Review of Heraclix and Pomp by Forrest Aguirre

February 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Heraclix and PompHeraclix and Pomp: A Novel of the Fabricated and the Fey
By Forrest Aguirre; Narrated by Brandon Massey
Publisher: Audible Studios (via Resurrection House)
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours and 7 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / golem / magician / magic / faery /

Publisher summary:

Heraclix was dead and Pomp was immortal. That was before Heraclix’s reanimation (along with the sewn-together pieces and parts of many other dead people) and Pomp’s near murder at the hands of an evil necromancer. As they travel from Vienna to Prague to Istanbul and back again (with a side-trip to Hell), they struggle to understand who and what they are: Heraclix seeks to know the life he had before his death and rebirth, and Pomp wrestles with the language and meaning of mortality. As they journey across a land rife with revolution and unrest, they discover that the evil necromancer they thought dead might not be so dead after all. In fact, he might be making a pact to ensure his own immortality….

There are some books that are just magical, that are written in such a way that you can’t help but be drawn into a new world even if it’s set against our own. Neil Gaiman writes this way and so does Susanna Clark in Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Forrest Aguirre, World Fantasy Award winner for his editorial work in the Leviathan 3 anthology, has created such a tale. The story of Heraclix and Pomp is magical before the magic even begins, or possibly just at the same time.

Because this is the story about a golem, who has been fabricated by a magician, and Pomp, a faery.

They go on a journey to find out what exactly Heraclix is made of … in more ways than one. Being a golem, he’s been formed from different parts of various bodies and some behave abnormally to say the least.

I knew I would enjoy this tale right away, however, my main problem actually has nothing to do with the writing or the story itself, it’s the audio narration.

I almost put the book down because the narration was just plain hard to listen to. Brandon Massey’s narration was dull and monotone, almost robotic even, with words over-pronounced so that each letter is sounded out. I don’t like listening to audiobooks on faster speeds, because I like to appreciate the acting and the reading itself, but 1.75 speed actually made this much better to listen to. At least there was a reason for the robot-sounding voice.

As much as I wanted to love every moment of the book, I was so off-put by the narration that it made it really hard to enjoy the story. I didn’t look forward to my car rides and sadly I don’t have the time to go back and read, which I’m sure I will enjoy much more.

Despite these facts, I could still see the glimmer of lyrical beauty in the narrative. It’s a great story and wonderfully written and my reduced rating is mainly a factor of the audio presentation.

3.5 out of 5 Stars (recommended, but not on audio)

Posted by Bryce L.

Review of Heraclix and Pomp by Forrest Aguirre

November 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Hereclix and PompHeraclix and Pomp: A Novel of the Fabricated and the Fey
By Forrest Aguirre; Narrated by Brandon Massey
Publisher: Audible Studios via Resurrection House
Publication Date: 14 October 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 7 minutes

Themes: / reanimation / golem / necromancer / fantasy /

Publisher summary:

Heraclix was dead and Pomp was immortal. That was before Heraclix’s reanimation (along with the sewn-together pieces and parts of many other dead people) and Pomp’s near murder at the hands of an evil necromancer. As they travel from Vienna to Prague to Istanbul and back again (with a side-trip to Hell), they struggle to understand who and what they are: Heraclix seeks to know the life he had before his death and rebirth, and Pomp wrestles with the language and meaning of mortality. As they journey across a land rife with revolution and unrest, they discover that the evil necromancer they thought dead might not be so dead after all. In fact, he might be making a pact to ensure his own immortality….

Heraclix and Pomp: A Novel of the Fabricated and the Fey is a story about mortality, at the end of the day. It has horror and fantasy trappings, but at its core, it deals with finding oneself and dealing with mortal matters. The story is told through the guise of Heraclix, a golem, pieced together from many beings, and Pomp, a fairy faced with mortality. I think this book is probably a 2.5-star book…on the one hand, I liked the characters and the world and the idea. But on the other, I was bored a lot of the time when listening, and the book felt repetitive.

The book seems to do a lot of moral speaking, all from the frame of Heraclix or Pomp. Brought together when a sorcerer’s attempt at a spell goes haywire, Heraclix suffers a re-birth of sorts, while Pomp is nearly killed in the doing of the magic. Bound by their shared experience, they set off to first escape the sorcerer and then to learn more about Heraclix’s past. As he travels Europe and The Middle East, Heraclix learns whose parts literally make up his whole–he is a golem of patched together parts from people, most of whom he learns about in his travels. Pomp, meanwhile, is from the land of the Fey, used to being a prankster and not having to worry about a thing. However, the sorcerer almost killed her, brining her face to face with her on mortality, so she learns more of what it is to be human (or at least, human-like) while helping Heraclix learn about himself.

I enjoyed the world that Aguirre developed, and I enjoyed the characters. The book takes place in the time shortly after The Crusades, in parts of the world I don’t often see come up in books. Heraclix and Pomp run into vagabonds, sorcerers, gypsies, kings, nomads, and a host of other characters as they search between Vienna and Instanbul–and a variety of places in between, including a trip to Hell. The telling of the various stories of the lives that Heraclix was a part of was charming and not like most things I’ve read.

But…somehow, it wasn’t enough. I repeatedly found my mind wandering during the narration, found myself having to go back to the beginnings of chapters to see what I’d missed. The book seemed to work very well one chapter at a time…at first, but even then, I was finding other things to read. Some of the language used seemed purposefully obscure, and a lot of the scenes felt like repeats–Heraclix and Pomp enter a setting, they find some part of Heraclix’s past, they are chased out into another setting, rinse, repeat. I think if the book had been shorter, it might have helped. It’s not that it was bad (it certainly wasn’t), but I think more might have been left on the editor’s desk.

The narration, performed by Brandon Massey, was decent. His voice is strong, good for an audiobook, if a little droning at times. The biggest “problem” with the narration might be more due to the story itself. It was sometimes hard to keep track of characters, of who was who. This was especially problematic when characters from the early parts of the book would be re-introduced at the end of the book. Audiobooks are much harder to flip back through to refresh your memory, after all. Massey’s voice sounded familiar to me, though looking through my library, he hasn’t narrated anything else that I’ve read. His voice would be good in a mystery or other novel when there are only a few characters.

All in all, I liked this book, but wished that it had been a little less obscure and a little less repetitive. That doesn’t mean, though, that you shouldn’t give it a try if it sounds interesting. But maybe try it out in a print format.

Posted by terpkristin.