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Monday, November 13, 2017

Misty Vol.2

The first volume of Misty reprints appeared a year ago and I read the book with great enthusiasm. I did not read Misty first time around, so the stories were new to me... well, new but familiar, as you'll see if you read my review. I said then that I hoped Rebellion would publish more from Misty's pages, and they've rewarded me (and you, and others) with a second volume.

Let's dive straight in. 'The Sentinels' are a pair of 26-storey tower blocks, one of which is occupied, one of which is deserted, run-down and the source of many local rumours about disappearing families. The story tapped into the distrust people had of tower blocks, the story appearing only a decade after the partial collapse at Ronan Point in Canning Town killed four. The clean, compact flats of the Sixties were run-down eye-sores by the late Seventies and deep-seated distrust of tenants that landlords were failing to maintain buildings – lifts were broken, lights were never replaced leaving corridors in pools of darkness – added to the undercurrent of fear that surrounded them. Little wonder that J. G. Ballard wrote High-Rise in 1975.

'The Sentinels' embraces the air of menace that these tower blocks seemed to enshrine and added to it through the kind of local legends that kids create around abandoned buildings: that it is haunted by ghosts, that it is evil... and that's where Jan's family are about to move into, thanks to the landlord of their aunt and uncle. Thinking they are sub-letting, Jan's family – dad, mum and two younger siblings – are being turfed out onto the street. 26 floors of unoccupied flats suddenly seems attractive to Dave, who dismisses the horror stories as superstitious nonsense.

But strange things begin to occur to the squatters: Jan sees her school burn down from a window, only to find it fine when she gets down to the street; she and her family seem to be stalked by doubles of themselves; and, finally, walking through a doorway to a flat on the floors above leads Jan to an alternate world where Nazis conquered the UK in 1940. The tower block isn't haunted... it's a gateway to another world.

Not only does Jan find herself displaced in the universe, her family are too, as the story plays out against the housing shortage and unemployment of the 1970s. Because of this, the story feels like it could have been written yesterday, not thirty years ago.

In 'End of the Line', Ann Summerton's father has been killed whilst building the Windsor Line but during the inaugural trip on the new line, built twice as deep as other underground lines, Ann sees her father amongst a group of ragged men, still digging in the tunnel. Investigating further, she learns of the old Prince Albert line, a Victorian line that was closed up when an entire train was lost in a tunnel collapse.

Journalists investigating why Ann pulled the emergency brake during her journey along the tunnel disappear but still her mother and step-father-to-be believe Ann is imagining things and take her to a psychiatrist, who recommends hospitalisation. Running away, Ann finds that the suspected route of the Prince Albert line intersects the Windsor Line between Packer Street and Side Vale. She persuades the editor of the Daily Globe that the tunnel needs investigation, but nothing is found by the police despite Ann seeing the captive journalists.

Although confined to a countryside clinic, Ann manages to escape back to London and the tunnel, where she is almost snatched. She follows her would-be captives and discovers not only the location of the Prince Albert line but also an even more incredible sight.

'End of the Line' has the same timeless quality to it: while back in 1979 we had the opening of the Jubilee Line, now we have Crossrail being completed; back then we had Margaret Thatcher spouting Victorian values, which presumably included the housing shortage, a huge gap between richest and poorest and child poverty that went with Victorian values; today we have Theresa May overseeing the lack of affordable housing, the increasing wealth gap and food banks. Mrs Thatcher would be proud. Might I suggest you buy Misty volume 2 to take your mind off such horrors.

Misty Vol.2, Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08600-1, 16 November 2016, 114pp, £13.99. Available from Amazon.

1 comment:

David Simpson said...

Steve

Here's a very minor coincidence. End Of The Line features the Windsor Line; you mentioned Crossrail; Crossrail's being called the Elizabeth Line; Elizabeth and Windsor are bothe names for the UK's current monarch.