And Put Away Childish Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky

07/07/2023
And Put Away Childish Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Prolific British science fiction and fantasy author Adrian Tchaikovsky has been writing a series novellas under the group title Terrible Worlds: Destinations. The aspect that connects these stories is the idea of the portal – a doorway into another world. The first:  Walking to Aldebaran involves an alien artefact in space, and the second One Day All This Will be Yours deals with time travel. The third, And Put Away Childish Things is concerned with mythical lands, particularly those created in the mid-twentieth century which required the services of plucky English children who would enter them to go on adventures (Narnia from CS Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in particular). This book (much like Lev Grossman’s The Magicians) asks the question – what if those mythical lands were not only real but not all they were cracked up to be?

Harry Bodie is a B-grade television actor known for his appearance in children’s shows. Bodie is famous by association with his grandmother who wrote a series of books about a mythical world called Underhill. The stories were about a pair of British children who turn out to be the rightful rulers of Underhill and go there from our world to have adventures. Bodie is confronted with the origins of Underhill during the filming of a Genealogy-style series in which it turns out his Great Grandmother was institutionalised on arriving in England and his Grandmother got her inspiration and ideas for Underhill while visiting her mother in the asylum. But this exposure also brings Bodie to the attention of various factions, at least one of which believes that Underhill is a real place. Soon, Bodie finds not only that Underhill is actually real but that it is in decline and possibly he is the only one who can save it.

Tchaikovsky has a lot of fun in this book playing with those fantasy conventions that those who grew up with the Narnia books are familiar with. There is the magical sword, the playful faun, and various other archetypal characters (Bodie’s deep knowledge of which becomes pivotal on more than one occasion). CS Lewis and his Narnia books exist in this world, they are the competition, but it is Underhill that people believe actually exists.

And Put Away Childish Things may be a novella but Tchaikovsky manages to pack plenty into a small space. For example, the framing narrative, set in the present day, also deals with the impact of the Covid and its associated lockdowns on Bodie’s life as a performer. But overall And Put Away Childish Things serves as a not only a deconstruction of but also a kind of paean to some classic and enduring works of British fantasy.

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