‘Someone Like Me’ is a spooky, wrenching, exhilarating ghost story-cum-thriller

By Paul Di Filippo | Washington Post

Writers who transition from scripting comics to crafting prose novels are few and far between. (Although many novelists of late – Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, G. Willow Wilson, Brad Meltzer – have journeyed in the other direction.) Aside from Denny O’Neil (“Green Lantern/Green Arrow”), Gerry Conway (“Spider-Man”) and Chris Claremont (“X-Men”), the paramount example is Neil Gaiman, whose early brilliance in the comics field has been somewhat overshadowed by his best-selling books.

Someone Like Me, by M.R. Carey Orbit

M.R. Carey racked up two hits early in his own comics career, helming “Lucifer” and “Hellblazer” for legendary stints, and continues to produce outstanding work for the Vertigo line. But in 2006 he ventured into novel-writing, and that outlet seems to have become his primary means of expression. With the success of 2014’s “The Girl With All the Gifts,” and its screen adaptation, it’s safe to say that, like Gaiman, he’s a novelist who does comics, rather than a comics guy who dabbles in novels.

His newest book, “Someone Like Me,” is a spooky, wrenching, exhilarating ghost story-cum-thriller that manages to put a fresh, almost science-fictional spin on its specters and spooks. It’s domestic in scope – no global armageddons or apocalypses here, no burning cities or plague-ridden communities – but still delivers the maximum freight of frights and consequences.

We open with a gut-churning scene of spousal abuse that swiftly reveals Carey’s talent for taut, economical and immersive prose. Liz Kendall is being beaten by her ex-husband Marc, an all-too-familiar ordeal. But this time something’s different. Obeying an odd imperative voice in her head – odd, yet intimate and resonant – Liz fights back. She incapacitates Marc, the cops come, Liz comforts her two children, 16-year-old Zac and 6-year-old Molly, and life seems to return to an even keel.

Or does it?

By obeying that inner demon, Liz has opened herself up to a kind of psychic assault, an attack insidiously aimed at her very identity. Who’s the demon? That information constitutes a small spoiler from about the one-quarter mark in the book: The rider in Liz’s brain is herself – but an avatar from another timeline, where Marc succeeded in killing his wife. Call her a ghost from the multiverse. This version of Liz dubs herself Beth, and she has plans for the body in which she is hitchhiking – plans that don’t bode well for the original tenant.

Running at the same time as Liz’s narrative is the story of a 16-year-old African American girl named Fran Watts. When she was a toddler, Fran was abducted by the deranged Bruno Picota, and held in the nearby Perry Friendly Motel. Alternately babbling about supernatural matters and threatening to stab Fran to death, Bruno’s obscure plans were stymied by the cops. Fran, restored to her widower dad, has suffered a kind of PTSD ever since, and has been in therapy continuously. Our stable world is mutable for Fran. Little things shift and waver. But more consequentially, she was left with the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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