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March 30, 2011 / schulerbooks

The Unwritten – Dead Man’s Knock

Poor Tommy Taylor! Effectively orphaned when his father, the distant novelist, disappears after writing the 13th novel based on his son’s fantastic, Harry Potteresque adventures, he grows to adulthood a disillusioned man — unable to live with or without those books. Forced into a life of signing his father’s works to make a living, injury is slathered upon insult when Tommy’s “exposed” as a fraud at a convention. But if he’s not the real Tommy Taylor, then who is he? Why is the girl who exposed him now helping him out?
And if the books are just fantasy stories for kids, then why is the big enemy of those books alive and trying to kill him…?
Got all that? Okay, let’s go a little further into the mystery.
Having been framed for the murder of several crappy horror novelists at his father’s old house (book 1), and then escaped an assassination attempt while in prison, but been presumed dead in the resulting fire (book two), Tommy and his two questionable allies are alive and loose in London, right on the eve of the release of the long-awaited 14th novel: Tommy Taylor and the Emerald Telescope.
Yes, the long literary cliffhanger about to be resolved. But from all accounts the new book’s a sorry and derivative hash that steals from everything without offering anything, except for Tommy Taylor, himself — apparently alive and whole after that seven year stretch in literary limbo.
That’s more than can be said for the real Tommy, though. The strange events of the last two chapters have left him questioning the nature of reality, magic, and ultimately himself. Faced with poor choices, and hounded by the deadly agents of the strange meta-literary conspiracy — that have cobbled together this latest book to draw his long-missing father out of hiding — he starts manning up and getting proactive, hoping to force a meeting with his absent father, and finally get at the truth.
Easier said than done, though. His trio of friends is splintering. The wooden handed killer is after him. Count Ambrosius is on the move in London.
And there’s something strange about that execrable, ersatz Tommy Taylor novel the conspiracy is about to sell — something that could change everything in this strange game they’ve been playing, and not exactly how they planned.
Will the fake book draw Tommy’s father out of hiding? Will Tommy meet his father before the Count or the Conspiracy get hold of him? And if so, will what the elder Taylor has to say be of any use, or just more of his manipulative tripe disguised as authoritarian orders? (or is it the other way around, or something entirely different?)
An intelligent and entertaining story wrapped around a sublime meditation on words, meaning, and magic, the Unwritten is one of those stories that succeed in grabbing one’s undivided attention from the start, and then using that chokehold to take the reader a lot further than he or she ever expected. The duo that brought us Lucifer for all those wonderful years do not disappoint, and those who’ve been reading this treasure from the get-go should find that the latest installment answers a few questions, but deepens the mystery even further (sometimes literally — beware The Well). Now with more Frankenstein and a fantastic choose your own adventure issue!
The Unwritten, Dead Man’s Knock, is on our shelves now. Also, while perusing the DC Vertigo shelves, be sure to check out the latest installments of DMZ and Scalped, the final volume of Air, and the newest intriguing treat, I Zombie.
– Jim Tremlett, Eastwood

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