Queen of Clouds


QUEEN OF CLOUDS by Neil Williamson

PART THREE OF REVIEW CONTINUED FROM HERE: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/904-2/

NewCon Press 2022

My previous reviews of Neil Williamson: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/neil-williamson/

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

28 responses to “*


    “People like him didn’t get to have the luxury of emotions…”

    Or of the motes and motal resonances themselves, as the plot plots on with seemingly innumerable motives of matches and marriages (“…reintroducing ink into the family blood […] The family stock is tanking.”) and the secrets of weather, wood, paper and ink. A Peake at such emotions and emoting that pile in on me, as well as ‘voice thoughts’ that think this book into some gestalt scheme it may not even have thought about itself? “Maybe everyone was on the verge of being awakened?”
    The sadness of Tocka and his buckled and eventually burnt legs, time stopping. Only to start yet again with the “brattish weather”. Weather that begins to know about our lying and angry-polarised propaganda thoughts just like ink can be read purely as ink rather than just the words that the ink forms! And Billy’s guilt and “yolk of responsibility” — as if this Jungian Gaia of a book (with its inner plot) is formed like an egg or double dome. Meanwhile, Billy forgot about the paper helicopter he’d earlier received through the air, and so had I forgotten it! I had even forgotten who Alicia Creasey was, until I checked back. A woman character and a place where she lived well worth experiencing, however, with fountains of ink and walls or towers of books and papers that no amount of my reviewing can do justice to! Paper also that is hedonistic like silk. The purest purity, though, may come ironically with no paper at all in the version of this book that I happen to read because of my own down-sizing!

    “I’m researching paper that is resistant to the effects of all her clever inks.”


    “…the battle of attrition… […] Precipitation pelted down in unpredictable bouts: fat rain that shocked him…. […] – lifetimes of mundane achievement – were all dragged out of the burning buildings and piled up in neat corrals…”

    A moving and visionary chapter. I do not want to belittle or exploit what is going on in our own alternate world at the moment, but much of the poignancy, and sylvan debris, and Dickensian kids as sweepers and salvagers, and the shuffling institutionalised, remind me preternaturally by dint of the literary gestalt of our own times plus the attritional war of (Uk)rain(e) and a world’s construction in autonomous entropy here under the now ironic merits of someone called Crane, another assonance with rain.
    The visionary, too, in the descriptions of glory beetles, plus Billy’s own attrition within the indelible ‘sentence’ or sentience of his very being within the Institution — and a weakened hold on the Book of Law as what I call the literary gestalt, now less than indelible via electronics and connected machines…but what happens plotwise is wisely the only thing that matters — what we are told by narration happens alongside what is about to happen in actuality. The ever prevailing indelibility of the Art of Fiction, in whatever medium of print or static screen pages, screens not with overtly fabricated moving images but with the real images from pure print as conveyed to the reading brain. The art of printed fiction as pure entertainment for its own sake, first, but also suspended disbelief in something bigger afterwards.

    “…the ink in’t what it used to be. But still that’s no reason for us to be out in this madness.”

  3. “It as if the text is changing just before I get to it, trying to scupper or confuse my review with its own confusions. As if this were an externally manipulable ebook rather that what it actually is: a proper book with text on solid paper. I am actually excited by all of this, as I become faced, inter alia, with: the prospect of different expurgated or unexpurgated texts elsewhere, the ‘dissociative creep’ of something controlling my mind that I am this book’s counterbalance, rather than fulcrum…”
    From my review in 2014 of this author’s THE MOON KING here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/16956-2/


    “Sentences can be changed.”

    Plots, too … by readers or misreaders? Or those fighting to keep on top of plots to understand them or stop them changing or stop them getting out of hand? I am keeping my head above its rising water of dilemmas such as political posturing versus action, dilemmas and disputes between characters, seditions and, yes, sentences versus sentences.

    “…there were too many pieces and he couldn’t make them fit. […] Even when you have connections.”

    Is that Billy, or is that me? But I certainly feel the ‘heart-breaking’ poignancy of the Dickensian kids, one in particular who is about to take a big part by climbing above it all? The institutionalised, the mind being taken away by sentence sedition as well as by propaganda, ink fighting ink, and this includes my watching earlier this morning on TV the military parade (with its ranks of turned smile-frozen faces) in the Moscow of my own alternate world (in Red Square where I once walked), my own different alternate world in which I am reading this book! “If there so many more improvees, it stands to reason that more will become habituated…” — giving this book a sense of anger, of lying and being in brainwashed denial. It may be an important work in hindsight, as well as being pure entertainment, each leg of its spider becoming an alternate thread of meaning? “….setting family against family, cause against need and, through the printed word, weaving truth and lies to manipulate public opinion…” — the ultimate “ink trap.” — “…the increase in sentence severity.”

