I think I may have to read it againBut first impressionSavory touches on most of the memes of dark fantasy, or urban fantasy, including a child s response to Big Themes like death, murder, and family loyalty The plot is simple, a young boy s journey through a carnival like world, in search of what he sees as the one person who will love him Possibly his mother It s hard to tell.While the events of the story can be muddled and confusing, Savory s assured, lyrical prose keeps it on track and guides the reader through the journey, with each revelation stranger than the last My first instinct, of course, is to psycho analyze its Oedipal tone, the Hero s Journey, what the author meant by it allBut in the best tradition of twisted fantasy, sometimes it s better to enjoy the mood, knowing the conclusion will take you somewhere What I took from the story, whether I got it or not, was a response to other writers creation of childhood as idyllic, where heroes always win and the children are safe at the end Savory turns this on its ear, by creating atruthful portrait of childhood as loaded with danger and threat The ones who are supposed to love you will be the biggest danger to you, the book seems to say, and there may not be a happy ending. I have no idea what happened in this novel or what it s trying to say, but it is one of the most compelling things I have read in a while It reminds me of Southland Tales or Mulholland Dr you re not quite sure what the pieces add up to, but you are pulled along on a ride through some really disquieting, horrific places.I will be reading this one again. Like many others who reviewed this book, I had to read itthan once and it was SO worth it every time I m not usually a horror reader so this was definitely an out of my comfort zone kind of book But the writing is just beautiful, the images are dark and disturbing but somehow still lovely I loved the voice of the boy and his perspective is spot on Even though I read this book quite a while ago, I still remember many scenes quite vividly. My rule of thumb for what makes a horror novel is if the protagonist loses something significant then it s horror, if not it s a novel with horrific elements So by that rule In and Down is definitely a horror novel but horror isn t the emotion that it brings out in me, it s despair and sympathy.Kinda like one of those autobiographies filled with tragedy except it s fictional and has supernatural elements to it.Very different. In In And Down, Michael And Stephen Are Young Brothers Growing Up With No Female Influence In Their Lives Through Their Father S Emotional Absence And Abuse, They Come To Believe Women Do Not Truly Exist One Of The Boys Draws Into Himself, Looking For Answers To The Confusion In His Life, And Throughout This Descent, He Experiences His Past As Though Through A Distorted Carnival Mirror When He Emerges From His Inner Journey, He Is Forced To Confront A Secret That Has Been Buried Deep Inside For Over Thirty Years Haunting, dark and compelling Loved this shocking, fast paced tale It s complex and rich, as well and begs to be read over and over Stays with you a long time. A dark and beautiful tale. Stephen looks at his brother over their mother s shoulder while she leans down to attach the bandage to his ear Michael s looking at him and he s thinking and this is one of the clearest thoughts he s ever had he s thinking What s wrong with me Why would I do that to you Once she s attached the bandage to Stephen s ear and given him a good, strong hug, she turns around, swivels her head, and her eyes find Michael in the corner.She sees something in his eyes The look she gives him says There s something rotten inside you I can see it There is something wrong with you You re a terrible, terrible boy, and I don t love you any.The boys father walks in the back door, folding and tossing his newspaper on the kitchen table He looks at no one.Growing up, Michael remembers sometimes wondering what it was that their father stuffed into him and his brother, what things he crammed into those holes that he dug in them both Standing in that kitchen the smell of his mother, the sad, confused eyes of his brother across the room, and his father walking through the wreckage as if none of it touched him Michael realizes that those things his father dug and stuffed into his children were pieces of himself.Pieces of himself that he didn t like. A little bit of The Good Son, mixed with a healthy dose of Memento and a pseudo personality swapping structure that in some ways echoes Lynch s Lost Highway, Brett Alexander Savory s In and Down is a narrative matryoshka painted with a twisted, grime drenched carnival aesthetic It s about learned hatred, assumed blame, the misconceptions and cruelties of childhood, and the many, often dangerous, ways siblings target and wound one another.Stephen and Michael are brothers Stephen being the eldest, and Michael the story s focus Michael is in many ways a delicate boy He is frequently picked on by Stephen, sees his father as a rough, guttural example of a man who s personality is a toxic mess of racism and neglect , and is investigating the whys and wherefores of his mother s disappearance.In searching for his mother, and by result his sense of self and place among things, Michael discovers a letter written by her, detailing her reasons for leaving because of the unease she felt living with one of the two boys Michael s search for answers quickly intensifies, leading him into a lucid dream state where he encounters Hob, a guide or ringmaster of sorts for the carnival of Michael s mind Dressed in a green suit and purple top hat, Hob opens the door for Michael, starting him on a journey to the very centre of his being As Michael travels deeper into his dream and with greater frequency, he meets an assortment of characters like Marla, Smithy, and Crimley, each representative of another aspect of the journey such as the construct of the ideal woman mother carved from a block of wood and personalized, or the permanent mask worn to shield one from the hideousness of self.In and Down is not a book you read once Savory has gone to great trouble to give each and every character a sense of physicality, and of purpose even if that purpose is at first obscured From the dead dogs buried in Michael and Stephen s backyard, to their father s obvious racism, and the slow, steady descent into the dream carnival s freak show and by proxy the rotten core of Michael and possibly Stephen In and Down is about a slow peeling back of the layers, like a hangnail that when tugged tears a long strip of skin up the side of one s finger.Michael is, in many ways, an unreliable narrator We can t trust him because he doesn t truly know himself The sense of discovery in In and Down is richly apparent in the bleeding of realities via Michael s dream descent And as the elevator gets closer and closer to the bottom, and the carnival is inundatedandwith freak show attractions, clowns, and single serving acquaintances, Michael comes closer to learning the truths about his mother s disappearance and his difficult relationship with his father and brother Nowhere is this unsettling sense of discoveryobvious