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Tag Archive: Number 13


Review by C.J. Bunce

The ideas and situations in Steven Savile’s new novel Glass Town could hardly be more enticing:  In 1922 Alfred Hitchcock began, but did not finish, a film called Number 13. One of the sought-after lost films of Hitchcock, little is known but some film stills and production information, leaving an opening to take the film as a linchpin for a noir mystery.  Savile takes that film and several fascinating ideas and blends them into what becomes a horror story that incorporates compelling visuals from many possible sources: Dead Again, Laura, Vertigo, Portrait of Jennie, Hugo, The Illusionist, The Prestige, and even an element of Tron.  The story doesn’t quite live up to all its antecedents, but it provides some interesting concepts for genre readers willing to dabble in a story full of sex, violence, and grotesque horror along the way.

The grand ideas ultimately are in need of a more refined and pared down plot and possibly a more compelling lead character–Josh is a descendant of a line of men who spent their lives infatuated with a lost actress who appeared in the Number 13.  On Josh’s grandfather’s death he is reeled into a world of his own family connections and a history that he learns about and shares with us along the way as he, too, becomes infatuated with the missing actress and the interworkings of his family, tied into a well-known crime lord.  But we never learn much about Josh and why we should care about him.  Early London cinema and 1990s London don’t quite come through visibly, and the lack of more detailed world building results in a story that could be about a Boston or Chicago or Irish mob family as opposed to the familiar Victorian London of so many classic Gothic novels.  We encounter many bleak and unsavory characters and over-the-top situations–the kind of grotesque fantasy of a Clive Barker movie instead of what could have been a more accessible mainstream mystery interweaving the aura of magicians, the historical authority you might find in a Connie Willis novel, or the command of the details of early film technologies you might find in a Kim Newman story.

The only known image from the making of Alfred Hitchcock’s lost film titled Number 13.

Yet many great ideas come into play.  Josh uncovers and meets a lost and long-dead magician who was able to pull off the ultimate spectacle–hiding an entire town in a glass lens.  An evil ancestor of Josh used the magician to trap the actress he was so fascinated with in this world, a world where a day in this Glass Town can equal a week in the real world.  The story’s bad guy can even manipulate characters within the films of the silent era to do his bad deeds in our world, and we first meet the famed actress as a ghost as she attempts to find a secret talisman of glass in Josh’s home.  Much of the imagery is excellent–a walking and moving actress straight from the beginnings of filmmaking appearing in your living room, incorporating the flickering image of old film as she moves about.

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Trigger Girl 6 cover

One of my favorite ways to get introduced to new comic book worlds is through Dark Horse Comics’ monthly anthology series, Dark Horse Presents.  We’ve reviewed several stories here at borg.com that were pulled from Dark Horse Presents to become their own collected volumes, including Francesco Francavilla’s Black Beetle, the sci-fi series Number 13, the off-the-wall Dog Mendonça and PizzaBoy, Phil Noto’s Ghost, and our favorite of them all, the animal story Beasts of BurdenIn a similar vein, the relatively new anthology series Creator-Owned Heroes has spawned its own compilation book, Trigger Girl 6.

Trigger Girl panel B

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Number 13 miniseries cover 1

Review by C.J. Bunce

The future Earth story Number 13 was first seen in the pages of Dark Horse Presents, and like many popular stories from that anthology series it made it to its own series.  A few weeks back the collected stories were republished in its own Issue #0, and in two weeks Number 13 begins a three-issue mini-series.  If you haven’t picked up Issue #0 it serves as a good starting point for the world of Number 13.

In Issue #1, Number 13 is the name given to a boy found buried in a desert with a bionic Tony Stark-type, chest-mounted power device, who appears at first to be dead until he sparks back to life as he is discovered by a group of motley, wandering “Fecteds” on the lookout for “Mune” raiders.  The boy has the number 13 printed on his head and nothing else is known about him.  Some of the backstory of how Number 13 got to the beginning of this story can be found in a prior Dark Horse Number 13 mini-series and Issue #0.  Here, the character Number 13 has lost his memory, and seems to be searching desperately for his father.

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