Published with the permission of Morpheus Tales. Soon to be featured in the MT Supplement.
It’s not often you pick up a book and think to yourself the writer is either insane or a genius within the first five pages. You see, this book is strange. I like strange, strange for me is pretty normal. I’ve been reading fantasy, sf and horror for twenty-odd years. Strange is my bread and butter. And yet, this novel is very, very strange.
It’s not often a book comes along that completely throws me, and to a certain extent that’s a good thing. The first bizarro fiction I read (Jeremy Shipp) made me think I’d been reading with my eyes closed; it made normal fantasy look meek and mild. It turned reality on its head, it messed with how you think and what you think. It’s disturbing in its lack of reality. And that’s what this book does too.
Within the first few pages we’re introduced to Locke, who’s in charge of the finding part of the Office of Lost and Found, and Veronica, who has killed her husband and needs to find him. When Locke refuses to help, Veronica shoots him in the head. Only then does Locke decide he’ll help Veronica find her dead husband.
This starts the first chapter, and things just get weirder and stranger as the book continues.
The first few chapters read like interwoven short stories, and Holland-Keen admits at the back of the book that the first chapter was written as such. This makes for an interesting experiment in novel writing. On some levels it works: the first chapter is immediate, quick, self-contained, but in others it doesn’t. It feels independent, there’s no continued theme or tension, the links between the stories are too slight to give it the impact or immersion of a novel.
The fact that one of the main characters dies and comes back to life with no explanation, and that there are so many things going on that are unexplained (you can understand Veronica’s frustration as Locke tells her once again that it “just is”), can sometimes make you want to throttle the writer. And sometimes what is explained doesn’t make any sense, but you have to go with the flow. The craziness is part of the attraction.
And the book does improve the further into it you get. The first two or three chapters have this short story feel to them as Locke, Veronica and Lafarge (in charge of the losing part of the Office) go around discovering all the lost things. All nice and fairly easy, despite the reality-warping of it all. Offices that move, doors that open to other realities, monsters that are real, nightmares that come alive… You may think you do, but you really have no idea. I read the book, and I’m still not sure I do!
The first part of the book takes up the majority of the nearly seven hundred pages, and it’s epic. End of the world scenarios, taking elements from all the previous stories, and beautifully weaving them into a madness of unending proportions. I doubt you have ever read anything like it, or will again. It’s a spectacular insanity, a brilliant non-sense, but perfectly in keeping with the rest of the book.
The failures of this book are clearly outweighed by the demented genius of Holland-Keen’s world. Be patient, be careful, and go with it. Let the madness flow over you and be absorbed by it, and you’ll enjoy your strange visit to the Office of Lost and Found.
The Morpheus Tales Supplement is available completely free of charge from their website: www.morpheustales.com