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Bookends – How the tales of Tommy Taylor began February 18, 2015

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Bookends – How the tales of Tommy Taylor beganUnwritten - Ship

By Dan Davidson

November 26, 2014

– 938 words –

 

The Unwritten:

Tommy Taylor and the Ship that Sank Twice

Story by Mike Carey

Art layouts by Peter Gross

Finishes and colours by various artists

 

160 pages

$12.30

 

There have been 10 volumes collecting the ongoing story Carey and Gross have created in the Unwritten. If Thomas King is correct in his assertion that “all we are is stories” this series is the graphic adventure that deals with that concept directly. Volumes 1 to 9 collected the first 54 issues of the book, and a new sequence began with volume 10, containing the next five issues.

Tom Taylor is the real life son of Wilson Taylor, who has created and published 14 volumes in the saga of the boy wizard Tommy Taylor. The real Tom has Christopher Robin’s problem in relation to his fictional alter-ego. Like Christopher Milne, Tom grows up to hate the connection between himself and the fictional Tommy.

What we have been slowly coming to understand is that the connection in stronger than anyone might readily believe. Wilson was once an agent of a nameless cabal that attempts, quite successfully, to influence the way of the world by promoting the stories that influence how we, the public, think about things. This is all accomplished through the manipulation of something the cabal calls the Grid.

As Wilson became more aware of how the Grid worked he became repulsed by their machinations and decided to fight back. To that end he deliberately linked his son to a fictional creation and wrote a series of adventures which promoted belief in the character in ways that make “Frodo Lives” graffiti and earth-bound Quidditch matches seem quite tame by comparison.

He also programmed his son, using all manner of learning styles, including listening to stories while in a sensory deprivation tank, to be linked to the power of stories, so that the power of the Grid could be harnessed by him and focused to manifest itself as magic. Tom was unaware of this until years later, after his father had disappeared, leaving everyone waiting for the next installment of the Tommy books. It hasn’t been said yet, but one expects that this anticipation was part of Wilson’s grand plan.

Just after the break provided at the end of volume 9, Carey and Gross decided to provide us with a two strand graphic novel that did not appear as part of the regular monthly book. One strand of the story is the tale of how Wilson planned and wrote the first of the Tommy Taylor books, Tommy Taylor and the Ship that Sank Twice. The other strand is a graphic novel presentation of that book.

In the Wilson sections we get a close look at his creative process, showing early drafts of the first book’s opening as he picks his way through the various fantasy tropes and decides which ones to use. At the same time we get a look at his domestic life; how Tom was conceived, how Wilson timed his release of the first book to coincide with Tom’s birth; how an entirely fictional mother was grafted into his life’s story while his real mother was cut out.

In Tommy’s story we learn of an orphan boy whose parents were two of the most powerful wizards in all the land, and of how they sacrificed their lives in order to keep a great evil from coming back into the world. This sacrifice also entailed taking from their baby son the legacy of the spark, his naturally inherited ability to channel magic, for they needed more power than the two of them had to stop the vampiric Count Ambrosio from returning to the mundane world. They did manage to save Tom’s life by causing him to be cast ashore when they deliberately scuttled the ship they were travelling on.

Tom is raised as an anonymous orphan child at a magic academy, his true identity known only to its headmaster, Professor Tulkinghorn, who keeps that secret until Tom is about to become a teenager. Tom, though sparkless, is an excellent student with a retentive memory, learns much of the lore taught at the academy, can call more of it to mind than most of the other students and, lacking power, is forced to develop his wits.

The problem comes when the ill informed and arrogant members of the Conclave, the magical governing body, decide to raise the sunken ship, thinking that it contains the ancient magicks of Lyonesse, which the Taylors had sailed to that mythic land to obtain. It does, but it also contains the ancient evil of Ambrosio, and that is unleashed on the land, corrupting most of the people of Eastbrooke in preparation for an assault on the rest of the world.

Bouncing back and forth as we do, we can see the struggle in the book as a mirror of Wilson’s struggle against the cabal. The blending of the two is complete when one of Wilson’s creations crosses over into our world while Tom is still just a toddler. Tom forgets this as he grows up, passing through his rebellious teems and nearly wasted youth but, as we have seen, it all comes together and has been revealing itself monthly since 2010.

This book ties up a lot of loose ends and makes a number of things clearer. I do hope the creators do this again with another of the Tommy books, taking us through another phase of Wilson’s planning. This was a lot of fun.

 

-30 –

 

 

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