Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Adventures in Unhistory by Avram Davidson

Adventures in Unhistory is a collection of mini-lectures that deal with the fantastic: from dragons to mermaids to the travels of Sinbad. Davidson takes on the task of providing the facts of popular myths. As he presents the details that make each legend plausible, he interjects little quips and anecdotes that liven the narration and makes each scholarly essay enjoyable and easy to process. The essays teach a significant amount of history to the reader, but present it in such a way that the knowledge is transferred painlessly, unlike reading a history textbook. It seems almost as though Davidson were speaking directly and personally to the reader. When the reader finishes this book, he/she will be able to fully comprehend the history behind the fantasy in novels that deal heavily with these legends.

This book was immensely exciting to read. The essays, at first, seemed a little dry, but as I adjusted to the witty comments and seemingly random points (that were always tied up at the end), the essays came to life and almost read like a novel. There were times when I was at a loss to some of the humor, mainly because I was not familiar with the background, such as the Latin words Ars longa, vita breva. But it took little away from the narration, and was not hard to research and figure out. And since the stories covered a broad variety of topics, the knowledge gained was well rounded, and applicable to other areas not pertaining to fantasy. I think this book is essential to the fantasy fanatic’s library, and even those with no interest in werewolves or phoenixes will still be captivated by the wealth of information tucked inside this little book.

Content:Though this book contains no violence, sexual situations, or profanity, the language of the book assumes that the reader has significant understanding of classical works and a fairly detailed comprehension of history. Thus, while the content is appropriate for younger children, much of the humor and subtext would not be conveyed. So, the recommendation would be for a mature, intellectual reader.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 7
Reviewer Age: 16
Reviewer City, State and Country: Overland Park, Kansas United States

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