In this day and age, it is not uncommon to see older stories that have spanned several centuries being reinvented for the modern generation. Stories such as Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Snow White have been retold from different perspectives from a different character’s viewpoint to a simple retelling of the story in a modernized setting. While some stories can be a refreshing take and a reminder of the stories that many grew up with as children, others can be questionable in content. Some fail to capture the same spirit as the original work or some become too farfetched in its interpretations of the source material. Mickey McClain’s retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, a story that has spanned over seven hundred years is a surprising and well written take that shows the how powerful music can be when someone has everything taken away from them.
About the Author
Mickey McClain is a Scottish author who came to the United States and is currently making his living writing articles about different festivals not just in the United States, but internationally as well. His other works would include The Adventures of the Fattest Crimefighter in the World and The Frycook’s Revenge.
A Glimpse into the Novella’s World.
From the beginning of the book, the reader is introduced to a world following a war that is referenced as The Last Great War of Hurled Things or TLGWOHT which has left the world in a ruinous state without governments or business, turning society into an anarchic state consisting of small settlements. While I enjoy the early world building that the author provides the reader in the beginning, it can be excessive for other readers who are more used to books building their worlds over the course of the book. Though throughout the book, the author helps provide insight into the world that the characters would live in through the children’s stories which I feel is a good touch. By having the children recalling the events of the Last Great War, the author creates a human element that allows the reader to better connect to not only the characters, but the environment as well.
Throughout the book, there are numerous characters that inhabit the pages of each chapters and sub-chapters of the story with each of them being affected by the Last Great War. While each of them have an intricate backstory that gives them an identity, there was a small problem that I think other readers could relate to. I would admit that the grown up characters are more or less forgettable in the story in comparison to the children and the Pied Piper who were arguably the main focus of the novella.
The children of the Hamlet are the fallen souls of McClain’s post-apocalyptic world as they have lost their childish perceptions of the world and have become despondent even zombie like. Each one of them have seen the horrors of the war and have been affected by it for the worse. One of the examples would be Pinkie, a young girl who lost her family and lives on the streets. Before the arrival of the piper, she would collect and organize everything to gain a sense of control that she never had during or after the Last Great War. Each of the children have been shaped into believable entities that makes you feel sorry for them and hope that they recover. Later in the story, they would undergo character changes that while I would not enjoy as earlier on in the story, I would not speak against it.
The Pied Piper, who is the main focus of the story can be considered a complex character. He offers to restore the children’s nature back to like it was before the Last Great War in exchange for a lump of gold for each child in order to pay the ransom for his kidnapped wife and children. The Pied Piper would use magic imbued gifts such as paper and a baton to not only restore their senses, but to restore their childlike behaviors. The reader can see that the Pied Piper is torn by seeing the children suffering and wants what is best for them partly due to being a father himself. While he is shown to be capable of giving others extraordinary powers such as the ability to make it rain food, he tells the children that they should not abuse their powers. He reminds me of Gordon Krantz of the novel The Postman by David Brin, who would don a postman’s uniform and deliver mail returning hope to the people of the wasteland. It makes it more tragic later in the story after the reader becomes connected to the Pied Piper and learn what happens to him after giving the people of the hamlet what they wanted.
The High Points
What I would consider to be the strongest points of the story would be the world building, the depictions of how war affects people and the imagery. With the Pied Piper’s first appearance into the hamlet, the author describes how the people were taken back by his colorful outlet and his music. People wouldn’t think that either music or color can create such an emotional response, but these are people who have had much of their previous lives taken away from them. Bright colors and music are frivolous when a person is concerned with if they are going to have enough to eat. The imagery in this book also provides the readers a story that can be both colorful and bleak especially when it comes to the children’s gifts and how they use it.
The Low Points
While I enjoyed the story, there were a few things that I think are the low points of the story. One of the aspects of the story that was weaker than the rest was some of the humor that was incorporated such as early on in Pinkie’s story. There is a reference to one of the people’s houses that Pinkie used to go to and the person’s name is Colonel N.A Palm or Colonel Napalm. That joke was more like a face palm. Another aspect that I found was a little farfetched was how some of the children had lost their senses. One of the children named Amadeus, who was a gifted musician had lost his hearing to enemy soldiers. But how he lost the ability to hear was having red hot peppers stuffed into his ears. Even by the bounds of imagination that this book goes by, that seems to be too ridiculous. With Cameron, he had lost his sense of smell through the effects of a weapon that was detonated a few feet away. If Amadeus was harmed with a weapon or injured by the soldiers, then it would be more believable.
Mickey McClain’s rendition of the Pied Piper would be in the best of terms a bittersweet note. While the story excels in its world building and characterization of the main characters, some of it is lost in its almost forced humor and almost too farfetched imagination. While I would recommend this book to someone who wants a different rendition of a well-known story, I would advise that it is not the longest story. I was able to finish the book in less than three hours, but it is a novella, so it is expected. I would enjoy reading another work from Mickey McClain and from Pickford Studios.
If you want to check out Mickey McClain’s Profile, check out his bio here on Pickford Studios.
The Apocalyptic Pied Piper is available on Amazon for $2.99 on Ebook.