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Snarkmaster: A Destiny in Eight Fits. A tale inspired by Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark

The Haunting of the Snarkasbord

By Alison Tannenbaum, Byron W. Sewell, Charlie Lovett, and August A. Imholtz, Jr

First edition, 2012. Illustrations by Henry Holiday. Cathair na Mart: Evertype. ISBN 978-1-78201-002-9 (paperback), price: €12.95, £10.95, $15.95.

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Twelve-year old Stobo stood as close to the edge of the rocky outcropping of Kanwiitok Headland as he dared and carefully peered over the sheer hundred-foot cliff at the surf crashing against the dark, jagged rocks. The water looked almost black in contrast to the white surf and the silvery-grey predawn sky. Thousands of sea birds swirled around the cliff’s black volcanic face, squabbling like illegal immigrants for limited landing and nesting space on the narrow ledges. The stiff, humid wind blowing in from the sea carried their shrill cries over the sound of the crashing surf. The combination of height, the swirl of surf, and wheeling birds brought him a sense of vertigo, and he pulled back a few steps, suddenly afraid that he might tumble headfirst into the inky darkness of the Ocean of Sorrows.

Among the many unique Snarkian works written by Byron W. Sewell, Snark­master stands alone quite distinctly as a unique, gripping tale of a power struggle between good and evil, concluding with the development of an unusual intermediate state. Most of the story takes place prior to the traditional Snark voyage (described in verse in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark), but becomes inextricably linked with it—unless it isn’t…

The literary structure of Snarkmaster reveals some influence of Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno tales, as the characters (including the great Charles Dodgson himself) experience dream states and the appearance of at least one fairy. The comprehensive glossary and painstakingly hand-detailed maps of each of the islands in the archipelago may not be essential to follow the story, but they certainly enhance it. The meticulously hand-inked illustrations emphasize some of the important aspects of the story and provide a tropical ambiance for the text. While not necessarily a prerequisite, knowledge of Carroll’s original poem is likely to make Snarkmaster more enjoyable for most readers. (The publisher quite naturally recommends the Evertype edition, published in 2010 (ISBN 978-1-904808-36-7))

The Snark Archipelago is a remarkable place. Readers will discover there that features of the islands take their tones (either depressing or cheerful, respectively) from the nature of each island’s inhabitants, either evil or good.

In this work, we learn more about the natural history of the Snark than we do from any other source—their habitats, body sizes, array of scale colours, personalities, and behaviour. We find here, for the first time, that snarks can be more or less domesticated and trained to do the bidding of man (well, at least, those humans who are Snarkmasters!). We learn also that snarks are omnivores: Who would have thought that one of the staple foods of these potentially lethal creatures would be a four-foot-tall species of watercress?

Allison Tannenbaum
May 2012


HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, 73 Woodgrove, Portlaoise, R32 ENP6, Ireland, 2012-06-21

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