“The Seventh Sword” series involves a man from Earth, Wallie Smith, who mysteriously wakes up in the body of a swordsman named Shonsu, who is a member of “The People” who live in “The Land”, having been brought there by “The Goddess” whose dominion is a large river, named “The River”, that flows everywhere through “The Land”. (I don’t know the Goddess’s name but I would venture it’s something along the lines of “Generica, Goddess of All the Things”.) Everyone in “The Land” lives along the banks of the “The River”, which is surrounded by high cliffs and mountains. Most travel in “The Land” is done by boat along “The River” but it’s not strictly linear; “The Goddess” might pick your boat up and move it to some distant point along “The River” if she decides she needs you somewhere else. If all of this reminds you of something, then congratulations! You too have read Riverworld.
The book also bears a passing resemblance in some ways to another book that I read recently, Lord Foul’s Bane, by Stephen R. Donaldson, in that both books feature a
hero main character** who gets plucked out of their regular world and deposited in an epic fantasy one, and both protagonists initially believe that they’re either dreaming or hallucinating and treat the world as an unreal one where nothing they do matters. However, one major difference between the two is that in “The Seventh Sword”, Wallie Smith gets called out on this almost immediately by a demigod servant (who likes to take the form of a young boy) of “The Goddess” that brought him over.
Wallie hesitated, seeing the cloak on the bed and the hamper with the fortune in silver dishes inside it. “What happens to this stuff?” he asked.Dave Duncan, The Seventh Sword
“It will be stolen,” the boy answered. “Does it matter?”
Wallie detected an odd note in the question, saw a gleam in the sharp eyes. It was a trick question — if he admitted that it mattered, then he was admitting that the things had value and hence that they were in some way real. Once he took that hook, he would be as good as landed.
“Not to me.”
“Then let’s go,” the boy repeated, dancing over to the door.
Needless to say, after being imprisoned and tortured, Wallie Smith is in pretty short order forced to admit that yes, it does matter.
The little brown boy was leaning against the slab that held Wallie’s ankles, watching him. He was still naked, still as skinny as a bundle of sticks, still holding a leafy twig in one hand. His face was expressionless.Dave Duncan, The Seventh Sword
“Well, does it matter?” he asked.
“Yes, it does,” Wallie said.
So I rather enjoyed that little twist on the whole “I’m just dreaming this whole thing” business that you often see in these kinds of stories. (I didn’t even bother with it in my “characters get transported to another world” books, Shards and Ravels, where the characters figure out pretty quickly that whatever is going on, it is not all in their heads.)
Meanwhile, I’m continuing to work on Blue Roses, which may or may not end up being a “characters get transported to another world” book; I’m not entirely sure yet how that’s all going to play out. There is one character who might know, but it’s not telling yet.
“Sorry,” Baxter told the squirrel. “No crumbs left. I ate it all.”James V. Viscosi, Blue Roses
“I know,” the squirrel said. Its voice was not nearly as high-pitched as decades of cartoons had led Baxter to expect. “I’m not begging. I’m supposed to show you something.”
Baxter stared at the squirrel for a moment, then looked around to make sure no one was close enough to see or hear him talking to a rodent. Then he said: “What?”
“What?” Baxter got the distinct impression the squirrel was mocking him, which became definite when the squirrel said it again, and followed up with, “Why do you humans always do that? Act like you didn’t hear what you clearly heard? Act like you didn’t see what you clearly saw?”
“Are you … Are you lecturing me?”
“I would call it hectoring,” the squirrel said with a sniff.
Baxter looked around again. There were pedestrians now but they seemed to be avoiding his table, either using the nearby crosswalk to go to the other side of the street or approaching, hesitating, then apparently changing their minds and going back the other way. He heard a scrabbling noise and was startled to discover that the squirrel had hopped up on the bench next to him. This was an awfully exposed spot for a ground squirrel and, in its way, just as surprising as having one talk to him. Well, maybe not just as surprising.
Baxter leaned over a little and said, in a low voice, “Are you doing something to keep people away from me?”
“Am I? Like maybe I’m doing some kind of magic to repel them? I could be.” The squirrel scratched vigorously at its left ear with its left back foot. “Or maybe they just don’t want to get too close to a guy who’s talking to a squirrel.”
I won’t say somebody talking to a squirrel is the weirdest thing I’ve seen going on down by the beach, but it’s not far off, either.
* Have I mentioned that this collection is over 3,100 pages long?
** Characterizing Thomas Covenant, the protagonist of Lord Foul’s Bane, as a “hero” would be a bit of a stretch.