some bog bodies which unfortunately revived and claimed their rights as the eldest of the line. To enforce these rights, they cut a swathe through the family (using the Rites of Accession to support the various assassinations) and were finally done away with by the patriarch's second son Berto and his youngest brother Nate, along with Berto's wife Daisy. None of these people were very happy to find themselves at the head of the family. Furthermore, Berto had been crippled in the fight and as the book opens we find him in a wheelchair.

The Wisdom of Dead Men sees Berto get involved with the shady Knights of Abraham in search of a cure for his paralysis, while Nate and Daisy investigate the apparent spontaneous combustion of local witches, and find themselves digging up poorly buried family skeletons. We find out more about the engimals which roam the countryside and even more about the Wildernstern's blood and the miraculous healing they share with a small number of other families. Irish politics gets murkier and more unsettled.

There is clearly going to be a sequel, and despite being sequel averse, I'm looking forward to it. McGann is not the greatest of writers, there are a lot of clunky sentences, but unlike too many of the sf texts being pushed at kids, his work always has a really fantastic story to tell.


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