A review of Randy McCharles, Billie Milholland, Eileen Bell, and Ryan McFadden’s The Puzzle Box (Edge, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille
When I first came across The Puzzle Box, the first image that came to mind was Hellraiser (1987), so I was prepared for my entire reality to be distorted and changed by opening the pages of this book. Like the puzzle box itself, opening these pages changes one, alters perceptions, and changes one’s views of the world. But, it is not a Hellraiser form of change – nothing that utterly obliterates one’s sense of comfort, rather it is a creeping kind of change, a gradual insertion of a new context to reality and a series of questions that opens the mind to new perceptions. There were no ultimate horrors within, merely mysteries, enigmas, riddles…. puzzles.
Mysteries are pedagogical and solving puzzles can sometimes be more about figuring yourself out than it is about solving the puzzle itself – it can be about unlocking your own mind. The puzzle box is a nexus for various intertwining stories in this novel, tying together disparate and unconnected lives, all linked by the need to discover something new about themselves and the freeing process of self discovery. Like our memories, the puzzle box can be unlocked, finding worlds of meaning within.
Opening the box unburies secrets, particularly those that characters create for themselves by hiding things deep within their own minds. The characters in the various stories in The Puzzle Box are outsiders, people struggling for belonging. The box helps them to discover complexities within themselves that they have ignored and hidden within them.
Danger and destiny intertwine when the puzzle box is opened and the box like life itself is a mystery with no answers but also simultaneously filled with essential truths.
To find out more about The Puzzle Box, visit Edge’s website at http://www.edgewebsite.com/books/puzzlebox/pzbox-catalog.html .
You can explore reviews of the individual stories that made up The Puzzle Box at: