I was clearly confused when I bought this book. I thought it was filled with short horror stories, but the reality is very different.
The stories in January are very short – each one less than a page long, and each page has an illustration in addition to the text. But they aren’t horror. Instead, they’re puns. Each story is a snapshot from the lives of bizarre re-occurring characters, and each one builds to a pun.
Some of the puns are ancient, and some of them are new – or new to me, at least. They aren’t really the important part though – they act almost as bookends, moving you on from one vignette to the next. What I liked about this book is the glimpse of a strange and separate world, one in which shadow creatures marvel and question and explore.
The illustrations deserve special mention, as they are part of the work, rather than just an accompaniment to it. They’re doodles – like the one shown of the cover, but doodles added to photographs in order to help tell the story. Good doodles are, perhaps surprisingly, difficult to do well; anyone can draw stick men, but not that many can mange to express emotion and character through them.
This isn’t really a book to read straight through, although I did. It’s more the sort of book to have around, to pick up and leave through occasionally, reminding yourself of the strange cast of occasionally-humanoid characters.
January is whimsical and charming and very unusual. I rather liked it.