by Richard Matheson
The true test of whether you want to read this book might be: did you ever think Tinkerbell was hot? Or did you ever watch "Fern Gully" and wish you could be the guy who gets shrunk and live with pixies? Because that's pretty much what's going on here.
Though Matheson takes about 2/3 of the book to get up to that point. First, we have Alex White, who in 1918 joins the army out of spite because his abusive father is in the navy. Take that, Dad! Alex gets shipped to the trenches of France, which as we all know by now aren't a fun place to be. There he meets a British soldier named Harold and they become friends. Harold tells him about a village called Gatford that is just gorgeous--his word for it.
So after Harold is killed and Alex is wounded, he decides to go to Gatford. He soon finds that Gatford is a strange place, a place where they believe in "little people" or "faeries" or fairies to use the American spelling. But so long as you stay on the paths in the woods you'll be all right.
Except of course Alex doesn't stay on the path and comes under attack by something. He's rescued by a middle-aged redheaded woman named Magda. She's believed to be a witch by the townspeople. And Alex soon finds that out for himself. She's got some other weird quirks too.
But one day when Magda isn't around, Alex hears some beautiful singing and sees a tiny blond woman in the woods. Her name is Ruthana and despite not having talked to Alex before, she's madly in love with him and he's madly in love with her.
And the rest pretty much follows as a less happy "Fern Gully" or "Avatar" or "Dances With Wolves" or whatever movie you want to use.
The biggest drawback of the book is the narration Matheson uses. Alex is 82 when he writes the book and since his time in Gatford he went on to write a series of pulp novels under the name "Arthur Black." And he references this fact about 400 times during the novel, like every time he uses an alliterative phrase he makes an aside that it's a bad Arthur Black habit. Which is funny the first few times, but soon becomes a distraction and then an annoyance. I understand that Matheson was trying to show that Alex is rambling and a bit senile at 82, but he overplays it a bit too much for me.
The other thing is I don't know why Magda or Ruthana want Alex. There's nothing remarkable about him at all. Maybe it's because they don't get many 18-year-old Americans in the woods of Gatford.
I also thought the descriptions of the fairy village and lifestyle were somewhat lacking. I never really got a sense of where or how the fairies lived. Left to my own devices I start thinking of Keebler elves living in trees or Smurfs with mushroom houses. So that could have been handled better.
Despite all that I found this a compelling read. I ripped through it in about three days. It's the kind of book I wouldn't recommend paying full price for, but it's not a bad read. Though Matheson has done a lot better work in his career like "I Am Legend" or his work on "The Twilight Zone" for starters.
That is all.