I’ve been on a bit of a graphic novel kick lately (in part because I’m trying to work my way through Perdido Street Station), and this one caught my attention because it features a library of books that are copies of books as they are being written by their authors. Once the books are complete, they disappear from the library, but you can always come back later to see what else that author is working on. It reminded me a little bit of the library in Sandman, and I was curious to see where this story would take that idea.
Unfortunately, the library isn’t the central part of this story. It’s an aside, really, but to consider something as grandiose as that library an “aside” should give you a little bit of an idea as to where this story takes you. It’s about a man with insomnia who’s mixed up in the black market for rare books, and during one of his bouts of sleeplessness, he stumbles across a café that stays open late at night. It is, of course, the Insomnia Café, and it’s there that he meets a woman who introduces him to the library.
From there, the story stumbles into a surreal sort of sequence of events that I’m still not sure I understand, and there is where I think the story fails. The author attempts a sort of twist at the end of the story where you’re supposed to be asking whether or not the events really happened, or whether they were just a figment of the person’s imagination, and to be honest, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to think. There are no clues anywhere in the story that suggest one interpretation over another, and that’s frustrating to me. If you can lead me up to that twist and then spring it on me in such a way as to where I can think back on the entire story and find the clues that would support that interpretation, then you’ve accomplished a great thing. Shirley Jackson did a remarkable job of that in “The Lottery,” but M.K. Perker just throws a few things together and expects that to wrap up the story.
The sad thing of it all is that there was a lot of potential in this story that didn’t really go anywhere. The story is one that will stick with you for a while, and some of the imagery lingers, but the end result felt like something was missing. In fact, it felt like a large part of the story was missing. Was it the editorial process? Was it the result of a first-time graphic novelist not getting it completely right? I don’t know, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. I just wish the author had taken more time to develop the characterization in the story.