A skilled children’s author can create an inspiring and entertaining book through memorable characters moving in interesting settings and confronting meaningful issues. But it takes an exceptional author to achieve the highest form of art through the ‘structure’ of a text. (Neverending Story tried and failed through limp writing. Dennis Potter experimented with narrative structures on television but lacked discipline.) In Clockwork Philip has succeeded in producing a story whose characters operate in a world where their fates are as inevitable as in a Greek tragedy. It is a horror story, a morality play and a folk tale where the clockmaker-author traps his characters in a ghost train ride. They can’t get off the frightening, rattling train as it twists and turns, relentlessly, back to its beginning. ‘The end is where we start from,’ as T S Eliot said. The track (the plot) is a loop – it may end up where it started, but passengers (the characters) may not – they are changed forever. And I care about them! I want to get in there and help them, warn them. That’s interactivity at its best! It’s perfect. If I’d written Clockwork then I’d never write another book again – I couldn’t hope to surpass it. The author is a genius. I hate him.
Clockwork or All Wound Up by Philip Pullman, illustrated by Peter Bailey, is published in hardback by Doubleday (0 385 40755 6, £9.99) and in paperback as a Corgi Yearling (0 440 86343 0, £3.99).
Terry Deary is the author of the ‘Horrible Histories’. His latest six part fiction series is ‘Tudor Terror’ (Orion).