Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book: Richard Adams - Watership Down (1972)

Author Michael Moorcock once said that if the bulk of American sf could be said to be written by robots, about robots, for robots, then the bulk of English fantasy seems to be written by rabbits, about rabbits and for rabbits. Well, let me tell you this: you don’t know rabbits. Richard Adams did. He spent days and days watching rabbits and he wrote a book about it. And what a book! If there ever was an instant classic, a must-read marvel that screamed originality, it is Watership Down.

You just don’t make this up. A 400 page rabbit-epic with a power to rival the greatest adventure tales ever put in print. The story circles around a small bunch of rabbits, led by the brave Hazel. His psychic brother Fiver gets a vision of bulldozers and the imminent destruction of their hill, and so they decide to leave their warren with a few others in search for a new home. Along the way they have great adventures and encounter danger and temptation at every turn.

Adams gave every rabbit his or her own character and every warren its own way of running things. He gave them their own language, complete with rabbit proverbs, poetry and culture. You would do wrong to think that this is simply a childrens book. It is a book filled with tensions and toward the end, as Hazel’s bunch is threatened by the tyrannical rabbit Woundwort, downright violent. It explores the ways that heroes are made and communities are formed.

Watership Down is one of the great originals and worth anybody’s time.

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