Event Horizon Book 2 by Liam Sharp
(2005-12-02) "It didn't matter that it wasn't always clear what the narrative thrust was, or even what the hell the author was talking about, you just knew that it mattered enormously to them."
Liam Sharp, editorial note, Event Horizon Volume 1 Book 2
After the guidelines and ideology set out in Book 1 about what exactly Event Horizon was going to be, the above comment seems to sum up Book 2 quite succinctly. The continuation of themes is evident through the reoccurring pieces such as Fucking Savages, Machivarius Point, Chase Variant and others. What's new this time around is the anthology's use of a period of reflection. Your average weekly, fortnightly or even monthly title does not, arguably, have a sufficient amount of time to significantly alter the path it started down. Event Horizon's longer gestation period offers both the creators and editorial staff time enough to analyse the work and come back, where necessary, with marked improvements. To an extent this is what Book 2 has done. New additions include a more clearly defined structure with three distinct subsections: Fantastic, Gothic and Future Science, aswell as an artists' showcase. What was raw and vibrant in Book 1, has been probed, milled and reborn in a sleaker, more robust design that attempts to channel the chaos of artistic freedom into a more focused offering. That is not to say Event Horizon isn't still rough around the edges, it is. But those rough edges are something to be thankful about, because they give Event Horizon what is slowly becoming a trademark atmosphere, that of passion about the weird and wonderful. There is an intensity encapsulated within the pages that can only come from a very driven mode of storytelling, which unfortunately is sometimes it's own worst enemy.
Event Horizon Book 2 is first and foremost, much larger than it's predecessor, offering more pieces over which to ponder and enjoy. Being more than twice the size of Book 1, Book 2 not only offers greater value for money but also, paradoxically, gives Event Horizon firmer roots by allowing for a more varied range of pieces. Book 1 was a great start to the title but very single-minded in it's approach, due to the lack of restrictions on content most of the contributors immediately plumped for a dark, visceral approach that didn't challenge the format. Instead there was a muted, 'what-do-we-do-with-this' feel that clearly showed how difficult it is and will be to create a title where all the pieces are not only of a high standard, but that will fully explore the spaces opened to them by Event Horizon. Book 2 goes some way to assuaging this problem by selecting pieces that expand on the original's premise. The boundaries for every new book of Event Horizon will be greater and thus each book must strain to reach that new mark of quality and more importantly innovation, simply because Event Horizon cannot fall into the trap of becoming familiar. Comfort and complacency have led to the cry from readers for new titles, for titles that go places that aren't being explored at present due to a whole barrage of reasons. Event Horizon must adapt each Book, must change each Book to combat the rot that familiarity has bred. Thankfully this is happening and is indicated by the changes made to those weaker pieces that were singled out in the review of Book 1. Fucking Savages has ditched it's direct, run-of-the-mill approach for a more enjoyable, curiously lyrical style matched by more suggestive, less obvious artwork. It is still one of the weaker titles, the story, unless taken to a radical extreme, will not allow for the piece to rise above it's crude title, yet the improvement is important because it displays the creators willingness to explore the title and see what it can be. Dragonfly, a new piece for Book 2, also suffers from the issues brought up by Fucking Savages. Although the artwork is decent, there is no emphasis on the narrative, instead we receive some cobbled together, typical fantasy battle scene that suggests the creators have not planned beyond or around the strip, leaving the reader with a clear feeling this won't return unless it improves drastically. Indeed, were it not for the continued maginificent efforts of Roger McCormack in both the new (again too brief) prose piece Dustbowl and the effortlessly brilliant, returning Machivarius Point then the Fantasy section would be something of a disappointment. This does do a disservice to the gorgeously painted, also returning, Rumours of Ragnorok: Sea and Thunder, an interesting retelling of a classical Norse myth involving Thor and the Midgard Serpent. However three strong pieces do not gloss over the dearth of fantasy works that buy into the Event Horizon ideals and format.
