In his debut novel,
The Chosen, RICARDO PINTO takes his hero on a vast journey through a brilliantly imagined land. Just don't call him the new Tolkien.
Words: Brian Donaldson
WERE RICARDO PINTO TO HAVE HIS WAY, GENRE SECTIONS in bookshops would be torn down and rebuilt into one big A—Z experience. His debut novel. The Chosen. part one of a trilogy entitled The Stone Dance Of The Chameleon, has been compared favourably to .I.R.R.Tolkien — meaning, to his horror. an instant slot on the shelf marked Fantasy.
‘Everyone who has read it so far seems to have liked it in spite of the fact that they don’t read fantasy books, so the idea of sticking it there is a problem for me.‘ insists the Portuguese-born. Edinburgh-based 37-year-old. ‘A writer like Ray Bradbury. who is stuck on the science fiction shelves. is just as good as Gabriel Garcia Marquez. One of the most anticipated films for decades — is the new Star Wars film. Why is that? It’s because it has this fairytale quality and a widespread appeal.‘
Pinto moved to Dundee when . - - he was six. and it was there that I thmk Talk'en the trilogy’s genesis came about was fabulous, during the long clammy summer - of 1982 when the future author but I)” backs was studying mathematics. He aren t adult now describes that first effort as enough for ‘utter garbage‘ from an ‘idiot 20- , year-old’ and since then has me-Theres no plundered his own knowledge and sex_' Ricardo pinto that of numerous experts to enable him to achieve many things.
Part of Pinto‘s appeal lies in the meticulous research he puts in — virtually to the point of obsession — to create a believable world. For this novel. he had to produce a new language with grammatically correct glyphs; create a believable monsoon; discover the colour of a flamingo‘s tongue; come up with the equations required to calculate the length and direction of shadows to provide a culturally credible sense of time; and create a new kind of door which would have served functions in the Middle Ages.
Not that any of this rigour would come as any surprise to those close to him. A self-confessed control freak, he has made a living out of creating new worlds in the computer game business. having worked for the likes of Sega and Disney and been involved in projects such as the game of the ﬁlm Congo.
The literary result of this ‘total immersion‘ is The Chosen. in which the hero Carnelian is forced to take a momentous journey from his remote and civilised home to the land of The Masters — the brutal society of Osrakum. ‘The book is about dictatorships and how they destroy themselves and the world.’ states Pinto. ‘lt's also about societies which oppress women; it‘s about ecological degradation; it‘s about history and myths. It’s like Wagner‘s Ring cycle. where there are all these musical themes for characters. I do the same with colours.’
And so what of the comparisons with that other lord of the ring? ‘I think Tolkien was fabulous. but his books aren‘t adult enough for me.’ insists Pinto. ‘There‘s no sex and the characters are slightly archetypal but it’s all great inspiration. The way he worked and the way I work are very similar in terms of the lengths gone to in order to make the thing as real as possible. I admire the unity of his vision immensely.’
For Ricardo Pinto. there is clearly nothing better than the real thing.
The Chosen is published by Bantam Press at £16.99 and is available now.