October 2007 Archives

The Beast Within

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Catherine MacPhail
Apr 2007
Continuing the story of Ram, �The Beast Within� follows on from �Into the Shadows� as the second book in the �Nemesis� series. Ram suffers a type of amnesia meaning he is unaware of his background or parentage and finds himself subject to the types of desires and expectation that others fulfil through him.

This takes a sinister turn when he is captured on the moors and is appropriated as a couple�s child� A beast is reputed to be at large on the moors and there are rumours concerning the disappearance � and possible murder of a child.

Catherine Macphail�s text probes at identity, stimulating question as to just who is after Ram, the nature of the knowledge he possesses and why this poses a threat to certain individual� MacPhail seeds the idea of latent knowledge and examines how we operate in an environment when we lack understanding of our positions within that society.

The Summoning

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E. E. Richardson
The Bodley Head
Apr 2007
The occult forms an ever present source of inspiration and intrigue for horror writers and E. E. Richardson�s �The Summoning� is no exception. Initially sceptical about his grandfather�s dabblings in the occult, Justin endeavours to expose the fear and irrationality he believes must belie the hyper-logical persona of his class-mate Daniel Eilerson through the summoning of a spirit.

The prank falls somewhat flat, however, when an apparition does indeed appear and begins maligning Justin, his sister and Daniel with an ever forceful vehemence. As in previous works, �The Devil�s Footsteps� and �The Intruders�, Richardson�s prose is sparse, taut and highly charged. The book transcends much of the genre through its exposure of intergenerational familial dysfunction and the ramifications of a failure to reach resolution. Dark, brooding and boldly different...

What I Was

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Meg Rosoff
Aug 2007
�It may sound fanatical to time everything out so carefully, but minutes were what we lived by: stolen minutes, minutes between lessons, four minutes to smoke a fag, twenty minutes for a pint at the pub, free periods during which forged exam papers or contraband could be purchased.�

Rosoff writes in a nowhere time that paradoxically is anytime and everytime, she writes about nobody that is anybody and somehow everybody.

In her latest novel, the slow submergence of the Suffolk coastline emphasises the inevitable movement away from childhood and into adulthood with all the efficacy of the Tick Tock of Barrie's interminable, crocodile-swallowed, clock.

Rosoff explores a childhood that, divorced from the rigour and regime of adult influence is empowered and free. Written in retrospect, the novel recounts one boy�s complete, obsessive infatuation with another� The latter youth, Finn, is a Thoreau-like figure who has returned to a more basic, less pressured style of existence. Refuge from the outside world is broken when Finn becomes ill, however. It becomes apparent then that Finn is not the person he was seen as being. Gender, sexuality and an assumed knowledge about ourselves and others combine in this delicately wrought novel.

The Icy Hand

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Chris Mould
Aug 2007
Chris Mould�s greatest skill both as an illustrator and as a writer is in encapsulating intense moments of humanity and compassion and in endowing even the seemingly arbitrary with a rare sense of animation. The joy of his work arises not through the commodity of an ill-defined �magic�, but rather through a genuine sense of wonder and intrigue that permeates his characters and settings leaving readers with a sense of awe.

A wonderfully rich invocation of pathos and humour are evoked by the stuffed pike that befriends Stanley, by the misfortunes that befall the ghost of Admiral Swift and his lost appendage. The manner through which affectionate good humour and the chill of suspense and fear are juxtaposed and yet equally held in balance makes for a beautifully full-bodied and wholesome story. Illustrations draw on the quirky satirical traditions of Searle, Scarfe and Steadman and there is a touch of genius in the thoughtful way with which these have been appropriated and augmented for the market of children�s books.

Through etching indelible images, visual and verbal, in the minds of his readers, Mould is creating a series that will appeal at once to the polar extremes of the most avid readers and those who are least confident. Exciting both in terms of its production and its narrative, this book is a potent reminder that reading at its best really is the adventure of a lifetime and that stories are a birth-right in which we all share and are able to communicate differences and divergences of opinion.