- Series: Unwritten (Book 1)
- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Vertigo; unknown edition (January 12, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1401225659
- ISBN-13: 978-1401225650
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.3 x 10.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 57 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity Paperback – January 12, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
A taut thriller that slyly plays off the real-world mania for imaginary ones like that of Harry Potter, Carey's new series undercuts the mythology of such all-pervasive media-hyped creations while at the same time hinting at a brilliantly imagined one of its own. Tom Taylor is the son of Wilson Taylor and the unwilling namesake of the protagonist in his dad's wildly popular 13-book fantasy series. The Tommy Taylor cottage industry of movies, video games, and geek-ridden conventions is given an extra dash of drama by Wilson's having mysteriously disappeared years before, leaving a cynical Tom (who inherited none of his millions) to eke out a grubby living at paid appearances. Carey's story (solidly illustrated by Gross) picks up speed fast when Tom realizes some elements of Wilson's stories might not be made up. By the time the first story is done, Carey has not only created a brisk and addictive story, sketched with crafty allusions to classic literature, but also neatly subverted the celebrity-worship manias of fantasy fandom and questioned the very nature of storytelling itself. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Tom Taylor makes a respectable celebrity living as the presumed former model for the boy hero of his father Wilson’s 13 fantasy novels, which enjoy a Harry Potterish fandom. He’d as soon not be so identified with the character, though, especially when fans insist he must still possess his fictional doppelgänger’s magic. When it’s announced that he isn’t Wilson Taylor’s biological child, after all, any relief he might get is complicated by having to dodge lynch mobs of former worshipers. Then, when he survives, unscathed, a would-be murder-by-bomb, the tables of his public identity resume their original setting. So he absconds to the Villa Diodati in Switzerland, where Mary Shelley dreamed up Frankenstein and he lived until his father’s disappearance when Tom was 12. Thereafter, things get very interesting, indeed. Appending an explanatory flashback featuring Rudyard Kipling, scripter Carey and artist Gross confidently launch The Unwritten with a first arc that boasts the most breathtaking gut-punch ending since that of The Fugue (2008), the dumbfounding first arc of Michael Alan Nelson’s unpredictable Fall of Cthulhu. --Ray Olson
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Tom Taylor is one of those low-rent celebrities who subsists on his own name recognition. Many years ago Tom's reclusive author father, Wilson Taylor, used his son as a template for the core character - a bespectacled boy wizard - in his fantasy books, even going so far as to name him after Tom. One wonders if Wilson Taylor had ever scribbled his plot ideas on napkins. The Tommy Taylor books were huge successes, and so Tom became famous by default. Now an adult Tom has had his various stabs at a career stalled - as a novelist, as a jazz trumpeter, even as an actor who once auditioned for the lead part in a Tommy Taylor motion picture (he was rejected). Tom ekes out a living by attending book signings and comic book conventions, sort of like a poor man's Bill Mumy.
Conflict is introduced during one such convention as a college student named Lizzie Hexam, during a Q & A, begins to sow doubts regarding Tom's true identity. She raises questions that promptly launch furrowed brows and wondering gazes at Tom (whose own brow is pretty furrowed as well). Come then the public disenchantment, Tom's mission to unearth the truth, and an ancient, shadowy cabal seeking to perhaps dissuade Tom. A despicable gent called Mr. Pullman creeps onto the scene. Note that he is murderously up to no good. College student Lizzie Hexam resurfaces faster than you can say "wholesome femme fatale."
Any similarity with Harry Potter is absolutely intentional. Carey and Gross are very much aware that hordes of readers are familiar with that other boy wizard, and that this only serves to add resonance to their narrative. This is a pretty twisty read. The frame of reference continually shifts from the real world to fantasy. I bet it didn't take long for you to suspect Tom Taylor of what you're suspecting right now. And, odds are, you're spot on. The hook is in how well Carey and Gross go about their storytelling, which is smart and creative and clearly working towards something. You don't get full disclosure in this volume, of course. Way too early for massive reveals. But Gross, in an interview, describes the premise as involving the "conspiracy behind literature." We're given a smattering of hints, one of which is that Tom's father may be distant and reclusive but, once upon a time, he imparted upon his son knowledge of the geography of famous literary works. For instance, Tom is aware that the real life Coram's Fields is the setting of Jamila Gavin's CORAM BOY and also partly the setting of a Dickens story NO THOROUGHFARE. This smacks of being a relevant connective tissue, although Tom calls all of it "literary GPS bu11$hi+." But that should get you guessing good. Carey and Gross keep laying terrific groundwork.
I got no clue where the story is headed, but I'm along for the ride, enthusiastically. THE UNWRITTEN accomplishes what Bill Willingham's Great Fables Crossover doesn't - which is get me to buy into the meta storytelling. It's important that Tom Taylor is likable and relatable, and that the mystery is engrossing. I enjoy that whiff of the surreal. The small touches are appreciated. Like those panels and insets depicting the public's reaction thru various media outlets and online chat rooms. In issue #4, fan fiction - in the shape of a detestable Tommy Taylor pastiche - worms its way into the story, and it's disgusting but fun. Issue #5 delivers a swerve, tells the life of Rudyard Kipling (yes, that one). This issue had me scratching my head at first - my brow was starting to furrow - but, it turns out, Kipling plays a role in the mythology of the series. Nice swerve. Just one of many in store for the curious reader, I think.
THE UNWRITTEN Vol. 1: TOMMY TAYLOR AND THE BOGUS IDENTITY collects issues #1-5 and features doses of profanity, as well as an introduction from Bill Willingham, a cover sketch gallery by cover artist Yuko Shimizo, and Mike Carey's original prose for the opening sequence in issue #1 along with Peter Gross's illustrated layouts of that prose.
The Unwritten is a sort of hybrid of Alan Moore's League of extraordinary Gentlemen and Gaiman's Sandman. The Unwritten focuses on how stories affect how we interpret the world around us and the sweeping changes they can lead to. And it features a tone of nods to famous works, like Harry Potter and Catch-22.
The artwork is especially good, with a few special panels that mimic internet news sites perfectly.
The only issue I had with this book is that it was mostly set-up to a plot that has yet to fully kick-off. I want to wait until I finish the next volume before declaring this one of the best things I've ever read.
The Unwritten is not bad, not bad at all. The only unfortunate consideration that comes to mind is all the critic reviews and introduction by Bill Willingham, as a whole they REALLY hyped it up. However, I finished the first volume feeling like it wasn't enough to sell all the hype; it just felt too short. Regardless, I did find the storyline interesting. Carey does a fantastic job of creating an introduction that can be considered parallel to the fanatic obsession with the world of Harry Potter, I couldn't help but laugh as he mentions Harry Potter directly. It makes fiction fans look... Well, pathetic, compulsive, void of reality, and truly like a host of lunatics as the main character strives to live desperately free from judgment, mockery, accusations, and real harm. But Carey has done something fun and pushed the main character into exactly what he's been trying to fight and avoid his entire life. Tom, seems to find himself in situations that are all too comparable to what the fictional Tommy would go through.
Unwritten has adopted allusions towards many famous novels and stories that have evolved through time, and it does it well. I look forward to purchasing the next volumes, so that I may find more impressive things within the story. I suggest buying it if you want a fun read, and I suggest at least buying the second volume at the same time so that you're not sitting there thinking how short your time spent was.