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The Land Across Hardcover – November 26, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
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This creates a book that is a very easy and yet very difficult read. Easy in the sense that there is nothing particularly difficult or even figurative about the language immediately, but the simplicity itself is veil. Readers familiar with Wolfe's more dense linguistic prestidigitation may be surprised by this but a reader of Wolfe often knows that little is immediately what it seems.
Wolfe's explorations of both evil and autocracy are pitted against each other with some extreme ambiguity, and while some of the references are obvious, some deeper interpretations rely on very subtle ideas about characters and the seemingly impossible motivations behind some of the twists and turns.
Utterly enjoyable and rewards re-reading.
A likeable western journalist takes an adventure in a secluded, repressed eastern European country haunted by living mythology.
Top international reviews
Why does Grafton not always seem to be completely in control of himself (eg. at one point he fears to fall asleep in case he shoots the woman he's in bed with)? And the language itself is odd. Most of the characters speak German that Grafton has translated into English in a sometimes very literal way (eg. "that would be most good"). And Grafton himself often speaks in a peculiarly old-fashioned, anachronistic way. Knowing Wolfe, this is likely to be significant rather than simply for atmospheric effect. Then there are the spying/conspiracy/religoius/political elements, and the supernatural aspects, of the story. There's a lot going on here and much of it is hidden under the surface. So careful reading and re-reading (and maybe a bit of research to gain a little insight into some of the names of places and people used) will be just as important with The Land Across as it is with all of Wolfe's stories.
I've seen quite a few reviews of his more recent novels that suggest his work is becoming more straightforward and less mystifying. I'm not so sure. I get the impression he is as tricksy as ever, but maybe better at making his stories more accessible on a first reading. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed The Land Across on my own first reading, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it even more as I reread it and get deeper into the mysteries. Here be dragons. And certainly vampires...
I will let it rest for a while and then reread it, I am sure I missed a lot of detail in the carpet that Wolfe has woven for us.
The story is fairly linear and straightforward and the characterisation is somewhat sketchy in places but there is enough to grab on to beyond the narrative obfuscation.