The Illustrated Hen by Scott Charles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Some have called it surreal. Others say absurd. It crosses genres. Read the description here on Goodreads for what’s up with the book. As a fellow writer, I look at it for technique even as I strive to be entertained. I did like it very much. Not everyone will. This is one of those books that will engender the “Huh?” response. As in, where is the author going with this. If you’re patient, you’ll find out. That requires your attention to be kept because you find it enjoyable. If not, you’ll just close the Kindle reader.
For me, it’s an excellent book with imagery that only occasionally borders on purple prose. The voice does vary, adding some confusion, which is resolved in time. That’s a pun, as you will learn sooner or later.
The book opens and closes with a frame—not so obvious in the prologue, yet that’s what is.
Without spoiling, here’s some foreshadowing from it:
“He paused briefly at the dates. The headstones shimmered a bit as he pulled his hand away.
She would be here soon.
He could see the energy rising up from the ground.
There was another Ray entering the tunnel. The possibilities were endless. Time was bending toward him but wouldn’t remain that way for long.
The headstones came back into focus, and she was standing there.‘We’ve been waiting for you,’ she said.”
The opening chapter offers a PI character in negotiation with a shopkeeper. The narrative is vivid, putting the reader in front of the man. Again, in time, one will come to understand the point not of knowing the man but of getting why the description is supplied. The book is that well constructed.
“ ‘So what can I do for your, Burrberry comma Raymond,’ the man asked. He was a large, beefy fellow with a booming voice and thick framed glasses. He was holding up a business card and looking at it carefully. The man squinted through his glasses at the card, then Burrberry then back to the card.The lenses were huge. The frames hung somewhat delicately on the bridge of his nose—a sculptured kind of nose, like you saw in those old Italian paintings.”
We could go on, but that risks telling too much. Here is the thing—it’s a story within a story. Rather, stories within a story. The writer’s voice varies because the stories do and it’s part of the evolution. Back and forth in time with characters and situations. It’s a rich book that I enjoyed. There are parts better than others. Parts that could have been better. But they can be overlooked as the sum of the parts makes for a wonderful whole.