This book is its own genre, to be categorized as gibberish satire fantasy adventure. I happen to be a fan of James Joyce, and have a dog-eared copy of Ulysses on my bookshelf. The Reeking Hegs starts out as a kind of retelling of The Odyssey, written in even more impenetrably language than Joyce, with a plot even harder to follow (if it was ever meant to be followed). Here, Nick Seighton is Odysseus, described as “a private dick on a dodgy case.” If the book were written in normal prose and vocabulary, Nick’s quest to find The Hegs and reach the King on his ship (called the Blood Soaked Noose), would be a satirical quest with some philosophical undertones and many thrilling adventures. But here there is no cyclopes (unless I missed it). Nick and his sidekick, Little Knowing What (often shortened to just “What” as if from the “Who’s on first” skit) and their personal siren, Atiqtalik, have plenty of obstacles to overcome to reach the end of their quest – if there is an end to it.
Who are The Hegs? And how are they reeking? Where are they? How do you get there? You want answers? This book will give you questions. Perhaps there are answers here also, if you can find them.
I might have loved that tale, even with some references I don’t understand and illusions to inside jokes I don’t get. The biggest obstacle to reading this book is that the writing style is so difficult that it’s painful to read more than a few pages at a time without stopping to ponder, translate, and take an Advil. So much of the prose are gibberish or nonsense that it’s like spelunking to try to find the path through to the plot. To really appreciate this text, it will take five times longer than reading the same number of traditional prose. Here are a few examples:
“He was performing the Bludist art of thinking only in terms of material gain while talking philosophy. “Beebl wabda dudue yabillo yub bubu lib dib. That’ll be eight yamshees, please.”
“Time imploded then exploded. Dolphins appeared in a dancing ring-a-rosy around the sloop and the luminescent plankton started chanting Gregorianly beneath the stricken vessel. Breakfast Madness overtook us both and struck out for the shore.”
If you fancy the challenge of deciphering this dense treasure-trove of text in order to glean the deep meanings that are no doubt buried like pirate treasure within its pages, then this book will keep you occupied for months – or years. The author is either a brilliant savant who has broken ground on an entirely new kind of writing that will one day be recognized as the most innovative and original styles of the century – or he’s certifiably insane and this is the witterings of someone lost in a parallel universe inside his own head.
You’ll have to make up your own mind. But be forewarned that his is not for the faint of heart. If you enjoy a well-told story with linear progression, consistent characters, a universe where the laws of physics (and grammar) hold sway, and a satisfying conclusion, then you should run away from this book. If you enjoy solving word puzzles and searching for hidden meanings – and you don’t mind spending a long time with the same book – then by all means give this one a try. Like an Avant Garde film loved by some critics who find it innovative and imaginative, many viewers will walk out of the theater scratching their heads and asking “what happened?”
I read this book as part of a book club and likely would not have picked it up on my own, nor finished it, had it not been assigned. Stars or rating numbers are irrelevant in the case of this book. It’s one star and five stars at the same time, depending on your preferences and attitude. The rating above assumes that you are exactly the target audience for this work. If you’re not in that category, consider the numerical rating to be appropriately lower.