Mapping the Interior: Make the Sacrifice
This is a solid ghost story. I mean it. The ghost is solid. Like, corporeal.
Mapping the Interior is about a boy, Junior, who sees the ghost of his dead father dressed in full fancy dancer regalia.
Junior lives with his mother and brother (Dino). Dino’s already fragile mental state seems to be slipping further away. The boy’s seizures have become more frequent, and as time goes by, he falls further and further behind in school.
Junior has two mysteries to solve. One: what’s wrong with his brother, and two: why is he seeing his dead father, in full regalia, tiptoeing around their house at night? Junior will have to figure out how the two are related, and what in this situation is in his power to control.
There’s a running theme to Stephen Graham Jones’ books: family and the question “How far would you go to keep them safe?”
That’s the real horror, there.
Jones asks that question once again in Mapping the Interior. How far will Junior go to talk to his father again? How far will he go to save his brother? What exactly is he willing to do?
The answer is, as always, whatever it takes.
To me, this book is special, because there’s something different about Jones’ writing in this one. I’ve done my research. Please check out Mongrels, his latest novel. Also, there’s a bunch of his awesome (and sometimes super gross) shorts on Gamut and, if you don’t like sleep or good dreams, read The Least of my Scars. An oldie but it still haunts me: I have yet to look at my ShopVac the same way again.
But this, Mapping the Interior. Dare I say that Jones got better? Or, maybe, tried something new?
Which, to me, is super cool. It solidifies my hope that writers, good writers, like everyone else, can continue learning, continue gaining traction and forging new paths. It’s inspiring.
So, what’s different? It’s in a specific place. It revolves around showing us the monster. Something I feel that Jones has always done well was to leave carefully placed holes in his monsters, allowing our brains to fill in the gaps because, really, we all have our own fears, we’re just waiting for someone to give us that half drawn character, color it in with whatever we fear most. Makes it that much more terrifying, right? Personal, even. And it’s a clever tactic. Most horror movies and books don’t let you see the monster right away. It’s a trick to make you think of the worst, scariest thing possible. Fill that void up with your own creations.
While that’s good and clever, I wanted to know what Jones was seeing: how he saw the monster, how he wished us to see it. In Mapping the Interior, the monster is fully fleshed-out in the story and also, on the page, making it that much more horrifying. I know what Jones fears.
And he’s willing to sacrifice.