“…dreams pass into the waking world through the keyhole of compromise.”
Inspiration cuts across space and time in “Overdue,” Mark Lawrence’s first short story from his Library Trilogy. The main action in “Overdue” takes place in independent bookshops, focusing on the store owners’ love of literature and their relative isolation from society.
All bookstores need a cat, and “Overdue” opens with Wentworth, the feline of unusual size from The Book That Wouldn’t Burn. Wentworth is based on Mark Lawrence’s own cat, Wobble, a Maine Coon who may intimidate even the fiercest mountain lion. “Overdue” also has guest appearances by two other animal friends from The Book That Wouldn’t Burn: the pitch-black dog, Volente, and the raven whose name I shall not reveal.
Mark Lawrence blew away my expectations with “Overdue.” I expected “Overdue” to be a simple story about an oversized cat going on an adventure. But “Overdue” is so much more: it’s a touching tale full of nuance and emotion, and one of Mark Lawrence’s best short stories to date. Last year, I published a listicle of Top Ten Mark Lawrence Short Stories over at Grimdark Magazine. “Overdue” easily falls within the top five on that list.
The plot is more complex than I had anticipated, as Mark Lawrence constructs a circle of literary influence that transcends geographical and temporal boundaries. The interwoven nature of the tale beautifully conveys how aspiring authors can discover inspiration in the most unlikely sources. I particularly enjoyed the unexpected symmetry of inspiration presented in “Overdue,” which left a great emotional impact on par with Lawrence’s best stories.
Although “Overdue” is set in the same universe as the Library Trilogy, it’s not strictly necessary to read The Book That Wouldn’t Burn before picking up this short story. There are no spoilers here that would lessen your enjoyment of The Book That Wouldn’t Burn, and other than the trio of animal friends, there is only one overlapping character: the kindly and enigmatic librarian, Yute. All the other characters are self-contained within the short story. Hence, “Overdue” can be enjoyed as a standalone tale, although readers who are already familiar with The Book That Wouldn’t Burn will appreciate many subtle and not-so-subtle references made within this short story.
A deep love of literature connects us all in the bookish community, a bond that manifests poignantly in “Overdue” as Wentworth helps lonely booklovers find both inspiration and companionship. “Overdue” is an ode to the power of literature which binds us together. This short story is a must-read for fans of The Book That Wouldn’t Burn and highly recommended for anyone who shares Mark Lawrence’s passion for the written word.