Book info

Mythago Wood (2003)

Mythago Wood (2003)
Rating
3.83 of 5 Votes: 2
ISBN
0765307294 (ISBN13: 9780765307293)
languge
English
series
publisher
orb books
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Mythago Wood (2003)
Mythago Wood (2003)

About book: ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.After his post-WWII convalescence in France, Steven Huxley is returning to his family's home on the edge of Ryhope Wood, a patch of ancient forest, in Britain. For as long as Steven remembers, his father, who recently died, had been so obsessed with the forest that it destroyed their family.Upon returning home, Steven finds that his brother Christian is quickly following in their father's footsteps -- both figuratively and literally -- for he has also discovered that this is no ordinary forest! It resists intrusion from Outsiders, time and distance are skewed there (so it is much larger inside than the 6 miles it covers in modern Britain should allow, and time seems to expand), and strange energy fields interact with human minds to create mythagos -- the idealized forms of ancient mythical and legendary creatures, heroes, and villains formed from collective subconscious hopes and fears. So, for example, if you strolled through Mythago Wood (if you could get in) you might encounter Robin Hood, King Arthur, Talos, Freya, or perhaps some more generic version of a popular legendary ideal. You might walk down a Roman road or stay in a medieval castle or a Germanic tribe's hut. And when you come out, you may have been gone only half the time you spent inside Mythago Wood.The destruction of the Huxley family has been caused by the creation, out of father Huxley's mind, of Guiwenneth, the mythago of an idealized red-haired Celtic warrior princess who occasionally comes out of the woods. Mr. Huxley was obsessed with her (and this is what eventually led to both Mrs. and Mr. Huxley's deaths) and, when Steven arrives, Christian, who has become similarly obsessed, has been making forays into the forest in search of Guiwenneth. Before long, Steven gets pulled into the drama and the strange goings on in Mythago Wood.I was entranced by Mythago Wood from the first page. The writing is clear, lovely, and unpretentious. The story is told from Steven's viewpoint (first person, with diary entries and letters from a couple of other characters), so the reader feels emotionally involved. The pace is quick. The forest setting is beautiful.The first two thirds of the novel flew by. During this time, Steven is figuring out what's going on in the woods and he meets and falls in love with Guiwenneth (yes, the same girl that his father and brother loved). All of this was fascinating and highly emotional. I loved the premise of the story -- the wood that forbade entry to modern humans and was bigger in time and space inside than could be explained by it's physical dimensions. The existence in the wood of archetypal heroes and villains from across the ages, all living together at the same time, each in his own clothes and weapons. Cool stuff. I also thought the recollections of Steven and Christian about their father's work and coldness toward their family was poignant.But, somehow, when Steven and his companion Harry Keeton actually managed to get beyond the defenses of the forest and were traveling through Mythago Wood, it was not as exciting as when Steven was only learning about the forest from his father's notes and his experiences with the mythagos who came out of the woods. Suddenly, it turned into a quest and struggle for survival that was not quite as fascinating as the learning process was, though there were definitely some fun parts.I did not understand how mythagos, if they are not real, can kill, be killed, or fall in love. Steven and Harry come up some revelations (about mythagos) that seemed to come out of nowhere. I am also not sure why these men are falling for Guiwenneth. The explanation is that she's the mythago of the Celtic warrior princess, and thus men can't help but fall in love with her. Steven mentions that she may be his mythago, but his father and brother fall in love with the same woman. She doesn't do much but giggle. Is that ideal? She has red hair, fair skin, she's slender and uses a knife. Maybe that's it?I never fully understood Harry Keeton's situation, which was wrapped up much too quickly, but I'm thinking that this will be addressed in a sequel. There were a few elements that seemed thrown in without purpose -- myths that didn't seem to fit, characters who Steven was told had to be "left behind" when he didn't even know they were with him. Perhaps we'll see them again.So, while I was quickly pulled in and I absolutely loved the first two-thirds of the book, I experienced moments of confusion in the last section. I'm sure I'd benefit from another reading of Mythago Wood -- it's that kind of book. Perhaps some of these things would be cleared up. Or, perhaps not. I believe that the novel was composed of three separate novellas, and that may explain some of the disjointedness.I'm going to read Lavondyss, the sequel to Mythago Wood. I loved this setting and the characters, and I'm hoping further reading will clear up my confusion. This review originally published at Fantasy literature's Robert Holdstock page.

