Book Review: The Gardeners 1 & 2: Master of Paxwax and Fall of the Families, by Phillip Mann

Available in bookstores nationwide.

cv_the_gardenerThis classic science-fiction tale in two volumes has now been reprinted and re-released in the New Zealand market − and thanks to Booksellers NZ, found its way into my reading pile. Now, I do not normally read science fiction, favouring fantasy, but as the synopsis sounded somewhat like a space opera, I figured it was worth reading.

And it was. Highly enjoyable, highly original, with plenty of complex political wrangling, alliances and enemies. At the centre of it all is young Pawl Paxwax, summoned back to his home planet following the death of his younger brother. Suddenly he finds himself heir to the estate, and a freak accident adds further complications to his plans for marriage and a simple life.

Phillip Mann has a truly inspired imagination. His alien races are just that − alien − completely and utterly, in almost every way. From the monstrous Hammer, to the terrifying Spiderlings (weta-inspired aliens), to creatures that seem as insubstantial as a whisper. They are all here, described in enough detail to allow the reader to paint a picture in their mind. Compounded with that are the various deformations suffered by the mostly-humans. Pawl, for example, is hunched and disfigured, another bears a ruff of feathers and most seem to suffer from some sort of physical malady. Truly, Mann has brought these (slightly demented) otherworlds to life.

Pawl is a young man, stubborn and caught in his ways, defiant against tradition and wanting to do things his own way. Through the first book he fights against what is expected of him, and wins. But at what price? Has he sacrificed his own happiness? Perhaps.

cv_the_Gardener_fallThe second book starts on a bittersweet note − Pawl may have succeeded in marrying, but is the simple life his to grasp? No. Political tides swell against him, and he also finds himself an ignorant pawn in a game more dire than any he has ever dreamed. Those he trusts will betray him, and disaster looms, a dark shadow on the horizon.

The prose is excellent and enticing, the language rich and evocative.

The lightly scattered humour, the unfortunate comedy-of-error-esque plotting and the diabolical schemings all make for an entertaining read. I looked forward to finding out where Pawl’s life led him next and could not help but feel that his somewhat selfish behaviour was leading him on a downward spiral into tragedy and darkness.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

The Gardener: Master of Paxwax
by Phillip Mann
Published by Sargasso Press
ISBN 9780473297954

The Gardener: The Fall of the Families
by Phillip Mann
Published by Sargasso Press
ISBN 9780473297961