The complex beauty of Richard Blake’s writing is the fine line the author treads between classicism and barbarism. On the one hand, our hero Aelric demurs with his eyebrow at former students for using impersonal Latin verbs in a personal way, and on the other hand, he stabs crass lumpen Anglo-Saxon peasants in the eye with rusting six-inch knives for daring to deliver him a discourtesy. It’s all done in the best possible taste, of course, in a cornucopia of smells, tastes, sounds, and verbal effluence which delights both the cerebrum’s lobus frontalis and the brain stem’s medulla oblongata, and all ambrosic points in-between.
This blends in well with the world that Aelric finds himself belched into, which teeters between the differing Roman empires of Caesar and Charlemagne. Our hero drowns in a Varangian smorgasbord of complex Byzantine politics blended into the universal and basal political corruption clearly visible around us currently, in our failed centrally-planned world, in which paper-money currencies, socially-desirable orthodoxies, and politically-correct holy cows are crashing down in a manner highly reminiscent of the enslaving inflationary mess that the original Roman Empire descended into, in its final spasmodic death throes.
This is perhaps best summed up by my favourite line in ‘Ghosts of Athens’: “I’ll grant you that it’s hard, in most settled places, to tell the difference between tax-collectors and bandits.” On a less intellectual level, ‘Ghosts of Athens’ is simply a superb yarn of an irascible intelligent man dealing with a blindingly confused world, similar but different to the yarns of Cornwell’s Lieutenant Sharpe, O’Brian’s Captain Maturin, or even Pratchett’s Wizzard Rincewind, the egregious professor of cruel and unusual geography. Aelric is an egregious professor of the cruel and unusual human soul, and I highly recommend the contemplation of his latest inexcusable adventure in ‘Ghosts of Athens’.
Published by Jack England,
25th July 2012
© 2015, richardblake.
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