“The Helper and His Hero,” by Matthew Hughes is the latest installment of Guth Bandar’s adventures in the noösphere, a shared dreamspace. In the waking world, Guth Bandar is on a journey into the Swept, to investigate whether the gravitional anomalies there can affect the noösphere.
The story is filled with picaresque inventions: the Swept itself, a great grassy landscape that lies over an ancient battlefield; the Rovers, created from dogs, back in ancient times when such genetic manipulations were deemed acceptable; the “lassitude,” a disease of Old Earth that makes you stop moving and talking and in time suffer an early death; the mountebanks offering easy cures.
On the way to the Swept, Gundar meets a young noble, Wasselthorpe, who is a natural for exploring the noösphere, which actually makes him more vulnerable. Sure enough, when they enter the Commons together, the archetype of the Hero threatens to overtake Wasselthorpe, and enlist Bandar as his Helper. Once they enter the Swept, complications ensue (and you wouldn’t believe how much I’m leaving out by saying that). They make allies of the Rovers. An ancient nightmare bursts forth into the waking world. Bandar resists becoming the Helper, but the world needs the Hero.
The bits of humor scattered along the way add to the journey. For example:
Wasselthorpe found the warning hard to believe. “All will be well,” he said. “I am certain of it.”
Bandar informed him that that was always the Hero’s sure belief, right up until the moment the dragon’s teeth closed upon his tender parts.
I also like how Gundar refers to things could happen not too long from now, like creating the Rovers, while our own times are so ancient that buried garbage can become “brillion.” Conversely, there’s some stiffness in the prose, as if it has been translated from an account written in the distant future.
A long, complex story in which all the threads turn out to be necessary to the conclusion.
Tomorrow: The Story of Love