Sometimes, a book will hit a slow point that you just have to power through, and in the end, you'll be glad you did.This was not one of those times.I would say that the last third or so of Mythago Wood was painful, but that's kind of insulting to pain. I'm more than half convinced that Robert Holdstock wasn't an author, so much as a doctor secretly working on a way to cure insomnia. In the final third of Mythago Wood, he succeeded.But I'm getting ahead of myself.**Warning: I just re-read my own review, and realized it's pretty rant-ish. You may want to leave this place if rants bother you, or if you liked Mythago Wood, or if you used this book for anything other than cleaning poop out of your dog's butt-fur.**The first 200 pages or so were decent. Note that I say "decent," not "good." I kinda dug what was happening, except that A) I didn't care about the protagonist at all, and B) it still wasn't living up to my expectations. I love any fantasy stories that take place in the real world, and I'd heard that this book was about a real-world forest in England that houses mythical creatures. As it turns out, the only thing mythical about this book is its ability to hold a reader's interest.It was a royal pain in the ass getting through that last third of the book. In fact, I'm convinced that after reading Part II, you could probably skip to the last 20 pages or so and just read that. You won't be missing out on much; you'll just be cutting out random encounters that seem largely unnecessary to the plot.The trek through the woods could have been interesting if interesting things had happened. I'm OK with random encounters that happen in a book, even if they're not directly connected to the plot, so long as they're interesting. But this was a lot of mindless journeying through a forest with nothing exciting going on. The forest was supposed to be wild and fantastic, but I found that it was about as magical as a Taco Bell fart. The following is a paraphrased excerpt that I salvaged from this disaster, so science can learn about it and hopefully avoid such literary diarrhea in the future:"There were trees all around us. 'Cause, ya know: forest. The light was dimmed by the thick canopy above. The reason for the thick canopy was all the trees. Which, by the way, served to dim the light. From above. Did I mention there were trees? No? Well, maybe I'll mention it 700 more times before something interesting happens. Just kidding, that's a lie--nothing interesting will ever happen. This forest blows."Furthermore, I have a problem with prophecies. Don't worry, I won't spoil it, but let's just say this: I hate hate HATE when characters use a prophecy as their sole motivation. It just seems like such a cop-out from the writer. This is what I picture going through Robert Holdstock's mind as he was coming up with ideas for Mythago Wood:"Hmm... I need a character to do this, but I can't figure a single logical reason why anyone in that position would ever act that way."[Holdstock sees a paperweight sitting on his desk that looks vaguely like a crystal ball.:]"Prophecy! BINGO! That solution is AIR-TIGHT."Mind you, this isn't something that just Holdstock has done. It's pretty common in the fantasy genre in general, and it always bothers me. I don't mind the idea of prophecies, I just hate when they're used as character motivation or plot devices because the author couldn't come up with anything more reasonable. What's the matter, author? Your plot doesn't make sense? No problem! Just throw in a prophecy, and ALL IS RIGHT IN THE WORLD.Yikes . . . I had no idea how rant-ish this review was going to be when I started writing it. Apparently I disliked this book even more than I realized.In any case, I'm going to keep it with two stars (despite the TERRIBLE ending, which I didn't even get into here because I'm afraid even thinking about it will cause me psychological damage), just because there was a time in which the book had me somewhat intrigued . . . even if it just ended up puking on my face by the end.
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Reviews
Andy
Rating in the high 3's, so round upto 4 stars as tis summit different & for the most part engaging.Lion, the witch & the wardrobe for adults perhaps......? As it has mythical elements, enchantment & aspects of time travel through a wood. I think my updates along the way will let you know whats involved & how the journey unravels..... if it's mythical figures through time, touch of paranormal, heroic figures, a damsel..... one more of a Celtic nature though so defo not a fairy princess to be rescued..... an evil character or two.... then this is a read for you friends.
