Like most of my book discoveries as a teenager, this one began as I lurked among the shelves at my local bookstore. Back then, I was always slinking through the shadows of the science fiction/fantasy aisle, endlessly scrounging through the books, hoping to uncover something that I had not seen before. Some times I was successful; other times I was not.
On this particular day though, I stumbled upon a novel with what I considered a ridiculous cover. Instantly, I recall thinking to myself, “A white Don King is on this cover? Yeah – except he is drawn as a goblin or something in the background.” So naturally, wanting to have a good joke at this book’s expense, I picked it up and showed it to my buddy who was nearby.
He thought it was ridiculous too. We made a couple of not-so-funny jokes, had a good juvenile laugh, then my friend put the novel back on the shelf and buried his head back in his favorite Dragonlance novel of the moment. Me, on the other hand, I wanted some more info about this stupid novel; something else I could make fun of, so I retrieved it from the shelf and actually read the description.
Do I even need to say what happened?
Probably not, but the fact is that I had an epiphany. (Not that I knew what an epiphany was back then. Hell, if you’d asked me what the word meant, I’d probably have guessed it was a prostrate disease or something. I realize my mistake would seem stupid now, but looking back, I’m amazed that my raging hormones hadn’t completely whipped out all my higher thought processes.) This strong realization came to me that I had found something different; a story so grim, so realistic in a fantasy way that I knew it was something new; something I’d never experienced before; something that – if the term had even been coined yet – was “grimdark.” And so, damn the cover, I immediately bought the book and began to read as fast as I could, amazed at the story that filled my mind.
For in the land of the Morigu, a horrendous war was fought a generation ago against the most evil god of them all. No creature was able to stay neutral in this grapple to the death; every conscious thing was drawn into the struggle, including mankind, elves, dwarves, the gods, and even Mother Earth herself.
Naturally, each side had their great heroes: beings who stalked across the battlefields of the world, raining down death and destruction on their enemies. However, the greatest of these champions were the morigues: males and females who willingly forsook their humanity to be raised by the Earth as her last protectors. But great power comes at great cost, and with the morigues, it inevitably became their sanity, as one after another succumbed to madness and took their own lives. Yet even with these beings of seemingly limitless power, it seemed that the evil one would still triumph.
Then the free folks did something believed to be impossible: they created a god!
One of their own was selected: the king of a small human nation, who was far from divine, pure, or anything else such as that, but rather, the only person desperate and stupid enough to do this. Thus, a mighty ritual was performed, whereby the greatest mages, talismans and weapons of the world were destroyed and their power infused into this would be god-ling. And when it actually worked, the remaining forces of “good” sent forward their god to challenge the evil one.
And come forward the dark one did. A mighty struggle taking place that laid low the land round about before the new god-ling actually triumphed!
But even in defeat, the dark one could not be destroyed, and so he was chained away in the darkness for all eternity with bonds of imprisonment so potent that they could not be removed by anyone or anything. Then there was joy in the world. Goodness and light had triumphed over evilness and darkness. An unrivaled age of tranquility was assured to last forever.
Time passes. The world moves on from this devastating war: people trying to forget. Children are born and raised with no memory of the evil one. Even the seemingly eternal heroes of the struggle begin to grow old, peculiar or die until only the survivors annual meeting serves as a reminder of that grim time. But nothing last forever – even peace. So on this particular occasion, the revelry has barely ended before something horrible occurs: the long vanquished creatures of the dark one arise from hiding to sweep over everything!
The atrocities on the people of the world in these first few weeks of fighting are staggering: vampires, goblins, and other vile creatures destroying mindlessly. Naturally, the old heroes attempt to step into the breach and hold things together, but something has changed, made their enemies stronger and them weaker. All looks lost. Destruction of the very world seems possible.
But where others believed the dark one vanquished for all time, Mother Earth was not fooled. She had felt that his defeat was too easily obtained, his acceptance of it out of character. And so, even as she attempted to heal the horrendous wounds to herself, Mother Earth held back a portion of her power, waiting for this day to come, and when she foresaw that it was almost upon her, she reached out with this part of herself, took possession of a brutalized elf whose entire family was slain by the “supposedly” vanquished goblins, and raised him as her lone morigu: the only one who would fight for her in this final struggle with the evil one.
But this defender of the Earth is different from the ones who came before; his power is wilder, more volatile; his empathy for Mother Earth’s pain more acutely felt; and his madness not a slow-moving disease but a rampant virus which has infected him completely until it is difficult for him to even relate to his fellow living creatures. And as the Morigu charges into the tide of the dark one’s horde, the wise of the world wonder whether the insanity laying behind his eyes will save them from the evil one or deliver them to him.
Needless to say, I felt like Mr. Perry had grabbed me by the throat, slapped all my preconceived fantasy sensibilities out of my head, and drug me through a gore-coated world that had little in common with the standard fantasy faire of the 1980s. Reading this novel was like sampling The Silmarillion while on acid! Like picking up Prince of Thorns and finding out there are now hundreds of Jorg Ancraths! Good guys became bad guys. Most everyone was grey instead of black or white. There were scenes of such intense violence and gore that I was both shocked and mesmerized. War became real for me in this narrative. Innocent people died by the hundreds. People were tortured and raped. Heroes would run for their lives out of fear, even as they allowed innocents to die. Despair caused even the bravest men and women to commit unspeakable acts to save themselves. The evil creatures committed atrocity after atrocity. Death himself chooses sides in this war. And the Morigu loomed over it all, unimpressed by anything he saw, ready and willing to sink his blade into the heart of a god if that was what was necessary to protect Mother Earth.
Yes, Morigu: The Desecration was truly a memorable experience in my fantasy reading. It not only shocked me and entertained me; it also showed me that even though I believed nothing in the genre could surprise me any more I was wrong. Sure, reading all the “It” writers of the time was great, but other – perhaps lesser known – works were also out there, filled with inventive and maybe even groundbreaking ideas. So while I try to follow the crowd to the next “It” fantasy novel or author, I also keep scrounging around those shadowy bookstore aisles, scanning that long e-book list on Amazon, because I never know when I just might find another Morigu novel that will spin my head around. And that is what reading is all about, right?