Opening the Mysterious

A review of Randy McCharles, Billie Milholland, Eileen Bell, and Ryan McFadden’s The Puzzle Box (Edge, 2013)

Cover Photo of The Puzzle Box courtesy of Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing

Cover Photo of The Puzzle Box courtesy of Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing

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:

https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/ch-ch-ch-changes/

https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/immortal-complacency

https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/i-dream-of-djinn

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Ch-ch-ch-changes

A review of Randy McCharles’ “The Awakening of Master March” in The Puzzle Box (Edge, 2013).

Cover Photo of The Puzzle Box courtesy of Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing

Cover Photo of The Puzzle Box courtesy of Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing

By Derek Newman-Stille

Warlock wants to be a musician. He has been a roadie for 5 years and he feels like he should step up his game and start his own band… the problem is – he has never learned to play music. Warlock has always searched for the easy path, emboldened by a sense of entitlement and unwilling to take the steps that would move toward achieving success. He feels that the world should be making itself open for him and creating his dreams out of nothingness.

When Warlock encounters a coven of witches through his desire to sleep with one of them, his perspective shifts. When they try to initiate him, he finds out that initiation is a process of self discovery, a difficult road for someone who doesn’t normally like to reflect on things. Things get difficult when he is asked to solve a riddle, and, in his attempt to cheat, ends up finding himself within a larger enigma, the puzzle box and the sphinx within that calls on him to shift and change and solve himself just as the puzzle box shifts and changes itself to reveal a mysterious inner core.

The surface nature of his identity, his unreflective desire for everything to solve itself for him is challenged when he is confronted with metaphors of his own subconscious. The witches around him base their beliefs on the metaphorical writing of Elizabeth Montgomery, the star of the 60s television show Bewitched. The devil appears to him as various characters from television. Warlock comes to realise that the life that he creates for himself is one of surfaces, of appearances, but that there are deeper meanings below these surfaces, self-revelatory experiences beneath the seeming of things.

In “The Awakening of Master March”, Randy McCharles draws the reader’s attention to the nature of reality, to the delusions that arise when one is selfish and chooses to find easy solutions to the world around them. Easy answers, surface answers, like metaphorical devils appearing as television characters, are without substance, but if one looks deeper, if one takes them as a puzzle and mystery, one can discover more about the Self and challenge the easy, unreflective answers.

Sometimes it takes an encounter with a metaphorical devil to shift someone from selfish ease to selfless reflection.

To find out more about The Puzzle Box, visit Edge’s website at http://www.edgewebsite.com/books/puzzlebox/pzbox-catalog.html . To find out more about the work of Randy McCharles, you can visit his website at http://www.randymccharles.com/ .