    “But we’re trying to catch zephyrs here.”

  5. Seldom do I sleep in recent years without co-vivid dreams, and last night I had two — the gradual evolving of Para Loess in my mind, and working Collodically upon the two elbows of a new sylvan called Hidalgo.


    A chapter about ‘losing traction while cornering’ and the ‘jostling’ of an arm when drinking tea…

    “Billy lay listening to the even slough of her breathing. […]
    He’d been dreaming of sylvans being tossed into the back of a truck like firewood.”

    …and, so, from that dreamed-of back of a truck to the most beautiful description, in real life, of an equally beautiful car seemingly made wholly of wood (“a sweeping celebration of the art of marquetry”) and the most effective and truly felt description in all fiction literature, I confidently guess, of a hailstorm after a Valentinal broodingness by ‘churlish’ and beetle-coloured clouds and of the consequent startling experience (that I once experienced a few years ago) of skidding in ice as “the car revolved slowly, graceful as a sycamore seed” followed by….!

  7. Another quote from my 2014 review of THE MOON KING: ”And the ‘cloud’, a rogue prediction at the beginning of this review, now finally reaches realisation; a cloud of insects configured like print?”


    “Billy could quite happily have spent hours attempting to identify the timbers he knew from Kim’s teachings…”

    There is a renewed dawning of a still growing gestalt in my mind about this whole book bearing in mind its latest mote-momentous chapter. With knots and knobs, and no doubt knurls, in planks of wood forming a ladder for Billy, while an old man like me is tilting at windmills. Until his ‘knee betrayed him’. A joint that is more assonant with knotted wood than elbow might be.
    Yes, this book is about tilting at windmills, I guess, but one where the wind and clouds across the eyes that can also give birth to hail like ‘broken brick rain.’ The gestalt of wood, metal and stone that I found (here) near the beach once. “But there was a chip of black ice in the corner of the old man’s bright eyes that said this still wasn’t the whole story.” John Bello of Agra Aska all grist to the mill.
    “…and pretty much the softest piece of cloth Billy had ever felt. It pained him to ruin it.”
    A vast glass ceiling is mentioned, and a woman who originally sought this gestalt…
    “When Oshi approached us with her outré ideas at first we laughed, then we scorned, and then finally we took the opportunity she was offering.”
    We must not let the Inksmiths use all our sylvans.
    “You’re proof that man is not ‘Rightly Bound by the Limits of his Humanity’. You’re a living contradiction of the Law of Man.”
    And mention of ‘boneblack’, and my meeting yesterday a character called Dodger Blackbone in a story (here) by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
    Trunk and branch and tunk of cone.
    We are all now ‘preparing’. “And that was followed by the sense of a forest, an entirety.”
    And the plot plots and knots on with more than just seldom sylvan spirit. Knots as old ligotti.
    To be entertained by its pure plot you need to read it! My pretentious real-time review is clumsily chopping at wood to reveal some of its inner grain. Please join in with your own methods of reading this book and help triangulate its coordinates towards an eventual core of an otherwise plot-curdled sense, and help towards a centring of hope for our alternate ill-weathered world outside this book’s real world.
    “…slow growth, its season on season patience, its lack of any ambition other than to be.”


    “as they knotted and braided”

    This chapter, if you have the propensity, might affect you deeply with an intrinsic type of religion, never encountered before, in fiction, the possibility of some new vista, whether welcome or not, beyond but still within its container. Whatever the case, whatever this being a pretentious thought or not, I feel this chapter demonstrates new ideas that have been crafted, honed, and dealt with kindly and perseveringly with words in compelling ink and unlike the ‘tainted’ sign in the chapter works on any surface the reading mind chooses, not just throwaway ideas or conceits. All conveyed by the thrust of an entertaining, conspiratorial plot. The unprising of a poor sylvan’s fingers from where they are embedded in some other structure of wood, a building that is a machine for its own sake through the cogs of which you need to crawl for entry, a clockwork device that really works but threatens to remove a sylvan’s self, and I recall that container by an air- and metal-worker of wood and stone, too, that I found near the beach as shown above by myself now become the cuboid of visionary things within?
    “We are limited only by our ability to imagine.”
    “…great art lasts, inferior work fades.”
    And even as this book now faces its own perceived end by our checking the next quarter of it ahead to be read, it’s “still growing, still weaving, creating ever more beautiful patterns.”

