Inter-Dimensions of Sci-Fi and Folklore Collide in Rushdie’s Beautiful Debut Novel “Grimus”

grimusThe Amerindian Flapping Eagle has just crashed on the shores of Calf Island (via a special portal a la LOST season 5), an island of immortals like himself, and meets the immensely fat and eccentric Virgil Jones and his hunchback companion Mrs. O’Toole. In his quest to find his sister, Flapping Eagle must enlist Virgil’s help in ascending the ominous mountain of Calf Island to reach the town of K from which Virgil left in shame. While not thrilled to return to his ex-wife and myriad of enemies, Virgil hopes that Flapping Eagle is the key to course-correcting the problems that Grimus has inflicted on their lives and the Island.

Grimus combines familiar elements from science fiction, fantasy, and cultural folklores as framework for a compelling narrative. This is the first novel by Salman Rushdie, one of the world’s greatest writers, and his sense of voice and style are just apparent here as they are in his most recent work, the memoir Joseph Anton. Although critically derided in its day, Grimus feels like a very contemporary novel. The exploration of inter-dimensions could easily serve as a textbook for understanding the works of J.J. Abrams—I swear the answers to LOST are unwittingly contained within these pages.

When undertaking this small, yet dense, novel it is important to be open-minded and ready to expand your imagination. There is a vast wealth of stunning imagery and cultural allusions that serve for both foreshadowing and winking asides.

This is a thoroughly rewarding novel, and I welcome its inclusion on The List (much of Rushdie’s writing is, and rightfully so). Even if sci-fi stories don’t intrigue you, Grimus relies more heavily on cultural mythologies, giving it a universally appealing quality. While I loved Fury (my first personal introduction to Rushdie’s writing), Grimus is a much stronger novel and far more engrossing. (And I’ll keep you posted as I delve into Rushdie’s expansive oeuvre this year.)

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