Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book Review: Dance of the Dwarfs by Geoffrey Household

Having read two previous Household books it is clear to me now that Household is a master of the "chase" or "hunt" genre.  All three involve a mystery of some kind whereby a protagonist is hunted down or haunted by an unknown or at least undetailed outside force.

In the two prior novels I had consumed, Rogue Male and Watcher in the Shadows, these outside forces had manifested themselves as other men, with both works selecting England as their location.  Dance of the Dwarfs trades man for a large otter ( otter...) and England for South America, spinning its tale in the format of a diary in which Dr. Owen Dawnay recounts his time spent in the backwater of Brazil.

You may laugh at the idea of a suspense novel where an otter plays the foil to the human protagonist (an English, government sponsored scientist exploring the use of various terrain for farming) but the strength of the work is such that by the time our human storyteller meets his fate you don't view the opposing mustelids as a joke.

This work is not likely one that would remain in its current form if produced today given the protagonist is "gifted" an Indian girl of 15 (20 years his junior) who has already been passed amongst a few prior owners and who is immediately bedded by our narrator.  Sort of like how Hendrix's "Hey Joe" would never get made today.  Many of the narrator's expressed viewpoints would not be allowed today and never get past an editor who I can hear saying to Household "You just can't write that these days!!"  Perhaps Household is attempting to tell us something of his view of the white man's possession and use of the wild places the story inhabits as the more his main character falls in love with this Indian girl, the more endangered and closer to death he becomes.

There are also angles of criticism here regarding communism, science, religion, and feminist perspectives.  That the work has such depth despite being "only" a horror novel of sorts is impressive.  While not quite the work in terms of the suspense or detailed environment it creates compared to the earlier Household tales mentioned above it is still a solid addition to his library.

As a side note, I guess there was a "loosely based" movie made of this novel back in 1983 "starring" Peter Fonda and John was decidedly a B movie affair, transformed the mustelids of Household's imagination into "lizard-men" and has not yet been deemed worthy of being offered on DVD though

No comments: