Sunday, October 23, 2011
The Eleventh Son by Gu Long (Translated
$19.95 Trade paperback
I have wanted to read this novel for years, but for one reason or another I just never got around to it. Wuxia films are some of my favorite movies of all time and I have always wanted to read more of fiction which many of my favorite kungfu movies were based on. Gu Long considered one along with Jin Yong (The Book and the Sword) and Liang Yushen (Bride with White Hair) as the "three legs of the tripod of wuxia". I have also published my own Wuxia horror crossover (Hunting The Moon Tribe) that was more influenced by film as until now I have only read Yong's The Book and the Sword and the Chinese literary classic Three Kingdoms.
So yeah, I was super overdue in reading this novel. It was written in the late 60's, and I am assuming it was published as a serial in newspapers like most Wuxia novels in the era. The chapters take on a serial feel, and it is hard to comment on the writing style because you always wonder how much is a product of translation.
The Eleventh Son is tangled story indeed as characters weave into and out of the story. Some even drop out of the story altogether. The main character Xiao is not even introduced until a few chapters in. It would seem at first that the novel is about Xiao battling for a famous sword called “The Deer Carver.” this maguffin is quickly forgotten as Xiao and a sinister female villian known as Little Mister battle over the Chinese countryside. The main story here is a messy love story between Xiao and a noble woman named Shen. Little Mister who is truly awesome villian frames Xiao for the murder of Shen's entire family. She knows better as Xiao is the one who saved her.
It is said that Long was more influenced by western writers than his competition and I only have Jin Young to compare him too. I can see a little more western influence in the structure of the novel, and the way he tells the story.
Some really cool and weird stuff happens along the way and you would expect in a Wuxia novel, there is a cool chapter where they encounter and battle gods of lightning and thunder. Perhaps my favorite part was a chapter called Doll manor, this super weird chapter finds Xiao and Shen tapped in a doll house worried that they have been shrunk and chaptered a kungfu magician. I was totally surprised by their escape and it was a super neat surprise. The coolest and most inventive part of the novel.
My biggest problem with the novel is that it ended with a set-up for sequel. That is not translated into English. Here is hoping the translator and publisher do this again. We need more Wuxia novels in print!