Kathryn - Kat - Allen (katallen) wrote,
Kathryn - Kat - Allen

Best of Apex Magazine - review #15 - The Green Book by Amal El-Mohtar

There's a weird desire for people to call stories told in letters etc experimental, as if entire books hadn't been written that way for a goodly number of years. I suspect it gets the tag now because so often the work fails... This one doesn't.



The Green Book by Amal El-Mohtar

If a story warns you that there won't be a neatly wrapped up ending is the lack of an ending a problem? (Not in this case)

AE begins with a library collection style note, telling us that we'll be reading a letter by Dominic to persons unknown, in which he's copying part of a book that has become the obsession of his master, Leuwin. We're told there are pages that accompanied this letter missing -- and it's a warning that this is over, and that however it ended we're maybe not going to find out (or the note would read differently).

The letter gives an urgency to the copied material -- Dominic is seeking help, to save his master from his obsession with a small green book... that he now knows writes itself, at least in part. The letter also explains the helpful notes through the rest of the story which detail hand-writing, missing pieces, stains etc. It described the book of the title and then we move to the copied contents.

Through several writers and sections we learn that someone, a woman, was tortured and killed and somehow remains in the book -- at the beginning of which is an invocation to Hecate(?) -- the blank pages of the book demand to be written on, and the Sisters (we suspect are not good people) think is magic and give it to Leuwin as a curiosity.
He discovers the woman trapped in the book. And gradually they write to each other and fall in love. Eventually he is obsessed with freeing her, she is scared he'll get himself killed, and both can see the end of the book -- of communication -- coming closer with every word written. They argue and fall to silence.

Dominic, in copying the book, ends up also in brief communication with Cynthia -- too scared of being drawn into magic to reply. His letter ends with Leuwin's return, and the threat that the Sisters may not let Dominic survive his knowledge of them.

And, as warned, that's all we get.

The writing is ace and the format, even with dropping two levels into the story, doesn't distance from the emotion.

I don't know if it was the fullness of world so abruptly taken away, or just my own desire, that wondered if this was a short story that comes from a novel -- that the Green Book etc are part of a larger story and a small piece of that world has been clipped out and presented here. That somewhere I can learn about the Sisters, and... well everything, the story is rich in sharp fragments of detail you want to explore further.

I liked the short short story - and I want to read more (not in this format, or well if there was a way to expand this but I don't think so... I just want more)
Tags: #15, apex, review, short fiction
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