Feb 2, 2010

The Unwritten Vol 1 by Mike Carey and Peter Goss

The Unwritten Vol 1 by Mike Carey and Peter Goss

My thoughts upon finishing The Unwritten: Oh no – I got myself hooked on yet another series. It’s not a bad thing, not exactly, but those long Vertigo graphic novels series tend to be heavy on my wallet. But on the other hand, O! the happiness they bring me. My life would be so much poorer without Fables or The Sandman. This is only volume one, and I almost don’t want to say it lest I jinx it, but *whispers* I suspect that The Unwritten might be up there with those two.

Mike Carey and Peter Goss (of Lucifer fame) open The Unwritten with a scene from a book within the book: the final scene from the last Tommy Taylor book, an extremely popular series about a boy wizard and his two best friends. The series ends somewhat ambiguously, and its author, Wilson Taylor, mysteriously disappeared shortly after finishing the last book. Behind he left a son, Tom Taylor, who has to deal with the pressure of being seen as a “real life” Tommy Taylor by millions of fans. He takes advantage of this by going to conventions and signing books on his father’s behalf, but one day—

Well, I don’t really want to tell you more about the plot. I’ll just say that it challenges the boundaries between fiction and reality, and also that it’s so awesome that my head very nearly exploded. You’re probably thinking that the Tommy Taylor books sound suspiciously like a certain very popular series about a certain boy wizard—which yes, yes they do. But fear not, there’s no ridiculing. The story is written with true respect for Harry Potter fandom, as well as for the fact that stories matter enough to people to inspire such passion.

The UnwrittenThe literary references don’t stop at Harry Potter either: we also have Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare, Dickens, William Blake, and cameos by Kipling, Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde. Honestly, I thought I’d died and gone to metafictional heaven. And the thing is, The Unwritten is clever and literary, but not in a too-clever-for-its-own-good sort of way. It’s also an exciting, satisfying, good old-fashioned piece of storytelling. This is because all those references aren’t there to make the writers seem clever, or to make readers who get them feel sophisticated and well-read. They’re there because they make sense in the story – because The Unwritten is a story about stories, about the way they shape how we view the world, about why they’re such a fundamental part of what makes us human.

It’s a book about why stories matter, really. As Tommy Taylor’s mysterious ally Lizzie Hexman says, Nothing matters more than the stories we tell ourselves to explain the world. And this is how Count Ambrosio (or a supposed Count Ambrosio), the villain from the Tommy Taylor books, puts it:
Just a story? Tell that to the Greeks who fought at Troy, Tommy. Tell the women burned as witches, the Rosenbergs, Sacco and Vanzetti. Tell the martyrs of all the religions and the millions who fell in all the wars since time began. Stories are the only thing worth dying for!
I’m not sure what is a good reason to die and what isn’t, but the fact is that he’s right—people have been dying for stories since the beginning of time. And living for them as well. As those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while know, this is a literary theme I come back to again and again. I really have the feeling this series and I are going to be good friends.

The Unwritten

Bill Willingham, who wrote this volume’s introduction, says that literature-based, animal and fairy-tale fantasy is becoming as important and defining a genre in the comics medium as superhero stories once were. (He also says he wishes he’d written this book. Just thought I’d let you know.) The examples he gives are convincing, and they also happen to be some of my all-time favourite comics series. I really think The Unwritten will end up joining that list.

(PS: The real reason why I got The Unwritten: Mike Carey has awesome taste in music.)

The UnWritten The Unwritten

The UnWritten

Other opinions:
Jenny's Books
The Literary Omnivore
Adventures With Words
Bibliofreak Blog


  1. Looks like you found another winner. I adore the cover of the book. It is so archaic. I will add to my list. I need to read the Fables series too.

  2. Ah, man! So awesome you thought your head was going to explode???How can I not hunt this one down? You are solely responsible for a TBR list run amuck.

  3. "...but those long Vertigo graphic novels series tend to be heavy on my wallet." And then you spread the love and make them hard on my wallet! That's okay, though...the "on the other hand" way more than makes up for the damage you do to my bank account. :)

    This really, really sounds so far beyond fabulous...I want it NOW NOW NOW.

  4. You know, this sounds really interesting, but I don't like the way it looks and I wonder if that would influence how I felt about it...

  5. I love all the characters wearing glasses! Glasses-wearers notice such things....

  6. The book sounds great with all its literary references. I know what you mean about graphic novels being hard on the pocketbook.

