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Fleen Book Corner: A Nightmare Of Other Dimensions And Possibly Math

Editor’s note: Using book reviews here at Fleen are marked with copious spoiler warnings, but not this one. The book in discussion (and its prequel) are so convoluted (and I mean that in a good way — convolution is part of the story and its visuals) that to given enough detail to be spoilers would make this review about 23 times longer than it is.

So no spoilers, except the bit about the creepy doll, but come on — it’s a horror story. There’s got to be a creepy doll in there somewhere.


What do you do when your town — your world growing up, and to some degree the rest of the world in any event — is broken? Not metaphorically, actually broken by the intrusion of another dimension into our own. Scott Westerfeld used the horror underlying the destruction of Poughkeepsie, NY (and to a lesser degree, a village in North Korea) to explore the idea of nostalgia getting the better of us in last year’s Spill Zone (illustrated in a jumpy, almost schizophrenic energy by Alex Puvilland), where things within The Zone are defined by how they used to look and their present wrongness.

So what happens when it’s possible to communicate with the entities that have taken up residence in our world, post-Spill? What happens when humans become (I’ve been trying to think of another way to put this and I just can’t) cross-pollinated with the substance of that other world that broke into ours? What happens when you learn that the (relatively contained) apocalypse that destroyed your town and took your parents and upended your life wasn’t some cosmic accident, but the consequence of otherworldly politics and a little girl’s desire to help?

Spill Zone: The Broken Vow is what happens. It’s the intersection of disaster, grief, memory, art, family squabbles, and a dash of geopolitics thrown in for good measure. It’s what happens when good intentions meet bad outcomes, where being unable to let go of pain becomes an act of rebellion, sustenance, and creation all at the same time. Where the kindest thing that can happen is to cut loose the past, and to (maybe) save your own world by (maybe) forcibly upending another. Where the act of observation¹ can force physics to obey their usual rules again.

There’s a creepy doll in it, too, and it may or may not be entirely evil. A better word is probably indifferent, or possibly subject to a system of morality so distinct from our own that terms like good and evil don’t really pertain.

But strands that were frayed can be joined together again; chaos can have order imposed again, and if the acts that precipitate the closing of the breach between worlds resemble the acts that caused the breach in the first place, well, it’s nice to have a bit of symmetry again. When you’ve had a reality foisted on you that insists that 1 + 1 = giant slavering cat from Hell, the predictability of laser rangefinder + missile + time = boom is a relief sometimes.


Fleen thanks :01 Books for the review copy. Spill Zone: The Broken Vow by Scott Westerfeld (words) and Alex Puvilland (pictures) is available now wherever books are sold, and is highly recommended for readers that dig on horror movies, but maybe not younger folk that get hell of creeped out and can’t sleep.

Spam of the day:

Gary, An Announcement of EPIC Proportions!

It’s a PR blurb that involves the videogame producer that’s named Epic, I get it. That’s not a lame pun at all.

¹ Observation at a distance, in a clear-eyed manner, via mechanisms that both document things as they are and provide no rose-colored visions to look upon with nostalgia. Not letting go of How Things Used To Be is the cause of a lot of misery for characters from both worlds².

² By both worlds, I meant Poughkeepsie and the other world that crashed into it, but given the North Korea is so different from Poughkeepsie, I may as well have said all three worlds.

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