Thursday, 21 May 2015

Heads Up! | Back to The Vorrh

Though I realise that a lot of Alan Moore's later work is lacking, his earlier efforts are so superlative that I'll never not consider myself fan of the man, so when, back in 2012, he blurbed a book called The Vorrh, I got in touch with the publisher—a small press called Honest Publishing—and sorted out a copy.

I went into The Vorrh, then, expecting something special. And fuck me, I found it. From the conclusion of the review I wrote:
Equal parts dark fantasy and surrealist dream, [The Vorrh] is inescapably dense, and unrelentingly intense. Shelve it shoulder to shoulder with 2012’s other most notable novels, be they of the genre or not, then consider carefully which stands lacking in comparison.
It was a decision I dithered about, but I went on to call The Vorrh the second-best book of the year, after only 2312, in Top of the Scots.

Alas, I was and I am only one man, so no matter how strenuously I recommended it, without the word of many mouths, The Vorrh wasn't the unfettered success—commercially, I mean—that it could have been. Should have been, even.

That changes today, with the release of a revised and expanded edition of Brian Catling's dizzyingly good debut. It's out from Hodder & Stoughton hereabouts—and thanks to Vintage, the new edition of The Vorrh is also available in the States.

But wherever you're based, and whatever your tastes, please: read it. It's remarkable.

Let me leave you with the new cover copy, the first sentence of which would surely have sold me on The Vorrh if I wasn't already admirer: 
In the tradition of China MiĆ©ville, Michael Moorcock and Alasdair Gray, B. Catling's The Vorrh is literary dark fantasy which wilfully ignores boundaries, crossing over into surrealism, magic-realism, horror and steampunk. 
In B. Catling's twisting, poetic narrative, Bakelite robots lie broken—their hard shells cracked by human desire—and an inquisitive Cyclops waits for his keeper and guardian, growing in all directions. Beyond the colonial city of Essenwald lies the Vorrh, the forest which sucks souls and wipes minds. There, a writer heads out on a giddy mission to experience otherness, fallen angels observe humanity from afar, and two hunters—one carrying a bow carved from his lover, the other a charmed Lee-Enfield rifle—fight to the end. 
Thousands of miles away, famed photographer Eadweard Muybridge attempts to capture the ultimate truth, as rifle heiress Sarah Winchester erects a house to protect her from the spirits of her gun's victims.


  1. In 2012 I read your review, and as soon as I could, ordered a copy from England. My reaction was much like yours, Wow. I would later write on a shelf talker, The two weeks I spent in The Vorrh were some of the most challenging and rewarding weeks of my life. After a bit of research, I found out we could order it in the US, and it became my staff favorite at the Bookstore I work at, and for a $35.00 staff favorite, it did quite well. (Green Apple Books in San Francisco.) I found out earlier this your from Mr. Catling that we were the only store in The US carrying it. I agree with you that this is just an incredible book that deserves as much attention as it can get. It was my favorite piece of fiction I read in 2013.


    Martin Sorensen

    1. Just wanted to say that that means the world to me, Martin. I've been reviewing books for the larger part of my adult life—not a job I can complain about, obviously—but hearing how a recommendation I've made has led to an experience as meaningful as yours makes the void it sometimes feels like I'm talking into a little less chilly.

      So thanks for sharing, mate. Sincerely.