Title – Things Not Made
Author – Michael Sellars
Genre – Horror
A peculiar story about beings that hate readers and everything that comes with them – books, words, sentences, paragraphs, stories. They’re allergic to books, and booknerds serve as an anathema. So they’re out to eliminate anyone who loves the written word.
Holly is a bookworm who loves reading more than anything else. She always has a book on her or stashes one some place nearby, is perpetually ready to recommend titles to fellow readers, and is happy to convert non-readers into readers. “Books just pull me in, wrap themselves around me”, she declares. One evening in a bar with her former college mate turned friend and colleague Melanie, Holly finds her drink spiked while Melanie is off to catch up with some friends. A man in a green hood stares at her intently while she realizes her predicament, and finds herself in a parallel world – a facsimile of the place she is in, but with nothing and no one except her and the hooded man. A new kind of drug, an alien abduction, or is she just losing her mind? Melanie sets off to find and rescue her friend in this strange world, replete with horrifying creatures alongside riddles on books and reading. The two friends are separated not only from each other but from reality itself, trying to discern the identity of the hooded man, fathom the happenings around them, and navigate a path to safety.
“Things Not Made” is truly a reader’s delight, with the plethora of books, quotes and excerpts finding their way into the narrative. With its inherent horror and smatterings of humor, Michael Sellars proves to be a worthy competitor to his protagonist Holly – the love for reading, search for appropriate vocabulary in thought and conversation, prioritizing books and writers whatever might be the situation. As a reader, I could see myself in Holly and Melanie – identifying books from their quotes, reminiscing about classics read long ago, comparing page numbers between tomes, literally going off track where books are concerned in spite of the horrific situation at hand. “Books aren’t just delivery systems for words and stories, they’re sacred objects.” The atmosphere is surreal, with terrifying descriptions of the anti-book beings enveloped in a world where reading is looked down upon, and could even bring you harm. Incunabula, deliquesce, miasma, putrescence, collective nouns can be kryptonite or saviors here, depending on who’s asking. The friendship between the two lead characters has a story of its own, adding to their camaraderie in the narrative and its outcome, while being authentic and moving to the reader.
An odd book that keeps you guessing all the way, as it takes your mind on a trip to another world, just like the story itself does. The chapters are narrated alternately from Holly’s and Melanie’s points of view so we experience each ones take on this strange new world and what to make of it. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ethan Frome, and Alan Moore, nestled snugly beside The Haunting of Hill House, Frankenstein, and Turn of the Screw, with exploding snakes, spiky rodents, and crawling hands just within reach. Incorporating classic writers and works of literature in an out-and-out horror book was a very striking endeavor, and Sellars manages it masterfully. Quality writing, unsettling adventures, witty dialogue, well fleshed out characters, vocabulary that makes you pause, and above all, the significance of the title of the book, make this one adventure you want to as well as don’t want to miss out on.
My rating – 5/5