than when a clown drapes a blanket over Michael and he closes his eyes, sucks the heat into himself Buries his face in the fabric of the blanket and inhales It smells like makeup and dirt Without spoiling certain late novel events, I began to ponder part way through the narrative if ever there were two brothers, or if there had only ever been one, and the trip through the carnivalesque nightmare world was in fact a slow motion psychological break one child feeling responsible for the disappearance of a parent and needing something to blame, and crafting that something into the body and mind of a brother that never existed in the first place.I wish I could say I felt with total confidence that this was the case, but as previously mentioned andthan any book I ve read in recent months, I think I need to start back at the beginning and give In and Down a second read.Savory s story is not difficult, nor is it convoluted, but it s easy to slide down the mountain of vivid imagery with too many fucking clowns for comfort without giving it too much thought at first, only to look behind after the fact and realize what it was that had just been revealed Michael and Stephen are believable as children their voices feel authentic without being written down to And the sporadic use of images and illustrations, such as dirty, handwritten notes, add emphasis and an air of the macabre without disrupting the narrative flow.I was pleasantly surprised by In and Down and how it not only subverted expectations as I was reading it, but has continued to change in my mind as I ve taken the time to really think about it in the days since finishing It s an unsettling look at the lives of children and siblings, and of memory and assumption, and it is not to be breezed through lightly Take your time with this one Pick it apart you ll be glad you did. If Alice had been a boy and her life a complete mess then her journey through Wonderland might have been quite similar to In and Down by Brett Alexander Savory You might have found the work of Lewis Caroll somewhat creepy if not, read again the part when a hideous Duchess nurses a piglet while her cook throws dishes at their face for no apparent reason but wait till you get into eleven years old Michael s head he doesn t have a mother, he almost drowned once, his brother plays vicious and life threatening pranks on him, his father is some rude, neglectful fly eater and finally, his inner world is a vast nightmare I m not coming home tonight The boy makes me uneasy You love him I can t Those are the words of a letter signed by the mother of Michael and his brother Stephen Mother They didn t know they had a mother Actually, they didn t know women existedat all When Michael finds this message, it triggers the beginning of a strange and scary journey into himself The novel switches constantly between memories of Michael s childhood and his adventure in his horrific inner world, which encourages the reader to try to piece the facts together.Michael s world what I love most about this book is surreal and often absurd, in the same way Alice in Wonderland is, except it s also dark and frankly disturbing It is centred on a derelict carnival with a single ferris wheel spinning empty wagons by itself, people walking rotten animals on leash, dead mimes attached to poles for belly poking, and pig shaped balloons with X where their eyes should be The typical carnival, really This carnival is like the one to which the boy s father takes them The kind of carnival where the farther in you go, theyou feel like you re sinking into the ground Reality falls away as lights and the motions and the noises blend into a downward spiral where you forget your name, forget what the outside world is like But nothing is quite random this world is a distorted reflection of Michael s life and his relatives For example, in his first dreams , he meets a mysterious young woman, the only woman in the carnival, his chance to find someone who loves him properly Most of his self exploration is then motivated by the hope of finding her again Simultaneously, in real life, he s trying to findletters from his mother.However, the expedition only gets darker, scarier andclaustrophobic as Michael gets deeper in himself and slowly realizes he has no control over his life He s not even sure who he really is Everything sneaks away from him or dies Asmemories about his family come back in flashes, his inner world becomesmacabre and threatening The boy is allowed to feel angry at everything that has happened, at everything that he has had no control over The fact that no one is as they appear to be, that they are just actors, that his life and his feelings have been scripted from the beginning of his memory, that has been plotted out by a creator who has forgotten him or at the very best doesn t care about his life, his happiness Finally, I must say I really enjoyed the few illustrations in the book They really strengthen the atmosphere of the book I lovedIn and Down s originality and unpredictability It features a fascinating, frightening and vivid world entirely based on a little boy s traumas, which makes it eventerrifying I really enjoyed how Michael s exploration slowly reveal elements of his real life, sometimes clearly, sometimes in a symbolic way, and how his inner world mutates as he gets closer to the horrendous truth You should really read In and Down if you re seeking a gripping, smart horror novel that is definitely out of the ordinary This isn t a book I would normally read, but I tend to now run in the same circles as the author, and bought this book when we were in side by side booths selling our wares.I rode this novel like a rollercoaster I truly enjoyed the first half, even though it felt much like a good portion of it was dream sequence a writing trick I despise Then, the dream sequence part seemed to take over and I found I wasn t enjoying the story as much, even though I realized it was less dream andAlice in Wonderland, albeit through the twisted mind of the author.In fact, after going through a series of scenes withto come where it seemed the protagonist wasof a pinball pinging from place to place, meeting different people for no apparent reason, there was a quote that I flagged from the book that, at that particular moment, seemed to echo my state of mind Michael doesn t have the patience for these kinds of conversations any.However, within a few pages of that quote, the novel seemed to course correct and I enjoyed it again I didn t think the revelations at the end were earth shattering, but they were logical and I saw the work the author put into building to these points I guess sometimes you just need to see the whole to appreciate the parts along the way There s a part of me that still believes this might have been better as a shorter novella, but overall, with the Alice in Wonderland overtones and the David Lynchian undertones, it s absolutely worth the read.
Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the In and Down book, this is one of the most wanted Brett Alexander Savory author readers around the world.
- 224 pages
- In and Down
- Brett Alexander Savory
- 23 April 2018 Brett Alexander Savory