Last week, an eighteen year old Afghani Muslim kid – some reports say he was but seventeen – in Melbourne was shot dead by the Police. The local cops and the federals had called him in to answer for his behaviour. He had been seen with an IS flag, and had reportedly said things against the Prime Minister – the latter, which lets be frank, should have a whole lot of us under watch by now. Anyhow, it all went bad. It is terrible and tragic all round.
Abdul Numan Naider was branded a terrorist, but truthfully, he was most likely an angry, disenfranchised kid. It isn’t such a difficult thing to imagine that a kid could feel alienated in the world when he is eighteen. Certainly, when I was at the same age, I felt like the world was a piece of shit and I couldn’t find my place in it. Maybe I still feel about half of that, and I assure you, it’s not the latter half. But there are lots of ways in which an eighteen year old could be made to feel that he wasn’t part of Australia – this Junkee article entitled ‘Here’s A Quick Recap of All the Times Australia Treated Muslims Like Complete Garbage This Week’ will help you understand it, I suspect.
The Godless marks the beginning of a new epic fantasy from Australian author Ben Peek, and it’s a remarkable achievement. Because as much as George RR Martin produces the gold standard of this type of story, Peek gives him a run for his money.
The world of The Godless is a strange one indeed. The gods were all killed in a war thousands of years before the novel begins. In that unbelievable battle the sun god was torn into three pieces so the landscape is lit by a morning sun, a midday sun and an afternoon sun, and the mountains of Mireea are built on the Spine of Ger, literally crystallised on the bones of a dead god who fell across the land. Of course, many peoples of our own world have such creation myths to explain how the world they observe is the way it is. But in The Godless these are not myths: the bodies of the gods are real. If you tunnel into the mountains of Mireea you will find deep channels that open onto the carcass of Ger. As you can imagine, the war and subsequent death of the gods had a profound effect on those who worshipped them, many of whom were also killed in that titanic struggle. But the power of the gods was not finished. It inhabited certain individuals, giving them fantastically extended lifetimes and strange and different powers…
Peek handles all these epic fantasy elements with great sensitivity. Everything feels as if it’s working together and I found myself eager to return to the world of The Godless every time I picked up my e-reader. He even manages to pull in the beginnings of an expansive geography for the world. Just as in Westeros, there are lands beyond the city of Mireea: oceans of blood created by the death of another god, kingdoms where the animals speak, cities where the dead hold sway … It seems we’ve witnessed events in only a small corner of this world, and there are many more wonders to explore.
Finally, and as with all good epic fantasy, The Godless ends with a revelation that will have repercussions for all the characters and the world they inhabit. The experience of reading this book was so immersive, and so ultimately fulfilling, I can’t wait for the next instalment.
There were a couple of blog reviews, here and here. The first one is positive, the second one less so, but it’s mostly by someone for who the book didn’t work for, and it happens. I suppose I could not link the second, but it’s not a big deal if someone doesn’t like your work, really. It’s nice to be liked, but if you need perspective, think about what I wrote before this paragraph, and then imagine an Immigration Minister – white, balding, and with a scowl on his square face – standing in Cambodia and drinking champagne after he has signed for his Government an agreement that will send refugees to there.
Yeah, if someone doesn’t like my book, I’m doing alright.
Still, if you did read it and dig it, drop your nice words somewhere. The Godless is clicking along nicely on Goodreads, though Goodreads can be – and often is – the worse of ‘Don’t Read the Comments’ and it needs more intelligent things on it than not, y’know?
This week, Prime Minster Tony Abbott said, ‘The delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift.’
Be proud, Australia.