Thursday, May 11, 2006

Borrowing Time: Attica by Garry Kilworth

Garry Kilworth really ought to be better known rather than being the open secret in fandom. Why? I suggest you read Attica. It is very good and wonderfully old fashioned.

Jordy, Alex and Chloe are ever so slightly bored in that way only children can have in holidays. Chloe gets talking to the strange elderly gentleman who spends his time snoozing in the garden and manages to get him to talk about his memories and his lost love. Inadvertently he sets the children on a quest to find a missing watch in the Attic.

As happens in Fantasyland, the Attic soon outgrows the roof that it is in and the world becomes very strange and eerily dangerous. Some of the commentary that I've come across has mentioned that it is reminiscent of The Lion , the Witch and the Wardrobe but to my mind it is closely linked the often forgotten Magician's Nephew and Eustace's way into Narnia.

Its inhabitants live in a world cobbled together from other peoples possessions - items popped into the attic for safe keeping and a rainy day which never arrives and is forgotten and replaced. The world is one made up of lost memories, perhaps waiting to be re-discovered like the watch, perhaps merely lost as time moves on. Kilworth makes an intriguing point - in this time of the Internet and relatively instant communication, we've lost the ability to take pleasure in our own lives, we've lost the sense of time that the analogue world delivers. (I speak as somebody who has no watch and rarely uses his mobile and is reliant upon clocks and computers for a sense of time. ) Its a Gibsonian moment - the analogue clearly punches through the ennui of the holiday, the Quest gives the children a purpose and makes them appreciate what they have in friendship.

Danger lurks ever near though. The Shadow Tangles and the cleaners (vicious creatures hell bent on keeping fire out of the Attic) hunt them but more insidiously there is always the danger that a Quester may go "native" and become lost in the weave of time, accreting layers of borrowed memories and becoming unable to leave.

There are echoes of the Borrowers and the post-War children's which appears to shift the present, alter the real, into a need to recover the Land from danger and to find a way of dealing with a time that is irrecoverably lost. It made do with what it could find, eaking out a living in rationing. There are also echoes of more recent novels, like Neil Gaiman's Coraline with the strange Lovecraftian disturbances to the architecture and the cat. This book is well worth a read on a Saturday afternoon.

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