Tonight I’m going to a Book White Elephant event where we trade our favorite books for someone else’s favorite book. The one I’m choosing is The Plucker by Brom. I love this book very much and while I can’t quite say its my absolute favorite, its the best of the books I currently own. I wrote a review on Goodreads some time ago, and I thought I’d dust it off and share it again. Let’s read together shall we?
I got this book at the same time as Shinjuku both of which were interesting dare I say ‘experimental’ books. Neither was quite a graphic novel but with their extensive use of artwork and the mix of text, they were somewhere in the nebulous ground between the two extremes. I’m always interested in books that explore that line. There’s nothing that says comics/graphic novels/whatever, have to be shallow and stupid. Artwork and literature can both be quite illuminating. Put the two together, and you wind up with Captain Roidrage and Lady Cameltoe battling evil Dr. VotesRepublican. This doesn’t have to happen, and in fact those of us brave souls who have tried dipping into graphic novel land have found it quite rewarding. After all, comic books gave us Neil Gaiman.
Anyway back to the book. I got this and another near-graphic novel at the same time, both are much larger in size than a regular novel or comic, being roughly high school textbook shaped. This one I think is by far the more successful of the two and is the one that does not consciously try to ape the comics genre. The book is done by the amazing artist/writer Brom. Being a geek I’ve been aware of him since he got his start as an artist for a dungeons and dragons spinoff Dark Sun. He’s come a long way since then and developed into quite an artist and, increasingly, quite a novelist!
His writing style is very warm and welcoming, which is nice because he’s writing about horror. And I think with horror its best to work into it. Come in, sit down, have a nice cup of tea. Are you comfy? Pillow’s nice? Ah that’s good because there was poison in the tea, and you’ll be dead in thirty seconds.
The particulars of the story: Think Toy Story as written by Hannibal Lector. The main characters are a group of toys, animated by the magic of a young boy’s love. Effectively, each toy is borrowing a little sliver of the boy’s soul because of how much he loves and plays with them. When he outgrows them or stops playing with them, they slowly fade back into being inanimate toys.
Enter the problem. Something dark and terrible is unleashed and uses these toys and the little wisps of soul-stuff the boy has infused in them to get at the boy himself. Dark, horrible, horrific stuff happens to these toys, and its so effective because Brom does such a good job making us believe in these toys, makes us like them and want them to succeed. That’s quite a feat when a lot of horror stories don’t make me empathize with actual human characters.
Still with this book, it feels like Brom is still getting his sea-legs, so to speak. He’s an amazingly accomplished artist, but he’s still not quite 100% as a writer. This I think is good! I look forward to his next book and the next one. Brom is a writer to watch for. I am actually afraid the Lihtrachuh Snobs are going to discover this and I’m going to have to trudge through the Literature section to find his books in a few more years.
Brom made a somewhat risky choice and I think handled himself well. I don’t want to spoil the book too much but one of the major characters is an old black woman familiar with voodoo, who pretty early on uses her powers to transform our hero the Jack in the Box into something with a fighting chance against the bad things in the shadows. I fully expect this character to then fade into the background but surprisingly she doesn’t. The old woman proves to be a very dynamic, active character who makes a big difference in the action, has her own arc, dilemmas and challenges, and is in many ways the real protagonist and prime mover around which the story revolves. I was very impressed with the deft handling of a character that could have been a crude stereotype very easily.
Now, a tricky question. Is this book okay to show children? Its a horror book, its very intense, its made for adults, and it is very scary in place. However, a 13+ year old can probably handle it. Jack, the main character, is a good role model for a boy trying to learn how to cope with all his raging hormones driving him to do all sorts of weird things. Just do yourself a favor and read it CAREFULLY yourself for anything you think might be out of line for your particular kid.
TLDR: Good horror novel with lots of heart, and pretty (if disturbing) pictures. Parental Guidance advised for parents drawn in by the pretty pictures and ‘childlike’ storyline.