Book: Casting Fortune by John M. Ford

Three good novellas by an excellent, if sometimes difficult, author

John M. Ford
Casting Fortune
Tor, 1989
ISBN: 0-812-53815-3
Out of print; inexpensive used copies seem readily available as of this writing
249 pages

Casting Fortune contains three long stories or novellas: "A Cup of Worrynot Tea", "Green is the Color", and "The Illusionist". They're all set in the city of Liavek, which seems to be a setting that was shared by several fantasy authors. There's little in the book's design to indicate that the three sections are independent stories and it would be easy to assume that they were sections of a novel. I say that that would be easy because it's what I did at first. And it's easy enough to be a bit at sea in a John M. Ford book even without having begun a new story without noticing it.

"A Cup of Worrynot Tea" is about three young people, two of them living on the fringes of society, and a mysterious foreign wizard whose motives aren't at all clear, at least to start. "Green is the Color" is about a succession of mysterious deaths of wizards and the job of finding out what they have in common. And "The Illusionist" is about a remarkable playwright-director and a new production of his which seems to attract enemies.

I've said before (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) that John M. Ford is a very fine writer; his plots are intricate and his characters are memorable. That's as much true here as it is in his other books. I've also said that his books are often dense enough and have enough important things in them that are indicated only by implication that they can be work to read for pleasure. That's also true here, though perhaps a bit less than in some others of Mr Ford's books. Still, the first 36 pages of the first story have enough material for a novel by most authors.

Regardless, there's much to like here. For example, the play that's being put on in "The Illusionist" is a comedy in which an insurance man plays pirate and we get this memorable exchange:

        "Haul on sail!" Grumbolio shouted at his pirate crew,
    and put the glass to his eye.
        "But -- Captain --" a sailor said, and Grumbolio decked
    him with a blow. "I tell ye, make sail" Yon ship's the
    Bo'sun's Brother, out of Fair Harbor, and d'ye know what
    she carries?"
        "No, Captain."
        "In round figures, fifty thousand in fire, stranding, and
    unspecified loss coverage, wi' no deductible! What are
    ye waiting for, man? I said, no deductible! She'll have no
    stomach for a fight under terms like that! Make sail!"

Though I like the book considerably, I confess that it annoyed me slightly that, even though the author and publishing house are both American, "theater" is consistently spelled "theatre".

Posted: Fri - June 3, 2005 at 07:53   Main   Category: