I’m finishing Lavie Tidhar’s BY FORCE ALONE, which is like a New Weird Britain take on Arthurian mythos with additional crime-family drama. It is knowing about the legend of Arthur, and knowing about the uses that legend, and the Matter of Britain in general, are put to. It pokes at other adaptations – the opening section can be read as a miserable low-key take on EXCALIBUR, the middle section as a read on that recent King Arthur movie that was set in the somewhat ahistorical Londinium. In this sequence, the political gag of the sword Excalibur Lavie invents is greatly amusing. He even nods to THE SWORD IN THE STONE Disney film. There’s some great wordplay: for example, as the Unseelie Court of fairy legend becomes the Unseemly Court.
I once talked about a take on the Arthur story I read in some local small-press book from Cornwall about 35 years ago, which presents Merlin as the head priest of St Michael’s Mount, who convenes negotiations as what was once referred to as “a political wizard.” There’s some of that, too. It’s an immense remix of the myth, done with an extremely ruthless eye. Lavie is an extremely clever writer, and, for all the book’s genuine wit and humour, it is very very cold and it very much knows what business it is about. It is not to be fucked with.