My take on Amberville
Series: Mollisan Town Quartet (#1)
By Tim Davys
Capsule: A meditation on good and evil, seen from the drug-abusing, violent, sadomasochistic underbelly of a city…inhabited by living stuffed animals.
This book was not what I had anticipated. I was expecting Roger Rabbit…if not the movie, then the somewhat darker original book. I thought it would be a funny take-off on Hammett/Chandler hard-boiled noir.
There weren’t any references to “gats” or “dames”. The feel of the book was actually a lot more like 19th Century Russian literature, but with teddy bears…sort of The Brothers Karamotsofties, maybe. That may be a pun, but the book is serious.
In Mollisan Town, life can be hard. Even though the streets may be painted brightly, there is a dark side. Pain, despair, poverty, and hopelessness…they are all parts of the puzzle. For others, tedium and pretense can be just as difficult.
“In our secularized, transparent and democratic city passivity is the only kind of evil that remains.”
You’ll find pages of philosophizing in Amberville…along with action and cruelty.
Does any of this sound like stuffed animals to you?
There’s where the paradox is. The fact that the main characters are living toys is essential to how the plot develops and the details of the story. It’s not what motivates them or draws you in, though. I wonder if the pseudonymous Tim Davys, the Swedish author, had originally written a novel with people, and then been told, “Great writing, but you need a gimmick, kid.” I don’t think so, though. The society of the toys is well-crafted, even if it isn’t entirely clear to me. They don’t have internal organs (we know that from some truly violent episodes), but they eat and urinate. They feel pain, and really fear fire. They drive cars and have advertising agencies.
Clearly, it is all in a sense magical, but with a logic. If you simply start with the postulate of living stuffed animals, and go from there, interesting things would develop.
Although the story isn’t always told in chronological order, the plot is complex and consistent. There is a lot more happening than you would guess.
In summary, it’s not going to be for everybody…for many, because of the harshness. For others, just because of the stuffed animal premise. There are other elements that will make it controversial. It will also, though, find a cult following. There is already a sequel, Lanceheim, scheduled for release June 15, 2010, in the US. The plan is for four novels…like the Land of Oz, the city is divided into four distinct communities. I think a movie is inevitable, although I hope they would maintain the tone.
One last thing: I was telling my Significant Other (SO) about the book, and I mentioned that it had to with stuffed animals who took drugs. My SO had a great line: “Do they take Oxycotton?” 😉
Harper video trailer (this is not at all like the book, but interesting. They make it completely into a 1940s Warner Brothers noir movie. It also gives what I would consider spoilers)
Video statement from Tim Davys from Harper (protects the author’s identity)