In much the same way that the Voynich Manuscript has provided a blank screen for generations of amateur cryptologists to project their code-breaking desires onto, it has in recent years provided a rich loam for writers to plant their novelistic seeds into.

In the bad old days of novel-writing, the VMs would simply have been treated as an interchangeable cipher-based Macguffin, a time capsule mechanically carrying [powerful / occult / heretical] ideas forward from the [insert bygone era name here] to satisfy the present-tense needs of the plot. Plenty of old-fashioned writers continue to hammer out such formulaic Victorian penny-dreadful tat even now: what kind of barrier could ever hold back such a tide?

Thankfully, contemporary writers have begun to engage with other ideas in the cloud of ideas surrounding the VMs. Though I personally don’t think it will turn out to be delusional nonsense, channelled writing, off-world DNA-creation technology, or even a deliberate hoax, I think these are interesting angles far more worthy of being explored in fiction.

With this in mind, here’s a list of the novel reviews on my site:-

(1) It’s brutally old-fashioned, but Indiana Jones and the Philosopher’s Stone [review] by Max McCoy presses all the right buttons. It knows it’s a piece of junk but simply doesn’t care: it’s having too much fun. Recommended!

(2) I had high hopes for “PopCo” [review] by Scarlett Thomas, but it just ended up like a creative writing collage. If you can cope with the crypto-geeky Gen-X No-Logo buzzwordiness of the whole concept, you’ll probably enjoy it: but for me it fails to work on most levels.

(3) Rather than engage with the VMs directly, “Vellum” [review] by Matt Rubinstein creates an Australian doppelganger of it, and has a lot of fun exploring a would-be decipherer’s descent into madness and/or confusion. Recommended!

(4) “Enoch’s Portal” [review] by A.W.Hill boils up a heady stew of alchemy, cultishness and quantum pretension, where Leo Levitov’s Cathar hypothesis about the Voynich Manuscript is merely one of many spices sloshed into the mixing bowl. No Michelin stars, sorry.

3 thoughts on “Voynich-related novel reviews…

  1. fastercat on October 7, 2008 at 7:07 pm said:

    It appears that the links are broken, pointing to the old website. I’ve seen this other times since the switch and thouhgt I’d mention it.

  2. Unfortunately, at one point in the transition from Blogger to WordPress I managed to mangle a whole bunch of links, and I have to sort that out at some point. *sigh*

    Thanks for pointing it out, though! 🙂

  3. I’ve just gone through and (I hope) sorted all those out: all the links should now point to within the new http://www.ciphermysteries.com site. There are still a few references to “Voynich News” in the text itself, but that’s probably OK.

    Now all I have to do is: add categories to the earliest 60-ish posts; re-upload all the photos (they’re still hosted on Blogger/Picasa, where Google Image search can’t find them *sigh*); add some kind of profile link for me; and whatever else comes up.

    Blogger to WordPress migration is ghastly and slow: I just wish I’d known more about WordPress at the start, before I’d made 200+ Blogger posts. Oh well! 🙁

    Cheers, ….Nick Pelling….

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