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Saturday, April 09, 2011

cover of 'The Tough Guide to Fantasyland' by Diana Wynne Jones

This is Diana Wynne Jones' hilarious skewering of the many tropes and clichés of fantasy fiction. It is structured as a guidebook written for a traveler, to help them make sense of or prepare for their journey through Fantasyland. The book, after an initial intro, is ordered into alphabetical sections, each of which starts with a "gnomic utterance" and has entries for places, features, or stock characters in the many worlds of Fantasyland. Throughout, the entries refer to things that "the Management" may or may not do (the managers organizing your tour through Fantasyland, of course-- i.e., the authors), and many of the entries have italicized phrases of words marked with "OMT" to indicate an "Official Management Term" (for those phrases or adjectives that somehow seem to always get used in Fantasy novels).

There are many humorous things that Jones points out about the clichés and nonsense of stock Fantasy-- for instance, that horses must reproduce by pollination, since we never see any indications to the contrary; or that travelers always eat stew on the road, even though it is one of the slowest possible meals to cook and really quite inconvenient. There are apparently gaping holes in the ecology and economy of Fantasyland, too; there is beautiful embroidery everywhere, but tours never visit the vast factories where they must come from; forests never have any animals except the ones you will need to hunt for food; whenever you visit a port city, the docks will always be full of barrels and bins, with no indication of where they came from, where they are going, or even if they contain anything valuable, or are just there for decoration. The Tough Guide also covers the variety of stock companions you may find joining your tour, and gives a good idea of how you will travel through the land, starting at one end and winding your way through the rest until you come to meet one of the stock villains, arrive at a dark place, or otherwise discover your quest object.

Throughout, I found the book pretty cheeky and humorous. At times I recognized specific books or authors, but more often I had a general sense of familiarity with the things described-- color-coding for good and evil characters, the limited forms of government usually found in Fantasyland, and the like.

I read this book a section or two at a time over many, many months.

Title:The Tough Guide to Fantasyland
Author:Diana Wynne Jones
Date published:1996
Genre:Fantasy / Guidebook
Number of pages:302
Notes:Borrowed from Catey


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