Literary Geography

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity: written by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross, Yukio Shimizu, and others (2009-2010); The Unwritten: Inside Man: written by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross, Yukio Shimizu, and others (2010):; The Unwritten: Dead Man’s Knock: written by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross, Yukio Shimizu, and others (2010); The Unwritten: Leviathan: written by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross, Yukio Shimizu, and others (2010-2011); The Unwritten: On to Genesis: written by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross, Yukio Shimizu, and others (2011); The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words: written by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross, Yukio Shimizu, and others (2011-2012):

Carey and Gross’s epic metafantasy pulls out a lead character modelled upon Christopher Milne and Harry Potter and throws the whole of fiction, poetry, myth, legend, and religion at him. Tom Taylor starts the narrative as the bored, drifting son of mysteriously vanished children’s literary titan Wilson Taylor. Wilson seemingly modelled the hero of his incredibly popular series of children’s books upon his own son, much as A.A. Milne did with Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh.

Well, at least his own son’s name and general appearance. And then Wilson vanished, leaving Tom Taylor to make his own way in the world by attending various literary and fantasy conventions as the “real” Tommy Taylor. He signs memorabilia. Sometimes he gets lucky. Mostly he’s bored.

But why did Wilson make Tommy memorize an encyclopedic array of knowledge related to “literary geography” — both the places where works were written and the places where works took place? When Tommy gets kidnapped by an obsessed fan who seems to be an actual vampire modelled upon the literary Tommy Taylor’s vampiric nemesis Count Ambrosio, things start to get weird. Especially when he’s saved by a young woman named Lizzie Hexam, who knows more about the real Tom Taylor than he does, though less about herself than she’s aware of. And all this is just in the first issue of the ongoing series.

The Unwritten is a lot of fun as a narrative, as a metanarrative, and as a fictional meditation on the nature and meaning not just of stories, but of Story itself. And as conspiracies are revealed, the nature of Story assumes geopolitical significance: control a society’s narratives about itself and one controls the society.

A complex, funny, and scary piece of work, with lovely art on the stories themselves by Peter Gross and the occasional helper, and by Yuko Shimizu on the gorgeous covers. Highly recommended — I’d guess there are maybe 20 issues to go before the whole thing wraps up.

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