haven’t read any Kipling – probably because I am a product of the American education system (nowadays, this latest generation, I’d be surprised if they read anything). But I always wanted to have a taste and found this freebie on my favorite place to get ebooks, Project Gutenberg, so I pulled it down and had a look during my gap between books in the Bible.
So this review only follows the first three stories (The Bridge Builders, A Walking Delegate, and The Ship That Found Itself).
I’ll start with The Bridge Builders and you’ll see why I’m saying that (at least at this point). In the Bridge Builders, we find ourselves at the end of one man’s monumental undertaking, that of building a massive bridge across an Indian river. This is a make-or-break moment – in three months it will be done and Findlayson will be rich and famous. But then there are those who built smaller projects and failed, who died of their own hand (or of shame) shortly after. Yes, this bridge is his lifework.
And now he’s just gotten a cable that an early seasonal flood is running downriver and will be there in fifteen hours.
So now we have the frantic preparations of clearing the site, of making everything secure, of getting ready. And now the water is upon them and they watch and wait to see if the bridge is going to fall. But then a cluster of boats begin to shift and Findlayson (operating on a stomach empty of anything save the opium his assistant suggested he take to ease his nerves) tries to save them and ends up falling aboard to be swept down river (with his same opium-dispensing right-hand man). They barely make it to an island to ride out the flood.
And here they engage in a shared vision as the Hindu Gods meet in their various forms in an abandoned shrine to discuss the fate of this bridge, should it fall, and what of the men who made it. It was an interesting clash of the old world and new, reminiscent (in a serious way) to Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods. I really enjoyed this one.
The two following stories were not as good and I’ll confess I could complete neither. One involved a collection of horses discussing Horses Rights and the Overthrow of Man (doubtful) and the other, the components of a ship conversing to each other. I suppose it was the order of presentation that got me here – the three stories shared the idea of unlikely things (Hindu gods, horses and ship pieces) chattering away like men bellied up to a bar. One time was interesting and unique, but after that it got tiring. Just taking objects and sprinkling them with magic Disnification powder doesn’t make a story. The difference here was that in The Bridge Builders, we had the drama of the straining, river-assaulted bridge to drive up the tension. In the other two books, there was no story but the conversations, which wended and bobbed along, of interest to no one.
I’ll have to try some other Kipling tales, I suppose. Always meant to read The Jungle Book…