I’ve written elsewhere in this blog on the Small Presses being one of the most significant developments in the field of SF/Fantasy over the past twenty years. Here’s a book that illustrates my point.
Frankie Finnegan is an unhappy dreamer: he’s bullied at school and his home life is falling apart. To compensate, he escapes into the imaginary world of Faraway. But what happens when Faraway becomes real and Frankie finds he has the power to shape his own world?
How many people haven’t thought of something like that as a plot for a story? It’s like the portable hole, an idea that sounds like a good one until you try and write it. Keith Brooke, however, has the skill and imagination to make the story work, and then some.
Frankie Finnegan is a believable hero. Irritating, sympathetic and pathetic in equal measures, he stands up to his bullies by feigning obsequiousness, thus winding them up further. In his struggle to assert himself, he always ends up sowing the seeds of his own further destruction. When he succeeds in creating the mock Victorian Freakshow world of Faraway, that same character trait is ever present asserting itself, and Frankie gradually comes to understand that it’s not his world that needs to change, but Frankie himself.
This is an elegant little gem of a book: unsettling, funny and exciting in equal measure. Keith Brooke has enjoyed some success as a children’s author writing under the name Nick Gifford, and this book would perhaps fit in well with that work. It is a children’s book, but a book that can be read and understood by adults too- conjuring up memories of childhood and wistful sense of understanding.
The Unlikely World of Faraway Frankie (Newcon Press, 2010) by the seriously underrated Keith Brooke. Recommended.