The Annals of Klepsis – RA Lafferty (1983)
‘OH COME TO KLEPSIS TO
CLAIM YOUR SHARE…
AND BREATHE THE RANK
AND LAWLESS AIR!
Plots and intrigue and romance abound.
Smoke pictures, ghosts, and treasure chests to be found.
Magnifying monocles and hallucinogenic grapes – the unvoiced reams of the dregs of space.
Long John Tony Tyrone, the peg-legged historian, journeys there… And marries a princess with rainbow hair.
But the Ghost of Christopher Brannagan will not rest
Until mathematician Aloysius has put to the test
His theory concerning the Doomsday Equation
Which might save the planet from total devastation.
Or might not.’
Blurb from the 1983 Ace paperback edition
Lafferty, as his fans and admirers testify in the first few pages of this book, is very much an individual voice, although one can see echoes of Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut and Cordwainer Smith.
Klepsis is a planet of pirates, founded by one Christopher Brannagan, and extends an open invitation to any ‘peg-legged’ Irish person to travel to Klepsis to be welcomed and given whatever help is needed.
Long John Tyrone travels to Klepsis in an attempt to record its history (although Klepsis appears to have no history).
Tyrone meets up with Prince Franco, the twin brother of evil Prince Henry, the current ruler of Klepsis. Prince Franco has the advantageous ability of being able to disappear at will. Things get odder. Ghosts abound, and are possibly not ghosts but just insubstantial live people.
Dead people are often brought back to life and pirate ships – with the magical aid of monkey-humans from far Tarshish, are able to sail from an ocean on one world straight into an ocean on another.
The ghost of the original Brannigan suspects that the whole human hegemony of seventeen worlds is merely a simulation running in the mind of the sleeping dwarf Quasimodo, who is unfortunately about to die.
It is a strange and beautiful novel, spiced with a sprinkling of dry wit.
The ending is deliberately ambiguous, and yet in perfect keeping with the rest of the novel.
Lafferty could well have inspired the much later fantastic landscapes of McCarthy and John C Wright, since there appears to be a common baroque romanticism to all three author’s work.