Monday, 16 November 2009

Presuming on his Senses! Insomnia Cafe


Insomnia Cafe (Dark Horse) tells the story of Peter Kolinsky, a former expert on rare books, whose previous run-in with black marketeers is about to catch up with him.

The book is mostly a familiar ordinary-man-on-the-run mystery novel but it's played off nicely by hinting at the confusions of an unhinged mind. Within the first few pages, after being chased by identikit villains in black suits (see above) the protagonist finds that the book in his bag appears to be bleeding. We are then shown Kolinsky's life at home where we discover that he suffers from insomnia which of course has connotations of untrustworthy perceptions of reality. To serve as a reminder, Klonsky wears round-rimmed glasses that accentuate his haunted, sleep-deprived eyes.

Once the hint of the un-real has been introduced, the writer can be playful such as with the introduction of the secret, underground library of books called The Archives which holds all the novels that are forever unfinished or still currently being written. Once a book is finished by the author, it disappears from the collection - as if the library is a holding place for the imaginary. As a result, The Archives not only becomes important to the plot, but it also represents the theme of fiction and reality. Just as the the polite but odd man in Kolinsky's office is dismissed as a crack-pot for his stories about the secret services, there is an element of doubt over what to believe within the story.

Insomnia Cafe is set in New York but it has the intimacy and quirkiness often associated with European work. Indeed the creator M.K. Perker is not a native and originates from from Turkey where he has been working professionally since 1990 when he was only 17 years old. Upon moving to America he was introduced to the writer G. Willow Wilson and together they produced the graphic novel Cairo and the Vertigo series Air which has earned an Eisner nomination and a favorable cover quote from Neil Gaiman.

A low key but impressive debut that displays a gift for storytelling and an understanding of the importance of balancing reality and myth. Out now from Dark Horse for £11.

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