  7. I love anything that involves permeable boundaries between reality and fiction, and if this is up there with Sandman and Fables? WANT. It looks like I've got my next graphic novel series (after I finish Y: The Last Man) lined up. :)

  8. Ooh, this sounds SO good! Like Fyrefly, I like exploring those boundaries (why else does one read fantasy?). Oh, man. I hope I can find this somewhere without it making a hole in my finances :-)

  9. I sometimes feel like I should stop reading this blog. Too many interesting books are being mentioned, my tbr pile just keeps on growing ;)

  10. I hate when you post reviews for graphic novels!

    Cuz I always want them desperately after reading your reviews.
    I do really like Vertigo comics, although all I've read of Vertigo is Watchmen, it was fine by me.

  11. I'm so pleased you thought this was good! I heard about it ages ago and thought the cover was AMAZING and the plot sounded really cool too. Plus, Oscar Wilde cameos? You know I am ALL ABOUT that. I will see if my budget can stretch to afford this. :)

  12. Dammit. All. To. Hell. Another damn series that I have to start now. Yes a series that I HAVE to start now because you've made it so damn irresistible! This sounds so good!!!

  13. Wow, the drawings are beautiful! This one looks irresistible! But but but graphic novels are so expensive here... :(

  14. See, now I am going to have to look into this series and since I doubt my library will have it, you are bad on my pocket book! lol

  15. Uh-oh. This looks like something that I need to add to my reading pile too. I sure wish my library would get more graphic novels....

  16. This one is definitely going on my list of graphic novels I hope to one day read! Thanks for the great review.

  17. Ooh, I love metafiction, so this seems like a great contender for me! I am glad you liked it and will be looking into it. I also see that you are reading The Good Women of China. I read it quite awhile ago and will be really interested in hearing what you thought. I thought it was a great, yet sad read.

  18. Metafictional heaven?? You definitely have my attention! :-) Thank you for the great review. I really enjoy the way you think and write.

  19. Love the first sentence. New series are wonderful and scary at the same time. :)

  20. I gotta say, this sounds totally awesome!

  21. Its great when you can find another series to get hooked on!

  22. Uh oh, now I have to add another one to my list!!!

  23. Vivienne: I love the cover art too! And yes, you definitely need to read this and Fables :)

    Sandy: lol, sorry :P

    Debi: The "on the other hand" definitely makes it worth it :D I hear you and Kelly are reading this...I can't wait to hear your thoughts.

    Amanda: I hope it wouldn't, but that has happened to me before, so I don't know :\

    Jill: lol, I hadn't noticed myself, but that's neat, yes :D

    Kathy: I really wish they weren't so expensive! But I guess it's understandable, as the ones in colour must be really expensive to produce.

    Fyrefly: It's early to tell, but as the series progresses I really think it has the potential to be THAT good. I hope you enjoy it! And I really want to start Y myself.

    Aarti: This is a fantasy lover's dream come true :D

    Fence: Noooooo, don't go! :P

    April: lol, I'm sorry! And yes, I've loved pretty much everything I've read from the Vertigo imprint so far.

    Jenny: I got this one via Book Depository and it was actually much less expensive than comics usually are. Maybe because it's relatively short? (It only collects five issues.)

    Chris: Yep...there is no escaping it. You HAVE to :P

    Alice: I know :( I really wish they were cheaper.

    Kailana: As I was telling Debi, I can't wait to hear what the two of you think :)

    Ladytink: I wish mine would get a graphic novels section at all! :(

    Avi: You're most welcome! I really hope you enjoy it!

    Zibilee: I finished The Good Women of China yesterday and I know just what you mean. I loved it, but it was SO saddening...some of the stories truly horrified me. I really wish everyone who says that sexism is a thing of the past would read that book.

    Stephanie: Aw, thank you so much! I hope you enjoy the book!

    Michelle: lol, that they are. But I think the wonderful side of it yes.

    J.T. Oldfield: That's because it is :D

    Naida: My wallet doesn't like it, but I do :P

    Kathleen: lol, sorry! But it's worth your time; you'll see.

  24. Ana, I keep meaning to mention that my name is actually Avis, not Avi! :)

  25. Very exciting to read your review and see that you were pleased with this comic!! It was featured on my librarys' Coming Soon list and it certainly caught my attention :)

  26. here's my review!



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