Saturday, December 20, 2014

"The Rabbit Back Literature Society" by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen – A Study of Mysteries

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen - book cover
Release date: September 4, 2014
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Pages: 352
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As strange as it may be, it feels as if books are perhaps one of the few constants which we take for granted in our universe; once something is written on a page, it stays the same forevermore. Though virtually every book review can be different, they are all going to be discussing the same, never-changing subject, the words on the page. However, if that certainty is to be shattered, then new and interesting paths are certainly opened up to the writer, and that is something Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen achieved when he penned The Rabbit Back Literature Society.

In this novel, we are told the story of Ella, a teacher, who is invited to become the tenth member of "The Society", an elite group of writers who inhabit the small town of Rabbit Back. Though at first things seem rather tame and the slight hints at strangeness are what is expected when joining a secret sect-like organization, things soon begin to spiral out of control, though in a progressive manner, so to speak. Not only are more and more questions popping up in front of Ella, such as whether or not a tenth member had originally existed before her, what “The Game” is, what happened to the suddenly-vanished Laura, what is this strange “virus” (for lack of a better word) that is alternating the books around the town? Slowly but surely, Ella is drawn into a rather surrealistic world one whose inhabitants are also progressively becoming more and more just as alienating and bizarre as it is. (You can read excerpt here)

Though perhaps at first it seems as if the story is one with a darker penchant, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised by its lighter and quirky tone, the one that keeps everything floating just above that level where it descends into the frightening and unsettling. Rather, this book is really a character study driven by a number of different mysteries, the ones mentioned above that is. I'll say it right now, though some of the mysteries are rather explicitly resolved beyond all reasonable doubt, there are others that don't benefit from such conclusions and are rather left enveloped in the shroud of mystery, with nothing but some hints as to what the truth may be. If this type of vagueness bothers you, then be warned that there is certainly a fair amount of it to be found here. In my opinion though that serves a very valid purpose in the context of this story, that of maintaining a certain atmosphere of enigma, and it was certainly quite well accomplished.

The characters are the real treat of this book for they are the focus of it all. Ella herself makes for a somewhat less compelling narrator than one would desire with her coldness and detachment, but there are instances where it also serves a purpose and develops certain situations in the desired directions. The rest of the cast is comprised of an array of rather colorful people, especially the ones who make up the nine other members of the society. Each one of them is characterized by their specific peculiarity, and though they are all vastly different from one another they nevertheless give the impression of forming a cohesive unity, one that is complex and definitely worth studying.

To conclude, The Rabbit Back Society is certainly an interesting entry into the world of literature, giving us a gripping, moving and thought-provoking story which certainly doesn't fail at getting the reader's imagination going. I wholeheartedly recommend this novel to anyone who longs for a sense of wonder in their stories along with some food for thought.

Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen


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Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen is a Finnish writer born in the early 1970s who became a writer in the early 1990s upon completing a set of short stories, eventually winning the writing competition of SciFi and fantasy stories at total of four times. Though many of his novels have yet to be translated into English, the one that has certainly did him no harm, being titled The Rabbit Back Literature Society.

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