What’s it about?
Here is the big question for Great to the Great Beyond (GTTGB): what is it about? Author Nick Crutchley’s books are interwoven and layered so it’s tricky to summarise and my interpretation may not be the correct one, but I shall try to start at what my mind tells me was the beginning.
There was this dwarf, Zorg Bloodbane, and he was mean and greedy. Aren’t all dwarves? Well yes, a bit, but Zorg was also resolute. He’s going to get that key to open the Gate to the Great Beyond at any cost and it doesn’t matter if he has to kill his friends. He’s aided by the sorceress Shiva (a ‘mutaton’) who has luck on her side; and he’s aided by an elf (magic) and a lion-headed humanoid (trying to save his people, blah, blah, blah), among others. They eventually get to meet this wizard who knows about alchemy and unwittingly has the key to the Gate to the Great Beyond. Still with me?
There’s much more beneath the surface
This key allows a questor – somebody destined or determined to have the key – to travel between the seven planes of existence. Or if the questor is someone like Zorg, maybe they’ll sell it instead. The setting widens out soon enough and we learn there is the Divine Plane and the six hundred and sixty-six hells among others, reminiscent of the virtual fantasy world in the first book, The Moment Between Two Thoughts.
There is a race of blue-skinned logical Ordaxions on one plane, trying to ascend through the Gate to the Great Beyond because they think there is another universe. At one point the Ordaxions are a super advanced civilisation, but then some event happens, this shining white light (keeps happening), and everything changes, putting them at the mercy of this thing called the Goo at the edge of their world. The Overseer of the Ordaxions has to work with this rather unremarkable amnesiac character, Srinivasa, who was somebody important in some past battle between heaven and hell, which was important by the way: the lion-headed Ashalonions were betrayed; there was this badass Nameless One with a staff and a string of lies to persuade others to his end of getting more power through a war; this annoying Preacher can’t stop preaching but his intentions are dubious.
It’s apparent after book two that author Nick Crutchley likes to weave together realms, peoples, plots, and magical objects as a platform for a good vs. evil battle, starring the supernatural, advanced beings, and everything in between. I didn’t get the impression the author was happy with a linear plot or a single reality.
The paperback was only 230 pages, yet there was a lot of worldbuilding and depth despite this. The author has taken care with the placement of each scene, I feel, so that by the end of the book you start to unravel what happened in the first hundred pages or more. There was more than one occasion when I wondered if I was reading an ingenious masterpiece, more so than the first book even, in the sense that we start small and then we blossom out seeing the full ramifications of what was really happening in those first scenes.
In many ways GTTGB is a clever story immersed in the same story template as the first novel, feeling excitingly, exotically foreign for all that, and it makes me wonder what else the author has up his sleeve.
Zorg Bloodbane was a really interesting character and he brought about conflict with races wherever he went, and then the focus was off him and the reader was left with less interesting characters, at least until the logical Ordaxion Overseer was face to face with the impulsive Shiva. I’d have liked there to have been more to Shiva who bonded easily with men but she didn’t have much depth. Where did her power come from? That being said, I liked the idea of King Anorashiva.
If the story itself wasn’t a challenge to unravel, some sentences were easy to understand while others were passive, which made what was happening difficult to decipher. I did like the poetical quality to the writing, and the author’s tone never changed in this regard.
This is only a reader’s preference, but I wanted to stay in these worlds of Nick Crutchley’s a little longer before he shifted them. This was more of an issue in this second book, as I know the author can really stick us in these fantasy worlds, head and body.
You have to read Nick’s books to really experience the addictive quality to them and the unique storytelling style.