February 19, 2011
The luscious cover illustration of JACK AND THE GIANT may hint at the events within its pages but the tranquility of the art is in direct opposition to this excellent stripped-to-the-bones crime story, in which the good guy may win but the reader is left wondering just how good of a guy is Jack really.
The children of P2P have succeeded in doing what I wish so many short story writers would do: eliminate the unnecessary. Here we are not subjected to repeated invasions of the giant's territory by Jack as per the usual fairy tale version. In the capable hands of the P2P kids, Jack is more in the way of being a second-story man. He gets in, grabs the loot, and gets out.
Readers who want to sympathize with the giant -- who, after all, had been minding his own business -- must remember that had the giant caught Jack, there would have been no call to the police. Jack's mum would never have known that her boy had been made over into a giant's version of Soylent Green. P2P safely keeps the reader's sympathies with young Jack, who is acting out of the desperation created by poverty.
According to this version of the classic tale, Jack is impulsive, quick to make a decision. Look at how fast he handed over a valuable and beloved cow for five beans! That's five beans, folks; it hardly amounts to a mouthful of food for Jack and his mum, when they could have been having steaks and oxtail soup and hamburgers. And Jack is just as hasty about deciding to climb the beanstalk, steal from the giant, and making his getaway.
Jack's mum plays a thankless but crucial role. When Jack yells for an axe to chop down the beanstalk, she immediately supports her son. She never delays, never once says, "What do you want with an axe? You'll chop a hand off, you will! Axe, my -- uh, axe." She just gets the axe, chop-chop, and life is good again. Even though she thought Jack may have made a mistake in trading the cow for beans, she still trusted him enough to help him when he needed her.
For readers who don't mind having "Fee-fi-fo-fum" blathered at them repeatedly, until the giant is merely boring rather than terrifying, go on back to the version by the (aptly named) Grimm brothers. Readers with a taste for edgy crime fiction and rousing adventure, will prefer this sleek new version from P2P. Truly discerning readers will appreciate the subtle presentation of a moral dilemma stemming from socio-economic realities.
P2P will be donating all proceeds from the sale of this story to charity, so that poor children like Jack will not have to steal.
JACK AND THE GIANT is published by Sea Minor (the brains behind which is the inimitable Nigel Bird) and is available in digital format only, for the equivalent of only five beans: $0.99 USD at: Smashwords and amazon.