A 1980s Puppet Fantasy Movie Manifests in Real Life in Nostalgia-Fuelled Novel The Shadow Glass

A 1980s Puppet Fantasy Movie Manifests in Real Life in Nostalgia-Fuelled Novel The Shadow Glass
Crop of the cover of The Shadow Glass. See the full image below. (Image: Titan Books)

Josh Winning’s The Shadow Glass asks a big question on its cover, which Gizmodo is revealing today (and you can see in full below): “What if it was all real?” The “it” in this case is a puppet fantasy world created by the main character’s father — reminiscent of The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, The NeverEnding Story, and other beloved 1980s tales.

But to protagonist Jack’s surprise, the world of the film — a notorious box-office bomb also titled The Shadow Glass — and its whimsical characters, including the heroic fox at the centre of the story, are somehow…alive? And ready for a second act that could help restore Jack’s father’s legacy. Here’s a full description of the story, followed by the cover and an excerpt from the novel.

Jack Corman is failing at life.

Jobless, jaded and on the “wrong” side of thirty, he’s facing the threat of eviction from his London flat while reeling from the sudden death of his father, one-time film director Bob Corman. Back in the eighties, Bob poured his heart and soul into the creation of his 1986 puppet fantasy The Shadow Glass, a film Jack loved as a child, idolizing its fox-like hero Dune.

But The Shadow Glass flopped on release, deemed too scary for kids and too weird for adults, and Bob became a laughing stock, losing himself to booze and self-pity. Now, the film represents everything Jack hated about his father, and he lives with the fear that he’ll end up a failure just like him.

In the wake of Bob’s death, Jack returns to his decaying home, a place creaking with movie memorabilia and painful memories. Then, during a freak thunderstorm, the puppets in the attic start talking. Tipped into a desperate real-world quest to save London from the more nefarious of his father’s creations, Jack teams up with excitable fanboy Toby and spiky studio executive Amelia to navigate the labyrinth of his father’s legacy while conjuring the hero within — and igniting a Shadow Glass resurgence that could, finally, do his father proud.

Here’s a look at the stunning cover by Julia Lloyd, making its debut here on Gizmodo, followed by the exclusive excerpt.

Image: Titan Books Image: Titan Books

The hall was even more cluttered than he remembered.

Knick-knacks and keepsakes crowded the passage, giving the impression of a pokey antique shop. A grandfather clock stood surrounded by bone-dry potted plants, while Japanese Shadow Glass posters were mounted on the walls. A shelving unit groaned with VHS tapes, DVDs, a Walkman and a cassette tape library, and there were books everywhere. Feathered with age and heaped amid swirling dust motes.

Jack’s neck creaked as he turned his head to take it all in.

The curios were familiar but also different to how he remembered them, as if he were viewing them through mottled glass. They looked decayed. Relics from another time. A life he had almost forgotten he lived. And this was just the hall. From where he stood, he glimpsed the rooms and passages beyond, wending in a disordered muddle, combining to form a house of riddles. A place in which to get lost.

He stilled, frowning at the distant point where the back hall turned into the kitchen. He was sure he’d seen movement there. He pictured his father still roaming Kettu House, tall and narrow as a telegraph pole, shuffling in slippers and a moth-eaten cardigan, fingers scratching his beard. He could still hear the whispers of a man who had long since relinquished his grip on reality.

‘In a forgotten time, in a forgotten world, deep within a forgotten chamber few have ever seen, the Shadow Glass sees all.’

Jack gritted his teeth and shook off the image. That was years ago. Bob was dead and the house was empty — of anything living, at least. He couldn’t get distracted.

Aiming for the rickety staircase, he went further inside, his fingers tapping one of the bottles in a drinks cabinet. The sight stirred memories of Bob passed out in the armchair in his study, the pall of stale breath hanging over the room, and even though Jack wasn’t a drinker, his mouth felt parched. He uncapped the bottle, taking a swig as he started up the stairs. The whiskey seared the back of his throat.

‘Jesu — ’ he coughed, then froze as a shadow crossed the wall.

He didn’t move.

He’d only caught it out of the corner of his eye, but he was certain it had reared up from the skirting board and flashed across the wallpaper.

Stiffly, he listened, sensing eyes on him.

Ch-ch-ch-ch…

Jack’s arm hair bristled and his gaze snapped to the ceiling. He had heard something above him. A skittering of claws on floorboards.

‘Hello?’ he called.

The house swallowed his voice. He wasn’t sure he had even spoken.

Ch-ch-ch-ch…

Apprehension pinched Jack’s chest. He’d definitely heard it that time. A scratching above his head.

Somebody was up there.

More fanboys, maybe, come to pick over the remains of his father’s empire.

Maybe they were already in the attic claiming the thing he’d pinned his entire future on.

Adrenaline flooded his veins and Jack battled his way down a landing cluttered with Shadow Glass props; framed movie cells and fake, otherworldly plants that tangled between his feet. Above his head, the scratching continued and Jack clambered up another, even narrower set of stairs that shrieked as he climbed.

He came to a stop outside the attic door.

Of course the sound was coming from there.

Above the rasp of his own wheezing, he heard it louder than before: a scraping like nails on the inside of a coffin. His throat thickened with fear.

For a second, he was fifteen again, crouched in the stairwell while his father told him to go back to bed. Jack had woken in the night and followed voices up to the attic. He’d listened through the door as they echoed in the dark, and he couldn’t tell if Bob was in there watching a movie, or if Bob was making the voices himself. Maybe the newspapers and magazines had been right. ‘Bonkers Bob’ really had lost his mind.

Crouched outside the attic now, twenty years later, Jack felt darkness grasping at his neck.

Was his father still in there?

He should run. Get out of there before it was too late.

No. He shook off the memory. This wasn’t some teenage fantasy. Somebody had broken in. They could be making off with the very thing he was there to claim for himself.

He took the envelope from his pocket, removed the key and ground it into the lock. Throwing open the door, he charged inside and––

Tripped.

His toe caught something in the dark and he lost his footing. He crashed forwards, striking the floor painfully as he crumpled onto his front. Somehow, he managed to prevent his head cracking against the floorboards, and found himself staring at a pair of knobbly claws resting on the floor in front of him.

He clutched the miraculously intact whiskey bottle and craned his neck up at the thing looming over him.

An amphibian creature with boil-pocked green skin leered in the gloom. It was squat and slimy-looking, its too-wide mouth hanging open to reveal glimmering rows of needle-sharp teeth. Its bulbous eyes were heavy-lidded, vacant and staring, and while it looked like something that had slithered out of a swamp, it wore mechanised armour, the kind of sci-fi tech that seemed purpose-built for deep space.

Jack’s heart slammed the floorboards as he recognised the character.

A skalion.


Excerpt from The Shadow Glass by Josh Winning reprinted by permission. Copyright Titan Books.

Josh Winning’s The Shadow Glass is out March 22, 2022, but you can pre-order a copy here.