You start to realise as the book goes on that what is missing compared to Titus Groan and Gormenghast is the character of the castle itself. Without the looming colossus that is the castle it becomes clear that it acted as a great backdrop against the weirdness of the various characters that lived and worked within it. Take those out and then change the setting from something almost medieval to something more modern and the crux of the story falls on Titus’s shoulders.
The slight problem there is that Titus is a character with a reasonably simple motive – having run away from home to wander and fight the homesickness – and therefore he is loathe to pin himself down to long relationships. It makes it a slight struggle because the other characters that pick up the dialogue when Titus is absent are not as deep as someone like the doctor or Steerpike.
But having said that the under river world shows that when it comes to imagination Peake really doesn’t have any borders and he can create numerous characters. None of his characters are run of the mill and each has been invested with effort right down to those who seem to have just one word to contribute to the dialogue.
Bullet points between pages 57 – 131
* Having been captured Titus is sent to court and although the judge thinks he is mad Juno, the woman who has been attracted to him since he fell onto her at the party, asks for him to be given into her care
* She dotes on him and looks after him for several months and they become lovers but Titus grows weary of her and tells her he must go and so leaves and heads for Muzzlehatch’s menagerie
* On the way a globe in the air follows him and Titus uses his flint stone from home to smash it but that brings a group of scientists chasing after him and so following Muzzlehatch’s advice he goes into the under river world where dark and damp surrounds home an odd collection of people
* One of the inhabitants is a spidery man who is interrupted beating up his female companion by Titus and they have a fight that would probably have ended in death for the Earl of Gormenghast if Muzzlehatch had not turned up
* They take the girl and escape and on the way to Juno’s home, a safe refuge, Titus again announces his plan to leave and departs from his protector but doesn’t seem to get too far because next he is being looked after in the shadow of the factory by the chief scientists daughter
* Having had all of his animals killed by the scientists and all sort of hope gone Muzzlehatch resolves to find Gormenghast and Titus and heads off looking for them both
More possibly over the weekend…