this book is so fun. so, so fun.
laid out in bullet points, this book contains many elements that are potential annoyance-triggers for me, but it somehow managed to execute a neat little sidestep-sashay, and turned what could have been an eyeroll from me into a delighted swoon.
pretend these are bullet points, and not dashes.
– gimmicky layout. the story is told through diary entries, letters, video footage, dream journals, excerpts from academic journals, and other bits of ephemera, and starts with this declaration:
The following collection of documents details the events that occurred at Axon House, 1 Axton Road, Point Bless, Virginia, during the months of November and December 1995.
The footnotes are the editor’s only contribution. The first page is missing.
– the female protagonist is a mute, irish, punk rock teenager who leaves out the verb “to be” in her (written) conversation.
– there is a dog. named “help.”
– there is a ghost
this is just begging me to call “quirky manic pixie dream girl po-mo wannabe hipster kitchen sink bullshit!” on its ass, but i can’t. because i was utterly charmed. this isn’t some lisbeth salander alienating fantasy girl character; niamh is a spunky little thing, yes, but she’s also incredibly endearing, and a real, developed character instead of just a collage of unusual attributes for the male protag to bounce off of. and help’s name is fitting within the context of the story.
as for the layout, it felt entirely appropriate to me, and the bits and pieces contributed to the narrative in a wholly appropriately-structured way, in a similar fashion to Night Film.
it’s still a tough sell, because at the end of the day it is basically a haunted house story. a gimmicky haunted house story full of cryptography, puzzles, and wordplay, which would call to mind House of Leaves, but unlike House of Leaves, it doesn’t use its gimmicks as a crutch, and they aren’t “hey, you will need a mirror to read this chapter!” or “time to rotate the book! isn’t this a fun and unusual thing i am making you do to make sure you remember that you are an active participant in this game we call reading?? whe!”
it is, instead, a very charming gimmicky haunted house story, and the gimmicks are fun and playful and not bleak and distancing like House of Leaves. it’s an engaging adventure book which could be friends with Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore or The Shadow of the Wind, one that scoops you up, promises you a fun time, and actually delivers on its promise. it’s a little bit gothic novel, a little bit treasure hunt adventure, a little bit dreamscape fantasy, with shades of the traditional victorian orphan-narrative, and a little secret society codex drama. and that ghost.
and the secret magic of books
…I’ve noticed all manuscripts are bad; any book randomly opened in a friend’s house is good; the same book in a bookstore is bad. When this story is completed, that beginning will turn better.
fun fun fun. great cover, great book – i am a million percent in love.