Tuesday, 17 June 2014

'The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains’ – Neil Gaiman & Eddie Campbell (Headline)

With all the talk, just recently, being about ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ I had totally forgotten that ‘The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains’ was due to be published in this format (until it came through the door that is, a nice surprise). I say this format as ‘The Truth’ has already seen the light of day as a short story, in ‘The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 5’, and a multi-media experience where a reading of the story is set to music and it’s all played out against the imagery that you will find in this edition. I knew none of that though (living in a genre bubble as I sometimes do) so my reading was like coming to this story for the first time.

A dwarf and his guide journey to the Misty Isle where it’s said that a cave, in the mountains, holds as much gold as a man can carry. Such gold can prove useful in these troubled times but is that the only reason why the dwarf seeks the cave? The truth lies within…

The story itself looks very simple on the surface (starts off at A and heads straight to C by way of B) but Gaiman hides a lot of things in plain sight and you are not reading the story that you think you are. I mean you are, of course you are, but there’s a lot more to it and I guarantee that you will be reading the last few pages with a sense of wonder and quite a bit of awe that Gaiman not only told an enthralling tale but totally pulled the wool over your eyes at the same time. What our ‘hero’ sees in the cave just blows the story wide open and in all the right ways. If you’re anything like me, you will then go right back to the beginning and read the book all over again. A deceptively simple tale (with just enough of the Fae about it to add to the atmosphere without going into overkill) told against a stunning backdrop of bleakly beautiful Scottish countryside.

And that’s where Eddie Campbell comes in with illustrations so integrated with the plot that ‘Truth’ is as much his book as it is Gaimans. These illustrations don’t just complement the story, they are the story in places and it’s amazing to see that story jump in and out of the illustrations as things progress. Half the reason it took me so long to read ‘The Truth’ was that I found myself wanting to get as much as a I could out of the illustrations before I turned each page. The other reason? Some experiences are not meant to be rushed and ‘The Truth’ is one of those, definitely.

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