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Craig's Book Club
Book Reviews

Spotlight on: David Niall Wilson

Books Reviewed:
Deep Blue by David Niall Wilson
My Eyes Are Nailed, But Still I See by David Niall Wilson and Brett Alexander Savory


To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.


Deep Blue by David Niall Wilson David Niall Wilson, Deep Blue

Brandt and the rest of the makeshift band he plays with on occasion have lost touch with their music. Brandt wears Harlequin make-up that separates him from the others and makes him look like "a dead clown," and lead guitarist Shaver "only [lives] for the solo." Their individual pain is so great, it gets in the way of making good music together.

One night, Brandt, after getting so drunk he leaves his apartment keys behind, is drawn by the soulful sound of a harmonica into the presence of its source: an old black man named Wally with the secret to the basis of rock and roll: the blues. Brandt wants to learn to play like that, but the only way is to channel the pain of the world through his guitar. "No way outta the pain 'cept t'rough da music," Wally says.

The catch is that he cannot choose when to play; he is at the mercy and whim of the world's pain. The next night, Brandt plays the concert of his life, going into a semi-trance and stunning his bandmates with his skill. Soon, similar events affect the other band members in ways they don't totally understand, but that manages to bring them back together to find a way to be a true band once again.

That author David Niall Wilson (My Eyes Are Nailed, But Still I See) knows music inside and out is evident in Deep Blue. He knows the mathematics, the history, and the emotion. His story of a band that has lost its core is often disturbing, but always touching. The relationships that form the core of the band are dealt with deeply and admirably. Wilson obviously also knows a thing or two about band dynamics.

I would have liked a little more consistency in transitions (it's impossible to predict whether a new chapter will change the point of view or continue the previous one), and sometimes it seems that the story itself doesn't quite know where it is headed, taking a good number of forked paths along the way (including a subplot that offers another perspective on the sineater), but everything eventually comes together again into a natural conclusion.

In any case, the scenes with the music are what will keep you reading. Wilson paints liquid rainbows when he describes each band member's experience behind his or her newly-rediscovered instruments and skills, and if this were all that the book were about, it would be enough. But there's plenty more going on in Deep Blue to satisfy the author's fans (who are used to him not sticking to genre conventions) and to draw in plenty of new ones.


My Eyes Are Nailed, But Still I See by David Niall Wilson and Brett Alexander Savory David Niall Wilson and Brett Alexander Savory, My Eyes Are Nailed, But Still I See

Johnson Millhone spends his day with his insides spilling out and encased in green Jell-O®. It's his brother Morgan's way of making Johnson add to the family's "recovery effort" and he sews Johnson up once a day so they can eat dinner together. Perched on a shelf, surrounded by a variety of preserved organs in jars, is Pig. Pig is a stuffed child's toy with nails in its eyes. Oh, yes, and he talks to Morgan and Johnson and claims to be their father. Where is their mother? She's coming back, supposedly. At least everyone makes themselves believe that. In the meantime, Morgan arouses himself by staring at her photograph.

That's just the beginning of My Eyes Are Nailed, But Still I See, the new novella by David Niall Wilson and Brett Alexander Savory. I had not yet read Wilson's Deep Blue before this, but having read Savory's "Slipknot" in From the Borderlands gave me some inkling what to expect here.

Although it is an overused cliche, I have to say that reading My Eyes Are Nailed, But Still I See is closely akin to riding an unfamiliar rollercoaster. The first part of it is relatively conventional once you're in right mindset -- sort of like that ride up the huge incline. After the first twenty pages, however, all bets are off. You could be in a dream, a memory, real time, or some surreal combination thereof.

But there's no telling in what order those turns and loops will come. You could simply jump ahead or back at the authors' whims, or even be rereading the same passage over again -- back up, relive it; back up, relive it. You really have to pay attention, and that's one of the main things I like about it in an age when books have become like mass-produced strained peas: to be devoured quickly without a hint of flavor.

What's also remarkable is that, after creating such an oddball world, Savory and Wilson had the creativity left over to craft an accessible storyline in its midst. In any other situation, these would be characters so weird that their motives would be unfathomable, but here their actions are completely understandable and organic to the plot. Kudos also for not accepting the temptation to explain everything away, given that there is a character that could easily have been used to that effect.

My Eyes Are Nailed, But Still I See is very much like one of those films that, once you see it, you start over again immediately, because you just know you didn't quite grasp all that it had to offer. A comparison to Mulholland Drive or Donnie Darko would not be too off the mark, only I felt confident that I had gotten the point of the latter film the first time through. I'm still not sure that I totally understand what was going here (or where Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum" fits into it) but, again, that's part of its charm: it keeps coming back to me, begging me to replumb its depths for further meaning, and sort of hanging over my head because it feels like I haven't completed a task that was put to me.


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