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DOWN THE MYSTERLY RIVER by Bill Willingham

DOWN THE MYSTERLY RIVER

By Bill Willingham

Age Range: 12 - 15

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2792-5
Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

An intrepid Boy Scout sleuth meets talking animals, creators of worlds and viciously evangelical conformists in a coming-of-age tale first issued in slightly different form in 2001.

Hardly has Max had a chance to wonder how he comes to be walking down a forest road with great gaps in his memory than he meets a similarly afflicted badger who introduces himself as Banderbrock. With a raffish cat named McTavish and Walden, a peaceable bear, joining along the way, that walk soon turns into a flight ahead of a large company of dedicated men and women armed with special swords that can surgically remove troublesome personal characteristics like independence and creativity. Nonetheless, aside from the occasional narrow squeak, that flight is more like a leisurely amble, punctuated with pauses for extended bickering and reminiscences, plus conversations with a sociable talking tree and a wandering coot who claims to deliver universes. Even before finding safe haven with a “wizard” (here a synonym for “author”) who lays it all out, Max has reached a dismal realization about who he and his friends really are. But going out of print can be a beginning rather than an ending, promises the wizard, pointing out several roads to second careers for fictional characters.

Though it’s been done before and better (see Roderick Townley’s Great Good Thing, 2001), there’s still room in the premise for clever twists. (Metafictional fantasy. 12-15, adult)