Thursday, December 14, 2006

Master of Mythic Fantasy, Robert Holdstock

Robert Holdstock is a British author of mythic fantasy. His works derive from myth and the archetypes of the unconscious. He delves the mythologies of many cultures to bring a mythic past alive in a modern day context. As a review stated: "Holdstock manages to bring back a mythic past so fresh it hasn't stopped bleeding." (Locus Magazine) ". . .both tough and subtle enough to vie with the horrors of our modern world." Mr. Holdstock has created memorable fantasies that leave a lasting impression on the readers.

In his books, he has combined elements of mythology, the occult and science to explore how the unconscious part of our minds influences human lives. He did this with the creation of his fantasy world of Ryhope Wood in the 1984 World Fantasy Award winning novel Mythago Wood.

Ryhope Wood is a small remnant of forest left over from the prehistoric past. The wood is smaller on the outside, but vast in the inside, going on forever. In this wood is where the mythagos come to life and exist. Mythagos are ancient memories and archetypes that take physical form. They are generated and manifest from the unconscious part of the human mind.

The first book defined the fantasy world of Ryhope Wood, but succeeding books deepened the exploration. Mythago Wood and Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn explore the problems of the Huxley brothers and how they are changed by the wood. Lavondyss tells the story of a young girl and her life time spent in the wood. She returns changed by her experience. In The Hollowing, we read the story of a young boy, his friends and an evil version of Gawain.

Another book, Unknown Regions, is not a Mythago book, but is different. This book is a dark ghost story about a boy with the power to bring back historical objects from the past. The family is disintegrating over the struggle to help the boy deal with his power. It is a tale of abuse and the desperation for love that a child needs.

Ancient Echoes is a book that explores how the conscious and unconscious part of the mind interact. The main character enters his own unconscious mind, where he experiences the archetypes of the collective unconscious in a border land between fantasy and reality. Part of his unconscious manifests in the real world as a threat to his daughter. Eerie overlays of the imagined world with the real one give a dark edge to this wonderful book.

Merlin's Wood is a slim novel dealing with the Arthurian story of Merlin and Nimue. The wood in this story is reminiscent of Ryhope with a haunted Broceliande of ghosts and visions that only the main characters can see. These manifestations affect the people's lives in complex, dark ways.

His most recent books are part of the series called the Merlin Codex. These books explore the mixing of Arthurian and Greek myth. Merlin is a forever young magic user that meets up with Jason and joins the Argonauts in the pursuit of the Golden Fleece. They meet again in the modern world to pursue the quest of finding Jason's lost sons. Several mythic themes are explored in the first two books of Celtika and The Iron Grail. The third book, The Broken Kings, will be published in 2007.

Robert Holdstock is an author to be read and savored. His complex, dark-edged mythic fantasies are not to be missed. Holdstock's works leaves a reader with resonances that last for a long time. I look forward to his next venture. So should you. His web site can be found at:

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