Saturday, 3 August 2013
Book Spotlight: The Weird of Math
by Matt Schutt
Buy link: b&n
“He’s a rotten bastard but rotten bastards deserve to be rescued, too, right?” So thinks Randi Carter when her father, the ineffable jerk Math McMannon, falls into grave peril.
Math has fallen into a stupor. Randi discovers that Math has created a wondrous dreamworld called the Gloaming and set himself up as its god. But the inhabitants of the Gloaming have tricked Math and now hold him prisoner. Math is unable to reach the sunlit world and it’s up to Randi to save him.
Randi accepts the mission, mainly to prove that she is made of better stuff than Math McMannon and to gloat over the old man in his time of crisis. But the Gloaming proves not to be a land of lollipop trees and fairy godmothers. The Gloaming is mean, full of insane noblemen, maniacal outlaws, and things in the forest that love raw meat. Randi must take one careful step at a time through the Gloaming, outwitting (or outrunning) a host of grotesque villains until she faces Math’s captor, the diabolical Warlock of Autumn.
And all for a man she never really loved.
All at once, I felt so tired. I dropped the remaining apple chunks right there on the floor and marched out of the room. I found another bedroom and, without removing one article of clothing, tumbled into bed on my stomach, folded my arms underneath my chest, and buried my face under a pillow. I did not shed a tear (damn you for thinking it) but my throat was hot and tight, my eyes were hot and itchy, and my chest contracted.
Lying there, I remembered the bedtime stories of Math’s dark imagination. Like the witch who sold love potions but would accept only children’s bones as payment. Or the princess who wore a chastity belt that was haunted by the ghost of her dead father. The boy who was cursed to bleed from the eyes every time he had a naughty thought. The sprites that received nourishment by licking the sweat off a sleeping woman’s bosom. The cow that learned to talk and told nasty stories about the farmer and his wife. The knight whose heart crawled out of his body so that he was forced to hunt for it in a dark forest. What was he trying to tell me with those stories?
Late afternoon sunlight poured through the blinds but my head went purple and soft, easing into sleep. In that state, I heard a voice whisper to me from under the bed. My sleeping half accepted that fairly enough, but my rational half groaned into the blankets. Be still, voices, said my reason. Be still.
But the voice persisted. And then I felt – physically felt – the blankets move, being tugged from below, being pulled on from near the floor. It’s a cat climbing onto the bed, said my reason. A weight settled onto the corner of my bed. It occurred to my rational half that Math had arisen and was sitting on the bed, calling my name. So I rolled over. There on the bed was a little, ugly demon. My reason threw up its hands and left the room.
The demon spoke: “Don’t waste your breath on gasps and exclamations. It will only waste time. And don’t bother telling me what a loathsome thing I am. I know it. You know it. No need to say it out loud. Agreed?” It had a voice like well-oiled steel. “By the by, my name is Ratbite.”
“What are you?” I blurted, not really awake.
“I am Math’s familiar.”
“Math? My Father?”
“Well-sleuthed, girl! Your father’s familiar.”
“A quick lesson. A familiar is the magical companion to a man of mighty power, such as Math. You have heard of the witch’s black cat or the wizard’s owl? A familiar is loyal, always alert, forever linked to one master.”
“You do this willingly?”
“I do not do this. I am this.”
“So you’re his pet?”
Ratbite’s eyes narrowed to the width of blades. “Math did not lie when he said his one child was a rancorous churl.”
That revelation stung. Who knew that Math thought me as low as I thought him? And now the creep was sending me his nightmares to make me feel bad?
“What do you want, Ratbite?”
“Good! Let us chuck the light chatter. Now listen well. The magnificent Math has created his own personal dreamworld called the Gloaming. A more wondrous and curious realm there cannot be, and Math rules it as a wise and kind god-king. But one of the Gloaming’s inhabitants, the diabolical Warlock of Autumn, has tricked Math into stepping into a prison and holds him fast for his own dire purpose. As you can see, Math is now trapped in his own head, unreachable from the sunlit world. So you must enter the Gloaming and rescue him.”
I snorted in disbelief. What defied belief was not the demon speaking to me. In my state of sleepiness and emotional fatigue, a demon was not so hard to accept. I could also accept that Math, a superlative story-slinger, could create an otherworld with the stuff of dreams. Why not? Don’t we all hope for a world more magical than this one? To go to a place that obeys the laws of morality and fairness instead of mere physics? And it was no stretch to believe that Math’s own creation would eventually turn on him. After all, he was incautious and arrogant, skilled at making friends but inept at keeping them. It was only a matter of time before his natural charm failed to pull him out of a deadly quandary in this world or another. No, what I failed to believe was that anyone would expect me to go save the prick.
Visit the author at http://www.crazyfables.com/