a novel engineer (jawastew) wrote in bookish,
a novel engineer

Peter & Max: A Fables Novel by Bill Willingham

You don’t need to be a fan of Bill Willingham’s Fables comics to like this book--you don’t even have to know what they are to understand Peter & Max. This is a re-telling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin story from a different perspective, one of those “what really happened” kind of tales. For every other character or event that might confuse the reader, Willingham explains the course of the comics in a few words and lines that, if anything, spoil crucial points of suspense that have navigated and pushed Fables over the years. But don’t let that discourage you at all if you’re a new fan. What I like the most about the comics and this book, is Willingham’s grasp of consequence and reality. To validate these fairy tales with contemporary ideas, Willingham is always examining the life of our favorite heroes and heroines in the unwritten pages after their most famous moments. Away from the storybook and our imaginations is a far removed perspective that pulls gently in our direction--here is more, it says to us; the story continues; life goes on.

For the folks in fairy tales--Fables, they call themselves--reality is about as pragmatic and mundane for them as it is for us. Forced to flee their fairy tale homes and find refuge in an enchanted portion of New York City’s Upper West Side, the Fables remind us that we know of only a tiny period in their lives; in our world they must learn to coexist in very human ways, without magic or magical objects that would draw attention to themselves. Yanked out of context of course it’s easy to imagine all sorts of wonderful, magical settings that make romantic adventures out of very real, scary episodes. Despite still writing in “happily ever after” endings, Willingham’s come a long way to revolutionize what’s been handed down to us for so long and in the same form.

Peter & Max is about the Piper family (a band of traveling minstrels), two brothers (Peter and Max), and the innocent Peep family who gets caught in the middle of fraternal jealousy and revenge. Like all such things, a combination of skewed perspective and hurt feelings tips the scales of envy towards violence. What begins as an ominous and mysterious set of flashbacks and present-day events, the story gradually finds promise in its most haunting thread: who is the true Pied Piper? Peter or Max? Peter is a sweet boy, always managing to do what’s right and do it well; Max is his older, but less talented, brother who snaps at the slightest attempt to undermine his authority and right as the eldest Piper child. It’s almost impossible to imagine the sweet-tempered Peter luring unsuspecting children out of their beds and away from their homes, but too predictable to assume the blame lays somewhere outside, somewhere obvious.

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Tags: genre: fantasy, review, xxx author last name: r-z

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