    • Intense mutual synergy as cross-referenced with The Anodizing Line here: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/scott-nicolay/#comment-2476

      (Re my comments above about Chapter 21: ‘This chapter, if you have the propensity, might affect you deeply with an intrinsic type of religion, never encountered before, in fiction, the possibility of some new vista, whether welcome or not, beyond but still within its container. […] …a building that is a machine for its own sake through the cogs of which you need to crawl for entry, […] now become the cuboid of visionary things within?’)


    “Who else, knowingly or not, had taken advantage of the awakening of motes?”

    More onward motion of the complex characters and their plots, with Billy’s vista (with ‘impeccable acoustics’ and a cat on his lap, while experiencing a dizzying “surge of lust” and with the cube in his pocket) of the Karpentine families and their craft guilds, a crisis meeting that reminds me of our own politicians and their machinations, now observed, in this chapter, by much of the population in person. Meanwhile, I can’t help comparing the art of weather engineering to the concept of politically arranged marriages, one ignoring nature, the other love?


    “You remembered things from your sentence. No one does that. And you overcame your release. Are you so impervious to ink?”

    …and that seems intrinsic about life itself, as we consider the paper we write on even more than the ink, and perhaps even more again than the words formed by the ink? A sense of osmosis of meaning in fiction being more important than the plot that carries it!? This chapter, a tête-à-tête between Billy and Para, is a useful aide memoire with some bullet points, in written-down spoken dialogue, about the plot, in case we have lost sight of it, I guess. Followed by a thrilling roof chase as Billy flees the Bellos and is miraculously saved, by a sudden sylvan-souled tree, from a gap in the roofs and perhaps from a lacuna in the inspiring words that tells us about it….

    “…the chimney pots. They had been carved into a choir of children, mouths open to praise the sky,…”


    “You can hear them shuffling about at the top levels, but the further you go down, it gets real quiet. It is like the dead.”

    This is possibly one of the most powerful and frightening conceit of a chapter in the book so far, even though I had forgotten about Clymie till now. As Billy and Vern encounter the true nature of the shuffling Institutionalised — transcending Orwell to the nth degree. The prose used for this is mind-fazingly crafted. The cyclic levels of a mindless heaven toward furnace hell … just to produce ‘boneblack’? — and in turn just to make us all submit to the mindlessness growing around us. Maybe even this book itself is in the know, and all readers of it will join those cyclic levels because of the ink it uses to tattoo our mind so much and so often that it merges into one blot of blackness? Or what the mind behind the ink makes us believe about the ink before we forget it — as I once forgot Clymie and will forget her again, no doubt. I do it all the time, these days. I often blame the mental weather.


    “‘What about Clymie?’ For all his stoicism, there was a child’s whine to his voice.”

    A most haunting chapter, and, inter alia, you will never forget Sister Sin’s speech to Billy even if you forget some other things — and much about this book assures its own durability, its relevance to our endless parallel moments today. This a passion of a reading moment, but somehow I cannot forgive myself for forgetting Clymie, and the promises Billy gave her, amid ‘strange squalls’ and the knowledge that ‘everybody cheats’, even me? And how the literary cube or gestalt will ever be possessed as well as passed on. Because of the weight in the reading pocket? And what of that ‘awful obeisant ink’. Ashes to ashes, boneblack to boneblack…
    The plot itself plots on, honestly without my spoiling it. But please forgive me if I sometimes quote above my quota.

    “It encapsulated this place to the ground, its obsession with achievement, that even the least fortunate child in a peer group […] seized on an opportunity to maltreat and bully those they perceived as less than they were.”


    “…stare at the paper not the ink, the white not the black.”

    This seems some bone-deep weary apotheosis of the moribund or lethargic, where paper cuts are stigmata in a new religion; it’s, maybe, without my really knowing how, a tour de force of a writer writing so-called fiction having “matched it with a paper specifically devised to enhance its properties. Almost no one could resist that combination.” Paper sheaves manifolded, interleaved between caches of the unknowing self-sacrificing of sylvans and the now blood-breached buck, and overheard plotting conversations even out-plotting this actual plot erected to bear such indulgences of time, and institutionalised “Sentence upon sentence delivered with the ink of Roach, the paper of Creasey. It was capitulation to utter despair.” And an erected sign inked towards an inescapable process of eschatology, plus the memories of a ballet upon wood floors that this paper made, and Aickman’s or Bowen’s ‘gluey Zenoism’ (Google ‘gluey Zenoism’ and ‘nullimmortalis’ together) that I discovered in recent months of hard work in the institution of my own brain now differently deployed in this book as “pungent reality of air clogged with spores.” And “The voice thought came again. The ripe apple, ready to fall. It is time, the sylvans said.” — “Some of the pages were even organised into catalogue books, and there were shelves along the hallway with labelled compartments identifying samples of scabby wood and rotten rag.”
    A part of me doesn’t even now care that I may be quoting above my quota. But I feel exonerated as I’ve left the most effective passages unquoted, left them on or in the book’s real or virtual pages for your near-simultaneous reading of them. With a hope as yet unexpressed.


