Dan Sandman

45: The Inheritors by William Golding

In Books, Fiction, Science Fiction on 06/11/2015 at 12:00 pm

The Inheritors by William GoldingIn The Outline of History (1919), H.G. Wells gave numerous reasons why Neanderthal man ‘may be the germ of the ogre in folk-lore’. The grandfather of science fiction makes a convincing argument for why this may be the case, but by doing so somewhat distances Neanderthals from their homo-sapient conquerors. Perhaps with a view to addressing this dehumanization, the literary genius Sir William Golding directed his masterful control of the English language upon our prehistoric forefathers. The result is a poetically fierce book, that places you directly alongside our  evolutionary cousins. By the novel’s ending, you will begin to imagine our origins in a completely new way.

This is a novel about seeing. Its central character Lok sees into ‘the others’ world (the others being the homo-sapiens). Lok peers at them from behind bushes, observing their behaviour and studying their relationships with themselves and their environment. Meanwhile, the poetry of the forest plays out all around him: the glint of the moonlight; the ripples of the water. Like some sort of prehistoric Ted Hughes poem, the forest is alive with the hunt. But unlike the poet Hughes, the mercurial novelist Golding is able to maintain a clarity of vision for 233 pages of perfectly constructed prose.

The reasons for my admiration towards Golding are many, yet I believe the key to his genius was his ability to vary his style according to his subject material. Unlike most run-of the-mill writers of prose fiction, who repeat a nearly identical writing style from book to book, Golding adapted his style and language in order to make better stories. He makes you feel like you are inside the minds of his characters, or viewing the real actions of a long extinct species of people, by putting his own imagination completely at the mercy of the story. Such courageous artistry sometimes results in you being confused by what’s going on, but because it’s all done so brilliantly you’ll want to pick up and read again.

I am almost made speechless by how good this book is.


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