Gogmagog: The First Chronicle of Ludwig, by Jeff Noon and Steve Beard

The Book

Series: The Chronicle of Ludwig
Pages: 333
Age Group: Adult
Published on 2/13/2024
Publisher: Angry Robot
Epic Fantasy
Available on:


From the highly celebrated and award-winning authors Jeff Noon and Steve Beard comes Gogmagog, the first book in adventurous duology, perfect for fans of Mervyn Peake.

Gogmagog tells the story of an epic journey through the sixty-mile long ghost of a dragon. We travel by boat, a rickety steam launch captained by Cady Meade, a veteran taxi pilot on the river Nysis. In her heyday she carried people and goods from the thriving seaports of the estuary into Ludwich, the capital city. But that was years ago. Now she’s drunk, holed up in a rundown seaside resort, telling her bawdy tales for shots of rum. All that’s about to change, when two strangers seek her out, asking for transport, one of whom – a young girl – is very ill, and in great danger. The other, an artificial being of singular character, has secrets hidden inside his crystal skull. And so begins the voyage of the Juniper. 

The Nysis is unlike any other river. Mysteries unfold with each port of call. Not many can navigate these channels, not many know of its whirlpools and sandbanks, and of the ravenous creatures that lurk beneath the surface. Cady used to have the necessary knowledge, and the powers of spectral navigation. But her glory days are well behind her now.

This might well be her final journey.  

My Review

Gogmagog is the first book in the Chronicles of Ludwig duology, an epic fantasy novel written by Jeff Noon and Steve Bear, two authors with a long career that could be defined by their weird fiction, and published by Angry Robot. And it doesn't disappoint, creating a new weird book with a really interesting narrative voice, a world that deserves a bigger exploration and a set of characters defined by their uniqueness.

And all of our journey starts with the main character, Cady Mead, an elderly woman whose past is an enigma by itself, outside of her occupation as river-taxi captain, who lives her retirement days drunk and trading her old stories for one more shot. But it changes when two strangers find her, requesting transport across the mysterious Nysis to the city of Ludwig; she refuses at first, but intrigued by their story, Cady accepts to embark into a really complicated quest: taking this group of misfits across a river that is possessed by the ghost of a dead dragon.

With this premise, Beard and Noon weave a plot that has some reminiscences of the hero's journey structure, but which shines for the quirkiness and authenticity of the characters, a group of weird characters who are kinda unique, each one in their own ways, while travelling towards a world that is alive, but also rotting; a world who encloses many mysteries, some of them rather scary or unpleasant, and whose story is slowly told while the miles pass. It is worth to notice that you can appreciate some parallels with the Thames, but soon are left out to concentrate in the weirdness, making of this a unique experience in the style of Mieville.

I think this book might be divisive due to some of the creative choices the authors have taken; plot is not really a hard structure, but more of a vibe that is used as the conductive thread, the guide that marks the next steps of our band of characters. Pacing can be sometimes irregular, but it is mostly a consequence of the structure used.

Gogmagog is a book that absorbs you into its world, with an uniqueness and amount of detail that invites to lose yourself in it; I can't wait to see what Beard and Noon have under the sleeve for Ludlula, which will be released in November. If you like your fantasy weird, do yourself a favour, and read Gogmagog.

The Author/s

Jeff Noon

Jeff Noon

  Jeff Noon was born in Manchester, England in 1957. He was trained in the visual arts, and was musically active on the punk scene before starting to write plays for the theatre. His first novel, VURT, was published in 1993 and went on to win the Arthur C. Clarke Award. He had written many books since then, each one exploring the ever-changing borderzone between genre fiction and the avant-garde. If a label is needed, he thinks of his work as being part of the Avant Pulp movement. He believes the modern world can only be portrayed in all its complexity by using new forms and techniques. To this end, he has often taken ideas and methods from musical composition and production, applying them to short stories and novels. Above all, Jeff sees himself as a storyteller. His plays include WOUNDINGS and THE MODERNISTS for the theatre, and DEAD CODE: GHOSTS OF THE DIGITAL AGE for radio. He also writes screenplays and lives in hope of actually seeing one of them produced, one day soon! Jeff lives in Brighton and Hove. He writes microfictional "spores" more or less every day via @jeffnoon on Twitter.   

Steve Beard

Steve Beard

Steve Beard is the author of various speculative novels and experimental fictions, including Meat Puppet Cabaret. He has been called “an uncannily accurate interpreter of Paul Virilio.”