What Would I Rather Be Reading? Part VII: Digger (and others)

This is coming later than I anticipated, but I expected that. While WordPress will list this as posted on Monday, it’s still Sunday where I live. So I win! Now. Has everyone gone and read Digger? No?

No problem, you can still go do that now.

….What, still not going? You’re only hurting yourself, you know.

So you’re probably wondering why I seem so insistent that you check this one out. Well, it is excellent in many ways. The art is good, the story is fantastic, and the characters are…well. You know the usual moral relativism, grey vs. grey morality, right? Basically, everyone has a dark side, no one is pure, that sort of thing? That is very much not in evidence in Digger; instead, if I were to say that everyone is a good person, I would be exaggerating only slightly. Every character has reasons for their actions and stances, and though some parties are more reasonable than others, there is almost no malice between characters. Which is not to say there isn’t conflict; there is a lot of conflict, but it is almost always generated from the clash of different cultures and worldviews, and once common ground is found the characters get along reasonably well. (There is, of course, one major exception, behind the majority of the plot. But the narrative to reach that point is so well constructed, I would never dream of spoiling it for you.)

ganeshaThe story revolves around the eponymous Digger, a strong, intelligent, female wombat with an above average grasp of common sense. She loses her way while digging a tunnel under ground, falling prey to one of the many dangers to be found underground (hallucinogenic gas, in case you were wondering). Surfacing, she finds herself in an unknown land, within a temple of Ganesha. Although she wants to get back to her home warren, her compassion and common sense lead her to connect with the people she meets, and her efforts toward finding her home are continually sidetracked as she deals with humans, hyenas, magic, gods, and an unusual shadow child who follows her around.

I cannot praise this main character enough; I barely know where to start. Digger is a wonderful hero. She is strong, but without relying on force she attempts to solve problems by talking them through. She is very practical, but also kind and compassionate. She is focused on her goal, but not to the point of monomania; I mention it because one of the major ‘antagonists’ is such because of his profound tunnel vision. Above all, she admits her limitations, but tries to resolve her self-imposed responsibilities in spite of how outside her comfort zone they are. She is a wonderful person despite, or perhaps due to, being a talking wombat.

All the other characters have similar depth, but I would just like to mention Ed. Ed is an exiled hyena creature, and he is the single most understanding, peaceful, friendly, wise character in the entire comic. He is introduced trying to eat Digger, an action she later admits was rather reasonable under the circumstances. That’s the kind of story this is, a study in seeing the other person’s point of view. Classy.

Let me turn away from Digger for a moment to speak about its creator, Ursula Vernon. You may have noticed that I don’t like to say a lot about the writer in these articles, because I’d rather focus on their writings; but let me just say that Ursula Vernon is someone I would very much like to meet someday. Setting that aside, she writes children’s’ books, none of which I have read. However, under the pen name T. Kingfisher she has written some adult novellas, which are excellent. She has written a couple of classic storytale variants: Bryony And Roses, for example, is a very interesting variant of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story; The Seventh Bride has echoes of “Bluebeard” within. But the one I find most interesting is Nine Goblins.

NineGoblinsIn a way, it sounds like a parody: a war between the ‘good’ races (i.e. humans and elves) and the ‘evil’ goblins, except told from the point of view of the bad guys. And it does read a bit like that, especially in the beginning. But as it goes on, it becomes obvious that the goblins are actually rather upright people, just not very competent; that’s not to say that the humans etc. are actually bad, just not any better than the goblins. Sort of. And ignoring the presence of Sings-to-trees, magical beast veterinarian, who could be qualified for sainthood. But as the novel progresses, the humorous elements start to be downplayed and things get rather dark…

So, have you gone to read Digger yet? I may have mentioned, but it is really good. And please try Ursula Vernon’s other books as well. Seriously, they’re excellent.

Well. Guess that’s that. Setting aside the lateness, a new chapter of A Game of Thrones will be up on Wednesday, so look forward to that, I guess. ‘Night.

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