Saturday, February 16, 2008

REVIEW: '20 Years After Night' by Dillon Langlands

Title: 20 Years After Night
Author: Dillon Langlands
Price: $18/$9
Genre: Sci Fi
ISBN: 978-0-9784-4964-3
Publisher: Penniless Canadian Stereotypes
Point of Sale: Lulu

One of the things that is often missing from self-published books is a truly envelope-pushing approach. After all, one of the advantages of not having to deal with an editor or third party publisher should be the ability to take some risks and be truly idiosyncratic. 20 Years After Night at least takes a stab at this. It is presented as a battered journal somehow sent back from a future in which various kinds of zombie rise up and lay waste to civilization as we know it. Of course the problem with taking risks is that it is, well, risky. I would say this book is about 50% successful. I gave it 5/10 then kicked it up to 6 for at least having the balls to give it a go.

First let’s say what I liked. I liked having a good at recreating a hand-scribbled, half-censored post-apoalyptic journal. Some details are really fresh like simulating a censor's black pen, faded just enough for the words beneath to still show through. The idea of the censor reading the work and deciding what to obliterate from the record has the potential to add a whole new level to the time scale and perspective. The rushed first person narrative is given so much more freedom in the format than it would in a typed novella. And some elements of the world building are interesting and benefit from not being over explained as they are seen from the point of view of a single wanderer. There are some scenes such as finding a tape made by a doctor undergoing undead transformation that are truly chilling.


As a whole, the book never quite came together for me, never quite meshed. A telling example might be the paper is textured to look deeply creased and crumpled but it is also printed with the blue and red lines of journal paper—that are perfectly straight. The font is selected to look like handwriting, but it clearly isn’t. Even in journal format the story is too rambling and 'telling' to come together as a narrative. At a pithy 48 pages (rather less of actual text) it didn’t have time to get too wearisome, but it was going in that direction. And perhaps my version of Adobe is too old to do what it was meant to with this e-book, because I got some blank and duplicate pages.

Given that each page is basically a picture (making for a rather large file as an ebook) I was left rather wishing all of the half-effective digital tricks had been put aside and the journal actually hand written on paper that was actually crumpled and stained (it could then be scanned to produce a similar file, but more authentically). And also wished that the story didn’t lean quite so heavily, in the end, on its formatting and framing to be effective. In fact, just to contradict the very point I started on, I feel this book was taken about as far as an author could but with the input of an editor and book designer it could have really crossed over so that the reader is not appreciating the details in the worthy attempt at something a bit different, but really feeling like the are holding a convincing artifact of a terrible future in their hands.

RATING: 6/10

1 comment:

Dillon said...

Thank you for your honesty. I tried to take it farther, but I have a partner in my company who wanted to make sure it could be read (the straight lines and font). To be honest though, a 6/10 is more than I expected from anyone who wasn't an obsessive zombie fanatics. Cheers and hopefully my coming ones will grab you better.