The Hugo season of science fiction & fantasy is on, so what better way to start than by reviewing something that isn’t a finalist, that I actually enjoyed, and that none of you have even heard about?
I was given a copy of this book by the author, some of whose other work I had already reviewed. In fact, I should have written this review a month ago or so, but other issues and pandemics got in the way. The author, Robert Zoltan, has been in my radar as someone to follow since his previous work, which includes not only the Rogues of Merth but also a short story he got published in Cirsova (where I proofread it) and found to be the best of the issue and, probably, worth the price for the entire magazine.
The Long Long Long Long Rescue is an adventure fantasy novel set in the same universe as Zoltan’s Rogues of Merth book. However, you can perfectly read it without knowing anything about it; you may miss a couple of easter eggs and references, but that’s it. The protagonists are Quantillion Quill and Chaba, a magical monkey doll of unknown origin but who once had been the familiar of the amazingly named Morbis the Mysticator. Quill (also called, mostly by himself, The Incomparable Quill) has been tasked to rescue the princess Dianara from the clutches of the wizard Caliago, something he accomplishes quite soon at the start of the book, but, as the name of the book implies, nothing is as simple as it seems. The rescue will become very, very long as the princess keeps getting lost and Quill has to go to even greater lengths, from the bottom of the sea to a distant, Barsoom-inspired continent, to get her back. I’d love to go into precise details, but I’d rather not spoil them.
This is an adventure book (not Sword & Sorcery like The Rogues of Merth,) as well as a light comedy, so its strength comes from the characters, their interactions, dialogue, and the situation they find themselves in—and how they get out. Therefore, do not expect a modern, morose epic fantasy, but neither a quirky comedy. The style, especially during the first third of the book, could be described as a toned-down Vancian Dying Earth, with Quill being a non-sociopathic version of Cugel. The first two parts are, I believe, the best bits of the book. Unfortunately, the final part doesn’t seem to be up to the same quality, with the pace feeling odd and the descriptions and action somewhat loose and rushed. Personally, if I had been the writer or an editor, I would have ended the story earlier (or develop it more?) And perhaps that is something that the book may have needed, an extra pair of eyes, as usually happens with self-published works.
None of that detracts from the generally high quality and distinct style of the book, something much needed in a genre clogged with copycats and trend-followers. The book has a clear but open ending, and more books following Quill’s next adventures might eventually be written, and since the first book has some loose ends or peculiar unexplained mysteries, there is no lack of possible disastrous new adventures for Quill to embark on. Despite some minor misgivings that prevent me from giving it a full 5/5, I certainly enjoyed the book and I’ll buy the others if they ever get written or published.