    “The clouds hadn’t run out of ideas after all.”

    I should not have used the word ‘apotheosis’ about the previous chapter. Because this one is. Can apotheoses build upon each other? From the gluey insides to the even more gluey outside which should have been clean and breathable! As if clotted and cloying fog are now word glues themselves reaching around us after reaching firstly to fill the chimneys downward into them instead of out of them, then settling upon the ground where we walk, falling as rancid rotten apples of glue to breathe, almost as if those of us who experienced the Covid era have now been forced to abandon en masse the Intensive Care Units while stripped of our ventilator masks. We are still wandering out there today as part of the words of this chapter, meeting those who we think we know as people we knew but they are slightly different, off colour to say the least, their not being them at all but still somehow being them. But we also somehow know that poignancies still play out between characters, and that the plot about them goes on, and we must not lose the plot.
    Not an ironic forced and painful emission from dead lungs of LoL but ‘stores’ of “IoI’, I o I, my oh my, where am I?

    “In the fog, everyone looked the same.”


    “…the weather was able to manifest vapour into something approximating human form,…”

    Last night, in the my own real-time, the weather was as noisy as it possibly could be, and this morning I notice in the news — as a parallel to this chapter’s mention of the seeking of the ‘bomb’ — that “The Russians are searching for a ‘wunder-waffe’ Zelensky mockingly claimed.” Fiction and reality ever intertwine in all manner of Swiftian ways, I say. Fiction, like the weather in this fiction, itself becomes autonomous and talkative and active, not passive, beyond the control of any author.
    “It was impossible to tell if he was ink-subdued or all but dead.”
    …as a Para or Parallel, ‘hidden in plain sight’, reaches the softened state of ‘loess’ as I seem to have envisaged nearly forty years ago. Shall we call the process ‘phernalia’ as the losing of such ‘motal awareness’. A motal, if not moral, ‘modest proposal’?
    But we now witness Billy Braid’s Christ-like strength of imagination in healing, by dint of the ‘“commingled profusion” of leaves’ ability to heal breathing….
    Yet our own times today teach us what may come next in this highly important prophetic proposal of fiction…

    “‘How can they get away with this?’
    ‘The same way as they get away with everything else,… […] The right words, the right ink. Tell the story whatever way suits them…’”

  17. “It is not easy to remember how and why I wrote a story or a novel. Once they detach from me, I too find them unfamiliar. It’s not a ‘trance,’ but the concentration during the writing seems to take away the awareness of whatever isn’t writing itself.”
    — Clarice Lispector (Ukrainian born Brazilian writer)


    “Where was the Book’s sacred every hand the same in all of that?”

    “Gallon jars of darkling ink”, a bomb like a prize pumpkin, all cats if not all characters called by the same name, Bello versus Bello in some eternal fight, and a dirigible…“There is only one sky in this world, wild one.” This Gestalt has become the Gaia. Whether motal = mortal is “a moot point”…
    And a possibly forgotten Queen sitting “stone-faced”…
    Here is represented what I imagine awaits us all eventually, i.e. a transformation that should not be able to be described or contained within any words — except it is somehow described or contained here! The sylvan seeds of renewal are certainly possible, I hope, to enable absolution of all that needs absolving, and the grain of structures we need to look out from towards whatever visionary vision it is.

    The ending of this chapter and its coda makes me think that I should re-read The Moon King as that earlier novel now seems equivalent to this book’s own ‘paper and ink’ version of the transformation described within it, but a transformation in which direction of timelessness? Whatever the case may be, the two books represent for me a combined pillar of high class speculative fiction with Swiftian fable for our times and containing poetic expression — and a sacred or mystic sensibility, whether that stems from the particular grain and knurls of belief within its freehold author or not.
    The reader’s personal rite of passage within this wild plot and character-storm has affected the reader’s own mental-weather day by day for the past month. He shall miss it.
    Towards ultimate Loess — “Anonymous service is admirable, but it’s not my style. […] He is a resource, as we all are. And in our world resources are shared equally.”


  19. PS: My lifetime’s cloud racing is mentioned here in this review: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/sangria-in-the-sangraal/#comment-3411 (the comment dated March 17, 2012, as attached after the review itself).


  20. Cross-referenced with J. G. BALLARD: The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/1207-2/#comment-2510

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s