THE DIGGING LEVIATHAN
James P. Blaylock
Southern California. Sunny days, blue skies, neighbors on flying bicycles ... ghostly submarines ... mermen off the Catalina coast ... and a vast underground sea stretching fromthe Pacific Ocean to the Inland Empire -- where Chinese junks ply an illicit trade and enormous creatures from past ages still survive. It is a place of wonder ... and dark conspiracies. A place rife with adventure -- especially for teenagers Jim Hastings and his friend, Giles Peach -- who was born with a wonderful set of gills along his neck.
An insatiable reader, Giles draws inspiration from the novels of Edgar Rice Buroughs and is determined to build a Digging Leviathan. Will he reach the center of the earth? or destroy it in the process?
First of a new style of literature
I first read this book in the mid 80's, and it made me a Blaylock fan for life. I had never read anything like it, and can count on my fingers the books of this style I have read since (why couldn't Blaylock be a little more prolific?). Apparently, this book was completely misunderstood by his Balumnia (i.e. Elfin ship, etc.) publisher (Del Ray) forcing him to turn to other houses to get it published. I am grateful he was so persistent.
A young boy with gills and webbed fingers builds a digging machine to travel to the center of the earth. The machine is much like the many complex devices constructed by preteen inventors who are disapointed that the laws of physics didn't bend to their wills. But this boy is different...
A reader from Kenmore, WA United States
(from Amazon.com, January 21, 2003)
The only copy of this book that I've stumbled across is the one I own ... And I've read it 4 times in as many years!
Not only, as the other reviewers here describe, is The Digging Leviathan a rollicking, post-mystical romp through a Los Angeles of indeterminate timeframe, it is also an eloquent and beautifully rendered story. Blaylock's great power as a writer, in addition to the fantastic situations he has dreamed up in this novel (his best, in my opinion, and I've read them all now!), comes from his grace as a stylist of prose. There are imagistic moments in this book on the level of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez that will bring tears to your eyes.
As well, his characters, although uniformly eccentric, are lifelike & believable, sympathetic & empathetic in their relationships with each other. The under-emphasized relationship between young Jim, the book's protagonist, and his purportedly crazy father is subtle and wonderful. This novel reinvigorated my taste for fantasy after a lapse of many years ... Get it! Read it!
John Hilla (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Michigan, USA
(from Amazon.com, February 24, 1999)
James P Blaylock's 'Digging Leviathan' is a superb book, one of the best I've ever read in my life, a sometimes frenzied, sometimes somber race between mad scientists, good (William Hastings and young Giles Peach) and evil (the abominable Hilario Frosticos). Mr. Blaylock loves to constantly blur the lines--Is Hastings really crazy? Do the machines work by science or by Peach's will? And how did those dog droppings appear in the yard?) Most of Mr Blaylock's books have a similar theme; a good-hearted anyman (William Hastings, Walt Stebbins), usually with the help of family or friends (Blake Society, Trigimestus Club) must confront and defeat vile evil (Frosticos, Ignacio Narbondo) on the edges of a society that never knows what it was saved from. In DigLev, Hastings must confront his own fears and flaws in order to rescue the innocent Peach, stop Frosticos, and save us all from catastrophe. If you can find this book, read it.
An Amazon.com Customer
(from Amazon.com, January 1, 1999)
***** A DELIRIOUS LITERARY FANTASY ,
In brief: Young Jim Hastings, his eccentric father William, his bookish uncle Edward and his best friend Giles (who has webbed fingers and vestigial gills), become involved with an odd collection of poets, madmen and explorers in a frantic race through (and under) Los Angeles, seeking a way to the center of the hollow(!) earth. If you have read Blaylock's later novels this wild, funny, gentle, occasionally dark valentine to all our silliest and noblest pulp dreams may surprise you. Ostensibly set in Southern California, it actually takes place in a kind of book-lover's fantasy world: ALL the protagonists are eccentric, bookish, single males, whether bachelor, widower or prepubescent boy. None of the characters seem to have a job (except the terrifying Dr. Hilario Frosticos, who runs an insane asylum). This lack of real world attachments gives the book a refreshing purity: these dilettantes, pseudo-scholars, poets and madmen have nothing to do but pursue, and be pursued by, their magnificent obsessions, which include immortality (literary and otherwise), merman hunting, miraculous inventions (the eponymous machine, antigravity), and attempts to encourage amphibious habits in mice. Blaylock's writing has since become more assured, his characters more real, his themes more mature, but there is a crazy joy in this book, and a lyrical beauty that charms me silly every time. This is a book about dreamers, for dreamers. If you grew up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jules Verne, seek out THE DIGGING LEVIATHAN but be warned: it may break your heart. I leave a little piece of mine inside everytime I read it.
An Amazon.com Customer
(from Amazon.com, June 18, 1998)