Good Reads #20: Peter and Max

Title: Peter and Max

Author: Bill Willingham

Genre: Fantasy

There exists a group call the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. It fights censorship in the comics industry and I’ve always wanted to contribute money towards it but never got around to it. Last week, while at Wonder Con, I stumbled upon their booth. It was working much like a NPR fundraiser: donate money, get something in return. The table was filled with all sorts of interesting signed comics and books from various authors. Ultimately, what caught my eye was Peter and Max a novel set in the world of the Fables universe. The asking price on the book was $25. List price was $22. Good enough for me.

As far as the Fables world itself, I’d only had limited introduction. An RP partner of mine constantly sings the praises of the series and I do own the first trade paperback of it. I haven’t finished it, mainly because I got side-tracked when the last four novels I read came in from the library practically at all once.

If this book is any indication I probably won’t go back to finish it.

The plot, what little of it there is, is the story of Peter Piper and his wife Bo Peep. They live out on the Farm when he gets word that his brother Max Piper has returned. As Peter sets off on his quest the bulk of the story is really about Peter and Max and their history. It’s pretty skimpy and pretty dull. Even my friend who recommended the comics to me admitted she kept falling asleep to this book and couldn’t finish it. But that’s still the lesser crime of this book.

My biggest gripe about this book is the characterizations. Without good characters, there is no motivation to read, no motivation to care about what happens to them. And the book completely falls on his face here.

Peter Piper is a generic Good Guy. He is kind and a hard worker. And um…yeah. That’s about it. He has an older brother named Max Piper. Max is jealous of his younger brother because he sees that his father favors Peter. So much so that when their father gives Peter Frost, a magical flute that has been with their family for generations, Max snaps. Completely. Like turns off the humanity switch and goes full on Evil. He kills their father in cold blood, blames it on an attacking army and spends the rest of his life trying to track down his brother Peter so he can kill Peter for the flute. Over the course of the book we see him murder, we see him turn innocent people into his slaves and get angry after he kills one of his slaves because he sees their refusal to do work as betrayal. He does as the Piper of legends does and steals children to sell them off into slavery. He (generally because the violence in this book is relatively tame) thinks of rape. He is a pyschopath and a monster with no redeeming virtue.

So in short we have a dull plot with a dull protagonist and a caricature of a villain. There is nothing redeeming about this book that I can think of to say.

From what little I read of the comic, I do remember his writing being better. The characters had more subtleties and the plots were more complex. I honestly don’t know what happened her, how this could have all gone so horribly awry.

All I know is that this is not a good representation of what Bill Willingham can do. I don’t regret the purchase, because as I said the money was going to a good cause, but outside of a charitable donation I can’t recommend that anyone spend their money on this.

Verdict: Don’t Bother

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