This brings up my major bugbear with Book 2. Obviously the new genre-grouped subsections display a clearer approach and more defined reading experience, yet part of the joy of such a title is the eclectic mish-mash of titles where you move from bizarre science fiction prose to stunning fantasy artwork. It's tough because the new presentation works very well, the front cover is attractive and appealing, the genre delineation gives structure to the anthology and every aspect meshes well. As mentioned earlier though, sometimes you need rough edges and mixing the order of the pieces adds that surprise, surreal factor for the reader that would really improve the experience.
New to Book 2 is the Gothic section, the only familiar piece being another returnee from Book 1, A Trace of Fragile Bliss. The artwork with A Trace of Fragile Bliss is perfect, capturing the elements that multiple vampire books, most notably Anne Rice, have brought to the genre. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a lot of progression with the piece. There is no issue with trying something fresh and new, rather that the idea must be built upon lest it become stagnant. Out of the four new Gothic pieces; Ghost Town appears to be similar in vein to Stephen King's Gunslinger with a nod and wink to the moody westerns of the 70's. It's too early to tell how good it can be but hopefully it will grow into a permanent fixture in Event Horizon. Grandma's House and Top of the Food Chain are interesting riffs on old tales, the black and white style of Top of the Food Chain is reminiscent of Sin City and with a tightening of the script may really have something, although it is unclear whether there is a continued story to tell with it. Lastly Pacify is just plain odd, there has been one piece in both of the Books that has just been out there and Pacify is it for Book 2.
An expanded Future Science section is the crowning glory of Event Horizon, mostly because the returning titles, which were good anyway, go from strength to strength. Wormcast continues to boggle with it's message-in-a-bottle theme, charting the events of a future earth before they happen. As the quote at the top of the page suggests, sometimes you really have to read the story a few times to even get the gist of what is happening, serving to make the piece even more intriguing - Wormcast does this well. Number 6 is a brief, beautifully drawn, comic interlude that balances the darker pieces in this collection. Chase Variant returns with more from the four-armed, genetically engineered, international hitwoman whose life is dictated by a godly game of top trumps (super-hero cardgame with various abilties rated for each hero/villain) The premise is still intriguing and the art has a dark, fitting style that makes you wonder where it will go next. Like a Machine surprised, being a well-drawn android piece that is both a smart analysis of human behaviour and a visual representation of the clever classical sf pieces by Asimov, Heinlen et al. Similarly Ride, Red, Ride is a somewhat scathing strip about mankind's aggressive battlelust and the dispassionate nature with which we view such events of violence, again the visuals can't be faulted for portraying an alien world that is still eeriely recognisable. Finally two totally different yet highly enjoyable pieces from Book 1 finish the Future Science collection. The True Adventures of Jed Lightsear, Space Pirate! continues to be a light-hearted balm, using the fantastic and bizarre to create a universe jam-packed with the strangest ideas without taking itself seriously, along with Machivarius Point this is definitely one of the highlights of Event Horizon. Necromachina on the other hand is a very dark, morbid piece in a world where the population lives entirely inside a massive, labyrithine building with little concept of 'outside' or the sky/sun. Very dystopian in execution with clear tones of a dying civilisation, Necromachina is difficult to enjoy yet has managed to become increasingly interesting when the events in Book 1 are tied to the evolving storyline of Book 2, this will certainly get better.
To return to the question asked of Book 1; Is it any good? The answer is again Yes. What worked well in Book 1, works better in Book 2. The new layout looks more professional, the improved variety of pieces adds both size and depth to the anthology and the best pieces from Book 1 have returned in force. Fantasy submissions are the weakest section and the balance is disproportionately in favour of Future Science yet Roger McCormack's work continues to be a high point for Event Horizon. These factors need to be addressed, aswell as the relative brevity of the better works, but overall a very pleasing second outing and here's hoping for improved content and format expansion.
*Event Horizon can be purchased directly from www.mamtor.com
Review by Owen Jones © 2005