Weekend Shorts: Unwritten #42 and A Window or a Small Box

Happy weekend, everyone! Here are a couple of stories I’ve read recently; what have you been reading?

The Unwritten #42: “Live Like Lazarus”
Live Like LazarusThis issue picks up where the last volume left off, more or less, with first a look into what my new favorite character, Badass Detective Didge, experienced in the world of stories. Turns out she met Lizzie (though I have no recollection of Lizzie being over there, darn memory), and so of course Tom wants to find a way in to Lizzie that won’t get him caught by the bad guys.

And so they drive into the middle of the bush and BD Didge tells them all the story of a whale (of course) who came from the desert, and I LOVE when this series introduces me to a story I’ve never heard of and also I love mythology and so therefore this is basically the greatest issue yet. Wait, there was that choose-your-own-adventure one. And all the ones with Mr. Bun. Well, anyway, she tells the story and Tom heads off to fiction-land, but things don’t go quite as he’d probably planned.

Also in this issue: A preview of Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland, which proved to me that I’m still not a fan of Fables, and which makes me nervous for the Fables/Unwritten crossover coming in eight more issues. Also also the horrible fake geek girl ad that I hope I don’t have to see again, because dude.

“A Window or a Small Box,” by Jedediah Berry
A Window or a Small BoxI’ve had this one in my internet bookmarks since Carl mentioned it many moons ago, and I finally had a chance to read it when I had a lull in lunch-time reading materials. It’s pretty short, go read it and then come back!

Spoiler: I liked it a lot.

It’s a fantastic little story that drops the reader in in the middle of the action with no idea what’s happened before, and then soon you find out that even the main characters don’t really know what’s happened before. They’re stuck in this Sliders-style alternate universe where things are more or less the same except everyone carries around babies for no discernible reason, and they’re being sort of chased by these creepy dudes whose motives are similarly indiscernible. They’d really like to just go home and get married, though the latter seems to be just out of a sense of obligation rather than love.

If you’ve heard me rave about Berry’s The Manual of Detection, you may be able to guess that this story is strange and baffling and has fantastic writing. An example: “‘Trouble at six o’clock!’ the bartender cried, which was strange, Jim thought, because no one here told time that way, but apparently six o’clock still meant right behind you, because there was one of the goons, smiling and ready to pounce.”

I’m not too sure about the ending to this story — I like that it didn’t answer all the questions raised by the story, but it would have been nice for it to answer some of them, you know? But I am very content with the fabulous writing and the ability to lose myself in it for even such a short period of time. When is Berry coming out with a new novel??

The Manual of Detection, by Jedediah Berry (24 March — 25 March)

Charles Unwin is a clerk at the Agency; he compiles the notes of his detective, Travis T. Sivart, and files them away nicely under titles like “The Oldest Murdered Man” and “The Man Who Stole November Twelfth.” But on this day, he is mysteriously promoted to detective in place of Sivart, which does not suit Unwin, who likes his clerk’s job and has no interest in detecting. He makes his first case to find out what happened to Sivart, and soon realizes that this case will take more skills than what he can learn in his Manual of Detection.

This book was weird, and also awesome. There’s not much more I want to say about it because I’m not sure which are details and which are clues. The weirdness is along the lines of Jasper Fforde’s — an alternate universe where weird things happen and it’s okay. The man who stole November twelfth did, actually, make the whole city skip from Monday straight to Wednesday.

Berry’s awesomeness is much in his writing. I had to read aloud this (long-ish, sorry!) passage to Scott after I read it because it’s just so brilliant:

“On the twenty-ninth floor, another long hall, another lone window at its end. But in place of the carpeting of the thirty-sixth, here was a buffed surface of dark wood, so spotless and smooth it shone with liquid brilliance. The floor gave Unwin pause. It was his personal curse that his shoes squeaked on polished floors. The type of shoes he wore made no difference, nor did it matter whether the soles were wet or dry. If the shoes contained Unwin’s feet and were directed along well-polished routes, they would without fail sound their joyless noise for all to hear.

“At home he went about in his socks. That way he could avoid disturbing the neighbors and also indulge in the occasional shoeless swoop across the room, as when one is preparing a breakfast of oatmeal and the oatmeal wants raisins and brown sugar, which are in the cupboard at the other end of the room. To glide with sock-swaddled feet over a world of glossy planes: that would be a wondrous thing! But Unwin’s apartment was smallish at best, and the world is unkind to the shoeless and frolicsome.”

Rating: 9/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2009, Support Your Local Library Challenge)