Σάββατο, 7 Σεπτεμβρίου 2013

What I think About Stuff-Red Phone Box Review



And old thing, out of its appointed time and place, marooned in the 21st century…

What I Think About Stuff-Red Phone Box, or I know I’m not supposed to call it an Anti-TARDIS, but I’m gonna anyway.

There was this game I used to play a lot in High School, called Exquisite Corpse. For those of you unfamiliar the rules, it kinda goes like this:

Dude A writes a short story that’s about anything. Strippers with hearts of depleted uranium, robot-children on their way to Mars or a boring pencil-pusher in Hell. He then passes it on to Lass B, who continues the story based only on the last line of Dude A’s story. The result (provided the people you are playing with aren’t a bunch of boring-as-fuck squares) is usually magnificent

Or hints at the summoning of an ancient fertility-god via a human vessel somehow. Hilarity ensues.


It was during Exquisite Corpse that I and my friends at the time came up with such memorable characters as Jetpack Bear (millionaire playboy forest dweller by day, crimefighter by night) Lord Kitchild (the richest kitten in the world, who liked to blow up orphanages in his free time) and Cynical Chris (the beauraucrat who cancelled everyone’s superpowers because he didn’t believe in them).

While Salome Jones described the Red Phone Box as ‘a game of Exquisite Corpse that was pulled off by sheer luck, talent and bloody-minded tenacity’, I like to think it began in a pub, was scribbled down on the back of a coaster, handed to Warren Ellis, passed on to Tim Dedopulos, then to James Desborough and so on and so forth and everyone had a doozy of a time.

Then Salome apparently decided to edit this, because it was a shame to waste this much awesome.
Red Phone Box describes itself as a ‘darkly magical story cycle’, which is unfair, to say the least. If I had to describe this book to a friend (and I did) it would be more like ‘a gestalt of loosely connected stories with a single binding element and a weird-yet cataclysmic-ending’.

Like most weirdly awesome (and awesomely weird) books to come from old Blighty, this one takes place in London, where a slew of characters find themselves transmuted, altered, teleported into (and out of) trouble thanks to the mysterious influence of a red phone box, which offers them both salvation and damnation. While each story could be enjoyed on its own (and some of the stories share their own unique continuity), the entirety of the book is a whole other sort of beast.


 
 I like to think it’s a robot lion, powered by the heart of a questing African Warrior-King.

With all this in mind, let’s talk about…

Why you should buy the Red Phone Box as soon as possible:

·         It’s a gestalt story that is comprised of the combined efforts of 28 writers, working in harmony

LONDON EXPLODES! Aw, I was gonna do that…SHUT UP, IT’S MY LAST CHAPTER IN THIS AND I’M KILLING EVERYBODY!

Red Phone Box is anything but boring, I will give it that. Each writer brings something new to the table and I discovered a number of people whose stuff I’m going to actively seek out as soon as I can. From Tim Dedopulos’ haunting prose, to Gábor Csigás’ frantic ventures into mythology to Salome Jones’ looks into living someone else’s life and James Desborough’s outbursts of glorious pessimism.
Every story has something to offer and every one of them could very well stand on its own. Myself, I’d love to give it a second read one day, perhaps following just one path, see how it goes.

·         The stand-alone stories are beautiful

Pretty much that

The Boxed God and Nothing Happens, Endlessly were my favorite picks from Red Phone Box and I’d suggest you pick them up and read them when no-one’s looking. They’re sad, they’re short, they’re as wonderful and cruel as a Bengal tiger eating her stillborn young, and I wouldn’t mind if the entire book was made up of these.

·         Red Phone Box does not drag its feet

Yay, another segment about 20’s rockabilly…

I have a shit attention span. I have only managed to read a couple books past the 400 page mark and giant bricks of books never really drew me in. Red Phone Box, on the other hand is at the perfect length for all you ADD plagued bastards of the world (like myself), playing out 15 different stories and ending in an epic conclusion before you have the chance to get bored with it. It promises and it delivers in one swift stroke!

  But of course, there are some clouds enveloping every silver lining. In the Red Phone Box’s case, they can be summarized as…
 
 The stories need to be kept track off, sometime after the halfway point

A web of continuities, presented for your confusion.

At my count, Red Phone Box starred about a dozen characters (though only 5 of them held any centerstage significance), each of which went on his own adventures and had his own share of troubles. A couple of them didn’t make it two chapters past their first appearance. One of them suffers an untimely (and particularly gruesome) death.
While this may sound good, I found myself lost in the story threads and desperately needed some sort of timeline (or even a Dramatis Personae appendix at the end of the book) to orient myself, when a character reappeared after three chapters of absence. With that in mind…

Apparently, this is no longer the case. The good crew behind the Red Phone Box has now provided a DRAMATIS PERSONAE character sheet, available for free via GhostwoodsBooks, for all of you who are interested in purchasing the book in its electronic format. This happened after a 2-email-long talk with the editor and a tiny bit of feedback on my behalf.

It’s so awesome when you see people organizing themselves so fast and efficiently.

·         There needs to be a clearer outline of what’s going on and in what chronological order.

While the current edition of Red Phone Box keeps a pretty good track of exactly what’s going on for the entirety of the narrative, the crossing of the character’s paths becomes disjointed after a certain point. Characters are introduced crossing paths with people whom we haven’t seen since the beginning of the book, who make cameo appearances toward the end. 

The current presentation of the story cycle builds tension perfectly, a tiny tweaking could help the reader follow the story more closely (and enjoy it all the more for it.)
  
With all that in mind, I cannot recommend the Red Phone Box enough. It’s a book about people’s lives (and the world) being changed by the prodding and pushing of impossible intelligences. It revolves around a quasi-living, obviously malevolent piece of London history. It’s got some excellent stories to keep you occupied while you’re trying to puzzle this together and there is hardly a dull moment in it! 

So go get it. It’s probably the smartest thing you are going to do come November.

WHERE TO BUY THIS: Ghostwood Books Publishing House, come November
WILL THIS BE AVAILABLE ON PRINT? Yes, Earth-Monkey. Many trees will gladly give up their lives for your enjoyment.
WHERE CAN I GET THE BOOK EDITION? Everywhere. It's even on Waterstones.co.uk and I don't even know what the fuck that is. 

 

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