Cera
What a peculiar book.I read this when it first came out, which means I was about 9 or 10, and didn't understand it at all, although I remember that I really, really liked the ending. Reading it now, I have the oddest push-pull with it; I want to push it away because the narrative voice is so unattractive, so unemotional, so distant and uninviting -- and yet the story that the narrator is telling really ought to be interesting. Maybe it is interesting -- or is it? You see my confusion.This is not a normal fantasy novel; it's a Jungian fantasy, about a magical wood in which figures from the collective human unconsciousness come to life and behave not as we would expect them to from the prettified legends we learn as children, but as actual heroes of their time would behave. That's the meat of the book, and I guess what frustrates me about the novel is that not enough of it is spent on exploring the awesomeness of this concept. It isn't ignored, and there are some images late in the book which are going to stick with me, but the early part of the novel is a long slog through the main character trying to figure out what's going on, starting to clean up his house and then not cleaning it up, remembering his childhood, having conversations with his brother, remembering more of his childhood, etc etc etc. None of which is necessarily a bad thing, but I found his narrative voice (it's all in first person) so profoundly unengaging that I was reading just to get through it & to the 'interesting' stuff.The interesting stuff, though, is pretty darn interesting; Holdstock does a very nice job of figuring out his basic concepts and then running with them to create a lot of neat material. I loved the fact that if one accepted the basic assumptions (Jungian collective unconsciousness, wood which manifests it physically), the manifestations themselves are explained by history and anthropology; there's magic in the book, but the magic comes from what people knew at the time, not from some wacky rewriting of history.I really wanted to like it even more than I did, but I certainly liked it enough to be glad I read it.
Jeffrey Keeten
I accepted the notebook. "My life is full of diaries."Steven Huxley had just been handed the diary of his sidekick companion Harry Keeton. I am personally fond of Harry because our names are one letter away from being the same Keeton/Keeten. I am actually an impostor, my great great grandfather Thomas Newton Keaton changed his name to Keeten when he was conscripted into the Confederate army. Family lore states that he had a dispute with his older brother Major William Henry Harrison Keaton and that had caused the name change. So despite the fact that I am going to be talking about the Huxley family a lot in this review, because they are the designated heroes of this book, I think we all know that Harry is the understated, but true hero of this tale. Harry's diary was not the first diary that had impacted Steven's life. The first was written by his father George Huxley. Steven has just returned to the family home after convalescing in France from a bullet wound received in the war. He expects to find his brother, Christian, who is recently married, happily luxuriating in domestic bliss. Instead Steven finds a neurotic brother obsessed with Ryhope Woods, a three mile square section of pristine old world forest that has never been properly explored since the last Ice Age. This gloomy, compelling stand of forest butts up against the family home, and had also been the obsession of their father. Steven finds Christian's wife in a shallow grave with an arrow through her eye. In the immortal words of Kevin Bacon in the movie Tremors What the hell is going on? I mean what the hell is going on? Christian in an attempt to explain what IS going on to Steven has him read their father's diary which is filled with stories and observations that barely make sense. Christian disappears into the woods and each time he reappears he is a different, less civilized, unrecognizable form of the brother Steven knew. Robert Holdstock was a student of the Carl Jungian theory of the archetype hero. Jung defined his concept of the archetype as a formula that is the result of "countless experiences of our ancestors". Ryhope Woods is full of mythological creatures, familiar heroes such as Robin Hood, and Hercules, but also mythological creatures that existed before written memory. They are the manifestation of our collective memories of heroes that have been encoded into our unconscious mind by the memories and experiences of our ancestors. As Christian, Steven and Harry spend more time in the woods mythagos are being formed from their own unconscious minds. They exist as ghosts at the peripheral of their vision, but the longer they stay in the woods the more substantial these manifestations become. Did I mention there is a girl? She is called Guiwenneth. All three Huxley men become intoxicated with her. "Her face was quite startling, pale-skinned, slightly freckled. Her hair was brilliant auburn, and tumbled in unkempt, wind-swept masses about her shoulders. I would have expected her eyes to be bright green, but they were a depthless brown. Her arms and legs were thin, but the muscles were wiry; a fine blonde down covered her calves and I noticed that her knees were badly scarred." Not exactly the typical girl next door that I had a crush on in high school. "Guiwenneth had a woodland, animal aroma that was startlingly unpleasant, yet strangely erotic." She does seem to exude a potent musk that the Huxley men were particularly susceptible to. As the story unfolds we discover that the father, though he had died, has merged with a large angry mythical creature from ancient times. An epic battle between the brothers and the father unfolds for the possession of the girl.I'm having to hold myself back from giving away too many details. For only 252 pages this book manages to convey an epic story. There are many layers and I'm sure I missed some key points. I can see myself rereading this book in a few years and gleaning more wonderful insights. I have a feeling that the books in the series build on each other and my appreciation for the first one will only deepen as I read the rest of the series. Highly recommended to those that like a heavy dose of Jung with their fantasy. The book is elegantly written, and does not bog down with weighty psychological preponderance, but you will find yourself needing to pause in your reading ever so often so the blocks in your brain have a chance to shuffle.
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