27 June 2011
Review 31: The Unwritten Vol. 1 - Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey
The Unwritten Vol. 1 does a lot of introducing and setting the scene. It is the story of Tom Taylor, the son of the prolific author Wilson Taylor who mysteriously disappeared at the height of his popularity. Wilson was the author of the Tommy Taylor series about a boy wizard who was inspired by his son. The books are basically Harry Potter and Carey really enjoys gently mocking that series and using themes from Harry Potter in his work. Tommy Taylor has a mysterious tattoo style mark on the back of his hand, a brainy female friend and a earnest male friend, a malicious evil wizard to defeat etc. etc.
Tom makes his living by attending conventions, signing his fathers books and being a minor celebrity, popular because of the popularity of the books with no real talent of his own short of the in depth knowledge of literary geography that his father has drummed into him. At the start of the book a journalist, Lizzie Hexam, claiming that Tom is not who he claims to be and is not in fact the biological son of Wilson Taylor. This throws Tom's life into tumult as his fans turn on him and claim he is an imposter.
He sets off to try and find out the truth about who he is and what has happened to his father. This takes him to the Villa Diodati (where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein) where he grew up and where his father lived when he both wrote the final Tommy Taylor novel and disappeared. When he arrives he finds a small convention of horror writers who are promptly interrupted by an assassin known as Pullman, who quickly dispatches them and frames Tom for the murders. The murders are shown with customary violence and blood spurts which does nothing for me personally, but is a standard graphic novel trope.
There is also a subplot that emerges at the end of the novel which hints at where Pullman has come from and why Tom's father disappeared. This is told through the eyes of Rudyard Kipling and features Oscar Wilde fairly heavily as well. I didn't really like the way Kipling was presented as rather weak-willed but there were neat historical touches, things that really happened given a new slant and little touches such as the illustration of Wilde in court are based on the actual court drawing of the trial.
The Unwritten's strongest point are these little nods to literature and history, many of which I'm sure I didn't appreciate for what they were. For example, one page is a online report of the claims that Tom isn't really Wilson Taylor's son and down the side are a list of books of which one is The History of English Magic by Jonathan Strange, which is the fictional book that the character of Strange writes in Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (which I reviewed here: http://acaseforbooks.blogspot.com/2011/03/7-jonathan-strange-and-mr-norrell-by.html).
All in all this is an enjoyable read but not one that makes me want to buy the next in the series. I think that Fables is superior when it comes to literary graphic novels and I would recommend that over The Unwritten. Nonetheless, it is a fun read with some nice touches.