The Folly of the World by Jesse Bullington
In a flooded 15th century Holland there are very few opportunities available. Jan may have an amazing opportunity at a life full of riches, but it’s hidden somewhere at the bottom of a flooded town. To reach his greedy goal in the dark moldy depths, Jan enlists the help of a wild young girl with a knack for swimming. Add Jan’s slightly psychotic but ever-faithful partner Sander to the mix and you have yourself a watery adventure with a cast to remember.
In both of his previous books, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart and The Enterprise of Death, Jesse Bullington went to great lengths to defy our expectations in every way. His characters were immoral, his language was foul, his violence was graphic, and his subject matter was often nauseating.
His fans will be pleased to know that The Folly of the World is full of the same decadence, degeneration, and gut-wrenching twists and turns we’ve come to know and love. The Folly of the World proudly carries the Bullington torch of depravity, but it’s applied in a more focused, less liberal manner — like using guided missiles instead of napalm.
The characters in The Folly of the World are as you would expect from Jesse Bullington — flawed, violent, and disturbed — but this time he has taken extra care to build a backstory that lets us understand why they turned out that way. Empathy can be a cruel tool for an author to wield. This was done so well that I was horrified to find myself actually feeling sorry for these despicable people. Readers who didn’t like The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart because of the characters may feel differently about this novel.
But as usual, Bullington still takes delight in making his readers very uncomfortable — The Folly of the World is filled with sexual tension, unwelcome surprises, and short lifespans, all of it weaved with masterful wordplay and dark humor. Bullington has perfected his voice in this novel. He’s taken the elements that his fans loved from his previous work and incorporated them in a manner that addresses the critiques of those who didn’t appreciate his earlier work. I think this demonstrates a sense of self awareness and growth as a writer. He was scary good before, and he just keeps getting better.
The Folly of the World is Bullington’s best work to date. I love his previous work, but this is something special. When I recommend his work to others, I’ll suggest this book first. Thanks, Mr. Bullington, for an excellent piece of fiction. And if you’re one of the readers who were grossed out by the Brothers Grossbart, try The Folly of the World.