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One King's Way by Harry Harrison (and John Holm)

What if... the Vikings 
conquered Britain
and threatened the
entire Christian World?
I may have touched previously upon the reason I initially got so swept up in this dark ages romp. Of course, I went out and bought books two and three of the saga. Of course I did. You've met me, right?

So, book two sees blacksmith, thrall, carl, jarl, chief, king, inventor, victor over the Great Viking Army, and router of the feared Frankish cavalry, Shef, facing another test of his liberal ways and, conversely, his antidisestablishmentarianism. For the church is about to send in the Holy Knights of the Lance, whose symbol, the spear that pierced the side of Christ, is an artefact for which their leader, fearsome warrior of God, Bruno, searches to inspire Christendom to victory over the heathens of the Asgarth Way, the new religion of knowledge that has taken hold in the power vacuum of England. And of course, that's not to mention the hovering threat of the revengeful Ragnarssons, whose ire and wrath still patrol northern waters, looking for an opportunity to visit death and destruction upon the killer of their father Ragnar Lodbrok, and brother, Ivar the Boneless. 

And Shef has itchy feet.

So, of course, he leaves his kingdom in the capable hands of Wessex monarch Alfred, with whom he shares England (and, gasp! his first love Godive, who now hates Shef deeply and viscerally), and naffs off up north for a bit of naval entertainment.

Again, Harrison shaves very close to a state of affairs which would be an affront to those particularly loving the whole alternative history thing. I'm not fond of all the magic. Too often for my liking do the Gods make actual appearances rather than being simply alluded to, particularly around the unfolding narrative of Shef being the agent for Ragnarok, or at least that Odin suspects he is, whereas Shef's divine 'father', the seldom mentioned god Rig, counsels the contrary, whilst plotting to free Loki from his chains and the torture of serpent venom dripping onto his face. There's some gubbins about strange other-worldly folk living in the fjords and that they can talk to orcas, and here I wonder if John Holm a.k.a Tom Shippey has been given leave to start leaning in with all his pent-up Tolkien mythos. Maybe to make up for his name slipping off the front cover and having to make do with an honourable mention on the title page... But even with all these minor gripes, it's hard not to root for the waspish Englishmen and the giant Norsemen, as they battle ever increasing odds, fearsome enemies whose learning starts to match that of their foes, and their own latent fear of Shef's divine nature. Book two holds enough rambunctiousness and swashbuckling adventure to keep the attention sharp and the sighs few and far between. 


How's about that then?

Metaliterature - what meaning to have is this for meaning?

Not a review this time, more of a curiosity. It seems I'm receiving lots of hits from Russia (Здравствуйте России!) from people searching for the definition of "metaliterature". As such, it is something of a bespoke word, created to fit a need and probably not yet recognized outside literary theory / criticism circles (Merriam-Webster Online certainly don't like it). I was wondering what they typed in to end up here, so, for fun (it's not fun, sorry) I thought I'd bung it in Google Translate and see what came out. As it turns out, one needs a little hyphen for the rather ponderous machine to understand it, and even then only does half the job (meta seems to be meta in any language). 
Incidentally, below is, ironically, a Google Chrome Thesaurus definition* of "meta":

met·a Adjective/ˈmetə/
(of a creative work) Referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referentialInterestingly (not interesting, sorry) it says this for the full term, t…

Under The Dust by Jordi Coca

So, wheel of fortune, count to 29, pin the tail, freebies off of peeps on Twitter etc. etc. Whatever the methods sometimes employed to pick the next book in my intertextual experience, the one that brought me to Jordi Coca brought me to a whopping great slice of nostalgia. Before I'd even opened it, it brought to mind Richard Gwyn, himself a published poet, author, biographer, translator and course director of the MA Creative Writing course at Cardiff University, who I recall for some odd reason gently encouraging me to read this novel, and by whose own work I was quietly impressed at the time. He was also an advocate of Roberto Bolaño, another writer in whose work I can immerse myself but from which I emerge drained, as mentioned previously. Before that, though, there is this sticker on the front, declaring 'Signed by the Author at Waterstone's'. It is indeed signed by Jordi Coca, not adding any particular intrinsic value to the book, not for me anyway, but more impor…

Hereward: The Last Englishman by Peter Rex

By all accounts, Hereward was the guerrilla scourge of the invading Norman armies in eleventh century Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, famous for isolating and dismembering members of the Norman nobility who strayed too far from home, and also for trashing Peterborough and hiding on an island. Called variously (and often erroneously) The Wake, The Exile or The Outlaw, his infamy was such that families in search of noble English lineage have usurped his "heroism" for their own glory even until this very day. Rex delights in highlighting one author's particular folly, entitled Hereward, The Saxon Patriot, in which Lieutenant-General Harward attempts to run his antecedents right back to the loins of the eponymous gentleman-rogue. 

Having only read the introduction to Peter Rex's myth-busting (and often ill-edited) work, I was already struck by an initial thought which ran thus: if as Rex asserts Hereward was the son of Asketil Tokison, a descendant of a wealthy Danish family …

A Death In The Family: My Struggle Volume 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I sit here, wearing my limited edition Knausgaard t-shirt, immensely grateful to the kind people at Vintage Books for their surprising gift of the first four novels (and aforementioned t-shirt) simply as a result of being able to post a comment on their YouTube Vlog. There may have been a hidden agenda, considering I'm a book blogger (What, interrobang, a book blogger, interrobang and so on...) but I prefer to believe they picked me at random. Because I'm ace. 
Nonetheless, I had no idea what to expect of these books. I did do a little reading, and found lots of very interesting articles about Karl Ove Knausgaard, including this entertaining one in the Wall Street Journal. But in all honesty, nothing prepared me for reading them, and I can see why they cause controversy and consternation wherever they are translated (which is pretty much everywhere).
First off, being intelligent and perspicacious readers as I trust you all to be, you will no doubt have spotted the whole Godwin&#…