Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book Review - Paul Magrs's Wildthyme Beyond!

Wildthyme Beyond! by Paul Magrs
Published by: Snowbooks
Publication Date: April 1st, 2012
Format: Paperback, 431 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

The journey to Hyspero of Iris Wildthyme and her compatriots isn't going exactly to plan. Not only have they spent too much time driving across the desert, but now they are separated. Iris and Panda have ended up with a dragon in an underground city that eerily links to Iris's past, while everyone else, including their nemesis Anthony Marvelle, has ended up in the clutches of the Scarlet Empress. Yet all these setbacks are nothing compared to the fact that their journey has the unexpected consequence of knocking them a few degrees into fictionality. Back on Earth, Simon and Kelly are no longer real people just characters being written about by the writer Terry and devoured by fans such as Sammy. From Iris's long forgotten past to Panda's future, Kelly's musing as a little girl, and the fandom that has built itself around Iris, life is going to get far more complicated before it can get back to normal... whatever that is. Hopefully there will be a bar stocked with gin and tonic to get them through it all.

While a book about a transdimenisal adventuress is perhaps not the most straightforward of narratives, with time and space in flux, the interweaving of the stories, while at times confusing, was still able to cut to the quick of the matter and through everything form this nostalgic bond that had me thinking about books I read as a kid and all the different worlds I imagined. Iris's past as Lilith in the Clockworks and Kelly's childhood stories are this amazing mash-up of Oz and Narnia with a bit of Edward Eager and some Frances Hodgson Burnett. I was instantly transported back to daydreams of travelling to other worlds and places, many of which I believed to be behind my parents bedroom mirror. But Paul is able to take these memories and add an edge, a little something other that appeals to the slight bitterness that memories get over time. It isn't pure nostalgia, which is there, but nostalgia plus. Like when they made Return to Oz into a slightly darker fairy tale with inserting the fact that Oz is perhaps all in Dorothy's mind and she needed a little electroshock therapy.

In Iris's youth in the scary house in the wasteland where she is held by three aunts is the perfect example of this enhancement. Instantly the gardens and the remoteness bring to mind The Secret Garden, a book I have a bit of a love hate relationship with, yet Paul goes beyond this. The aunts and the deadly wasteland make it a dystopian world where the aunts, who I envision as the three bitter Bronte sisters, sit up in their room while their ward is only allowed outside if covered from head to toe in protective gear, like Marlon Brando in The Island of Dr. Moreau. Just this imagery makes me want this small section of the book filmed as a short by Tim Burton. I connected so deeply with this backstory that I was more then a little disappointed when it ended on a rooftop in New York city... but at least Andy Warhol was there to comfort me and Iris.

Though it was the Iris fandom that I think perhaps I relate to most in the here and now. With the theme of nostalgia so strong in Wildthyme Beyond! I started to ask myself what exactly is the reason we become part of a fandom. The answer is nostalgia in many cases. I became a Whovian because not only is the show an amazing show but I have history and a connection to it. I seriously get sentimental even thinking about Doctor Who! The same happens when I think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly... I come over all wistful. Yet again, Paul doesn't sugarcoat it. While it's a parody in a sense of his own life and his own interactions with fans and the Whoverse, there is also a love there. This is the fandom, warts and all, and more then a little meta. The uber fan Sammy and his mint copies who geeks out at the smallest thing, the writer in it just for the money... the Iris Wildthyme convention! Paul gets us fans because he is one of them, one of us.


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