As he speaks, a disembodied hand renders his words into comic book scenes over his shoulder. For a while there is silence as the sound of ocean waves or air passing through a tight space gives way to a sad, slow sort of melody. The song, the art, the dim, blue lighting of the room – all of it underlines the pathos of Magee’s words.
Of course, they’re not his words, no matter how deftly delivered. Magee is reading from David M. Henley’s futuristic novel, The Hunt for Pierre Jnr. It is not he, but protagonist Peter Lazarus who has dissolved into darkness, overpowered by the telepathic powers of an elusive eight-year-old boy. For all its technology, earth of the 22nd century is under threat by people with supernatural abilities.
The chapter selected for the science fiction edition of Late Night Library’s “Words and Music” season dramatises the extent of Pierre Jnr’s powers – he seizes control of Peter’s brain – and then makes him forget about the final details of their encounter. The battlefield of the confrontation is left in ruins, the ground lifts at the whim of the young boy.
The theatricality of the reading is amplified by Chris Hancock’s soundtrack – suspenseful, without being gimmicky. For much of the reading, there is a sense of building tension propelled by sounds of which you are scarcely aware.
At times, Magee is silent, allowing the music to wash over the audience as artist Paul Gilsenan and illustrator Ad Long work quickly to create new scenes based on the novel. The audience is left with two competing images of Pierre Jnr: a disfigured, alien figure sketched in chalk and a less threatening comic book version.
By the end of the reading, the world has seen Pierre Jnr and knows his power.
“We witnessed a manifestation of Pierre Jnr and the world will be changed by it.”
With this observation, the night draws to a close.