Have you ever imagined what life in the Garden of Eden was like for the snake? If you’ve ever wondered what it got up to after the fateful encounter with naked people and the fruit then J. Rutledge has your answers in “Truth and the Serpent”.
A shipwrecked man finds his way through a storm to a cave where he intends to seek shelter. Inside, there lies a massive serpent surrounded by untold riches with many tales to tell. Invited to stay awhile and listen, the man is regaled with stories of the old world and it isn’t long before he recognizes these stories and storyteller alike.
The serpent, in this case, is the forefather of dragonkind. A brilliant and very fun idea, so right off the top a reader’s mind would whirl with all dragon lore, half-forgotten woodcuts, and all manner of natural disaster blamed on dragons through early history. Now, it all somehow makes sense. When the dragon type creature here relays the first story of exile, it is hard to not be enchanted by the idea entirely. He runs through other stories up to the great exile and beyond, though using different names and a very breezy manner. Think of a long Sunday school lesson as taught by a barfly on a dreary afternoon, and it’s close to what being in a long conversation with the serpent from the Garden of Eden is like.
Christian or not, we know a lot of these stories by osmosis. Luckily, the author here retains a playful and blasphemous tone. Modernizing the feel entirely, the Serpent himself is more than ageless. All-knowing, and fairly well read, this creature also possesses a ribald sense of humour and much like the best jester, only learns from his mistakes half of the time.
Those who enjoy the dry jest of Monty Python or more comedic fantasy fare will enjoy this, especially if they have an interest in biblical times. The serpent himself has a taste for the here and now, so references like television shows, Clive Barker films, Oscar Wilde, political and philosophical figures are referenced by Rutledge heavily and often.
While written very well, the style can come across as loose at times. Between the serpent himself being a one-man vaudeville act, and wanting to know what the next story will be it does keep the reader turning pages, though some of the monologues get very long. The back and forth ceases to be engaging since the main character’s personality forces him to talk ‘at’ people as opposed to talk ‘with’ people. As a result, the relationship between the shipwrecked man and this divine creature is pushed to the recesses, making room for the grand fish tales. It is fitting as the parables retold here are in a similar style as the generally accepted versions though this time with a dark bent, a different point of view, curse words and very creative use of things an armchair theologian may amuse themselves with.
I would have to award this 3.5 stars, as this was an enjoyable concept that was a little top heavy for the idea. It’s not that these stories have been retold, and they are rarely told better than when in humour, but the girth of the book weighed down the mirth found within. It would make a good reading exercise for those with a solid base in comparative religion and can find humour in the premise of the snake who begat dragons living in a cave up until today from the start. An absurdist jaunt, “Truth and the Serpent” is not your typical Sunday school.
I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection.