The Erstwhile brings readers back to the singular world and mind of B. Catling, continuing the groundbreaking storytelling of his hit The Vorrh.
In London and Germany, strange beings are reanimating themselves. They are the Erstwhile, the angels that failed to protect the Tree of Knowledge, and their reawakening will have major consequences. In Africa, the colonial town of Essenwald has fallen into disarray because the timber workforce has disappeared into the Vorrh. Now a team of specialists are dispatched to find them. Led by Ishmael, the former cyclops, they enter the forest, but the Vorrh will not give them back so easily. To make matters worse, an ancient guardian of the forest has plans for Ishmael and his crew. Meanwhile a child of mixed race has been found abandoned in a remote cottage. Her origins are unknown, but she has powers beyond her own understanding. Conflict is coming, as the old and new, human and inhuman are set on a collision course. Once again blending the real and the imagined, The Erstwhile brings historical figures such as William Blake and places such as the Bedlam Asylum, as well as ingenious creations such as The Kin (a family of robots) together to create unforgettable novel of births and burials, excavations and disappearances.
A fascinating world to get lost in. * SciFiNow * The Erstwhile almost revels in its status as the hiatus between Genesis and Apocalypse. It applies the sleight of hand that many of the best middle-books do, for a shift of focus...Even in the most extreme moments Catling has an eye to the wry, to the momentous absurdity of just being a thing made of flesh in a world that is not. In something as fluorescently psychedelic as this novel and its predecessor, the reader still requires an affective hook; and in Schumann's explorations of why the past seems clearer to the elderly than the future, we get just that. * The Guardian * Brian Catling's The Vorrh blew me away (along with my ideas of what fantasy novels should do) when it came out in 2012. I've just finished the second of the trilogy - The Erstwhile - and it's even better. Set in London, Germany and Africa, the book features William Blake alongside its cast of monsters and adventurers. These are luminous and visionary novels - Gormenghast reimagined by Alan Moore on opium. -- Alex Preston * The Observer *