Once again, I’m at one of my favorite spots in the world, Dobra Tea. Not as a tourist this time, however–as a resident of Asheville! That’s right, I’ve managed to not only not move back home, but to move to one of my favorite cities ever, by way of the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Here’s to a year full of civil service, writing, and my favorite tea right next door.
Like last week’s post comparing my literary spider webs (Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights to Good Omens), I just read a fantastic book and it spiraled into some interesting connections.
Half World by Hiromi Goto follows the story of Melanie Tamaki, the first living child born to no-living parents in the Half World, the resting point between Flesh World and Spirit World. Her mother kidnapped by a gruesome villain called Mr. Glueskin, Melanie journeys into Half World to rescue her mother and put the cycle of the three worlds to rights. From page one this book hit just about everything I could ever want in a book: a gruesome and alien other world, wonderful supporting characters (Ms. Wei!) hints of mythology, casual queer inclusivity, a protag who’s moody and stubborn and goes when destiny says go (or, in this case, when Mr. Glueskin does). I read it in a matter of hours. Wow, what a good book.
However, this is not a book review. It is a mapping of where the book took me, which is to The Tiger’s Apprentice by Laurence Yep.
This book was one of my favorites growing up, and probably still is. Half World evoked some strong mental sense-memories for me of Yep’s book, which is about a Chinese-American boy discovering he is from a line of magical guardians. Do not get me wrong! Half World is by a Japanese author and recalls Japanese mythology, and I am not equating the two. But nevertheless something about Half World reminded me strongly of the worldbuilding in The Tiger’s Apprentice. For some reason, I think one aspect of it was the sensory focus on smells, especially horrible ones. I have no clue why such a thing stood out to me.
My second piece of evidence (despite not having read The Tiger’s Apprentice in a very long time) is the sheer grotesqueness of the monsters each protagonist faces. Mr. Glueskin’s skin is melting rubber, he suffocates people in his gigantic tongue and swallows them whole, he unhinges his jaw until it hangs on the floor. In The Tiger’s Apprentice, by far the most frightening creature is The Watcher, a creature of many heads whose hair suffocates and almost kills Tom, the protagonist.
Half World was the perfect book for me to read right now, as I’m worldbuilding and plotting a novel that takes place in a goblin realm, a truly bizarre and monstrous setting. I’ll try to let Goto and Yep’s talent with creating casual monstrosities influence my own writing.