Ashley's Reviews > The Unwritten, Vol. 2: Inside Man

The Unwritten, Vol. 2 by Mike Carey
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December 2015:

"When a book is read, an irrevocable thing happens--a murder, followed by an imposture. The story in the mind murders the story on the page, and takes its place."

"'Every story has a negative space, Mister Rabbit. Things it can't acknowledge. Truths it can imply or flirt with, but never say out loud.'
'Do I look like I give a flying fuck? Let me go!'
'One way of writing for children--her way--is to try to be a child yourself. And then, if you do that . . . the negative space is enormous. Grief. Pain. Betrayal. Mortality. You have to pretend you don't know. To suppress the things you learned as you grew up. To slip back into the garden by being small enough to walk under the door. But you can't make the scary things disappear. You can only lock them away where nobody sees them."

This one is even better than the first one. I'd forgotten how everything ties together, how detailed it all was, and how all the details are so very, very strange.

Tom Taylor has been extradited to a French prison for a massacre at a famous literary landmark, a crime he didn't commit. Even though he hasn't been tried yet, the court of public has already found him guilty. He's being framed by a shadowy enemy. He doesn't know who they are or what they want, but it all seems to be connected to his missing father, and Tom's identity, which he is having a very hard time accepting, despite appearances by a "fake" flying cat from a book series, a real life incarnation of Frankenstein's monster, and a magical doorknob that opens doors that aren't there. Along with a journalist who embedded himself in the jail to write about Tom, and Lizzie, the three break out of prison when their enemies break in.

But that's just what happens. The real meat of this story isn't the what but the HOW. And the how is gorgeous and unique and really unexpected. Tom's story, which is strange enough, is mixed in with all these other layers. News reports, as the outside world changes as the story does, as the shadowy cabal tries to change the story, to change people's thoughts. And then we have the story of the warden, whose children love the Tommy Taylor books past the point of reason. It all comes together in this weird meditation on human darkness, and the origin of monsters, who are stories gone wrong, betrayed by their creators.

The last several issues depart from the real world as the trio heads through a doorway into an old book called "Jud Suss", and then a COMPLETE departure as we see a rabbit who isn't really a rabbit, trying to escape from the story-prison he's living in, a children's book series he was placed in by Tom's father. It's very bizarre and darkly funny, and caps the whole thing off with the second passage I quoted above.

It all just WORKS. And it's so hard to write about! I don't even know how I'm going to write reviews for all the rest of the volumes. I just want to zoom straight through. But write I shall. I shall do it all for you, peasants.

March 2011: I wasn't sure how I felt about this series after Vol. 1, partly because sometimes it takes time to feel comfortable in complex fictional worlds, but mostly because I wasn't sure where this was going. After Vol. 2, however, even if I don't know specifics, I have a definite feel for this world and the things Carey and Gross are trying to say. That feeling is "awesome."

I can't really sum up the plot of this series very well without giving anything away, so I won't even try. Half the fun is experiencing the ride yourself. Seriously. Go out and buy Vols. 1-2 right now. It's the whole package: fun and intellectually engaging. The Unwritten is basically like the entire reason God invented post-modernism.
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