Salamander by Thomas Wharton
Salamander is about a printer who is given the task of creating the ultimate book, one that is infinite, with no beginning and no end. Naturally, such a task necessitates a quest, for he needs the perfect paper, type, and ink. Along the way, we hear the stories of the people he meets.
The road you were on is known in these parts as the Dragon Vein Stretching a Thousand Miles. Every mile of it is crowded with people like me, like the ferryman, like yourself, people with stories. And all of these stories are in some hidden way linked to one another, like the blood of the dragon flowing beneath its impenetrable hide.
Although the style is difficult to get used to, with dashes (rather than quotation marks) to indicate when someone is speaking, and sentence fragments aplenty, I still felt a sense of excitement as I devoured the first 100 pages. At last, I thought to myself, I have found the perfect book to give as a gift to my friend, K—, who shares my love of reading. But the rest of the novel did not live up to the promise of the premise. It became, I am sorry to say, more than a bit weird and silly.
Salamander is not all bad. It certainly has a haunting quality, and one can feel the author’s passion for books, which is something that any serious reader loves to sense. It fails spectacularly, but perhaps because it reaches so much higher than your average book, and so I thinkĀ I must keep an eye on this author. He might one day write that novel that I can’t wait to share.