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Review 31: Academy by Mick Rooney

by Mick Rooney
Copyright: © 2008
ISBN: 9781409209119
$13.04 Paperback
$6.21 Ebook

I first came across Mick Rooney’s blog earlier this year during the whole Amazon/Booksurge/POD mess.  He, like many of us, was deep in the story with news and updates, writing and watching a small part POD history as it happened.  It seems, today, that story is history indeed but Mick’s blog was one of the few that I kept up with after that whole charade.  Recently, he held a poll to find out which POD Publisher his readers preferred.  He took the top four results and outlined their pros and cons.  And in a recent post, he listed each of these publisher’s best selling books from Amazon UK.  As I stated in a comment on that post, it was intriguing to discover that very few of these self-published best sellers were fiction.  The main focus of Mick’s blog, like my POD Diary tab, is to record his own journey in self-publishing.  And wow, what a journey it has been for him.

At only 159 pages of actual text Mr. Rooney’s book, Academy, is packed full of adventure and history.  I love a book that entices my curiosity so much that I end up spending hours Googling things and wish listing a ton of other books because of what I’ve just read.  Academy is indeed one of those books that will send you on a history lesson field trip!  I thoroughly enjoy Mick’s own description of it…

Academy, like much of my writing, is highly descriptive, almost cinematic, and I often write while also researching linked themes to the book. I wrote the first draft of Academy between 1992 and 1995. In that time, I was reading about the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci, a book about the history and development of airships, books about the Third Reich and the Holocaust, Claude Lanzmann’s magnificent and poignant, ‘Shoa’ documentary, books on The Great Siberian Explosion of 1908, and several novels from South America in the magic realism genre. G. W. Pabst’s ‘Pandora’s Box’, a silent film from 1928 also features, as does the themes of photography and the cinema. Somehow in the writing of Academy, all this merged together.

Whoa!  For me, I could write a book on each of these subjects.  There are millions of stories from the Holocaust alone that have yet to be told, but somehow, Mick has indeed packed all of these subjects into one little book.  And he does it flawlessly!

The Academy is the big brother that is always watching.  In the beginning, when the reader is first being introduced to the narrator, we are given brief images of the Academy soldiers herding people in the streets.  It resonates of Nazi actions which we’ve read about and seen in movies.  Flash to our narrator sitting in a movie theater to escape the outside world…red velvet curtains drawn over the screen and the tinkling of a red-lit chandelier over head.  The author fills your head with so much imagery that it’s like coming up after submerging yourself in a pool or hot bath.  You open your eyes and sound comes back to you as water leaves your ears.  You do it slowly in order to indulge your senses; which is why I suggest reading this book very slowly.

We soon discover that our narrator, Leonardo, works for the Academy.  He is a simple clerk, often having a day’s work completely changed or thrown away by the Academy, simply as a reminder of who is indeed in charge and who pays him.  So, he lies about his work and says he is a historian or geographer.  Rooney’s deep inner narrative voice of Leonardo balanced with intricate details of the Academy’s hierarchy is simply haunting.  He hypnotizes you with Leonardo’s dreamy thoughts, only to wake you up with a slap to the face when describing the crushed skulls of babies - a reminder of the power the Academy holds over its people; and the power this author holds over his reader.

As Rooney stated, he’s weaved a variety of his own historical interests into the tale, of which I too was completely fascinated.  From Count von Zeppelin, a German aircraft manufacturer in a wheel chair, to Leonid Kulik, a Russian mineralogist who was studying meteorites, Rooney treats each character with a sincere respect and honors their story (hero or villian) where textbooks may have forgotten.

Dan Brown “Code” fans will enjoy seeing Da Vinci’s inspiration in this story, as they will certainly take note of the small nuances and facts that Rooney has hidden throughout the story like a puzzle for his reader.  As we read of our narrator’s daily plot to discover the truth of the Academy at any cost, the reader also finds themselves on a magnificent quest on every page.  The author sent me the PDF for this review, but I had to print it out just to underline all of the things I wanted to go back to again.

In closing, I found another quote on Mick’s blog that sticks out in my mind and is worth taking note of as a writer and a reader…

It’s strange, books are like children. You give birth to them, nurture, develop them, and one day, suddenly, they are adults. You think back as a parent how you could have done something differently, made it all better, but, the fact is, the books become adults when published; and like adults, you cannot unlearn, forget the memories and the experience; once borne, once a child, you step forward, and you can never go back.

If Academy is indeed Mick Rooney’s child (all grown up), he did a fine job as a parent!

And I am certainly looking forward to his next, Filigree & Shadow, due next month.

4 Responses to “Review 31: Academy by Mick Rooney”

  1. Congrats to Mick on putting out such a well done book. Once again Shannon’s review has piqued my interest and caused me to check out the author blog as well, which has very interesting items. I could get lost (as in track of time) in reading through all of them.

  2. Shannon,

    Thank you for taking the time to read ‘Academy’ and writing your review. Even at four books per month to review, this must take up much of your time and energy. I think your comments on ‘Academy’ needing to be read very slowly are very true. Though the book is my ‘child’, and ‘all grown up’, I do proudly see it as a book apart from many.

    When I write, I very much set myself the task of not just revealing a story carefully in layers, but making the act of reading an experience in itself, with every sense utilised by the reader, from first to sixth. Whether that means the reader discovers something more from a book by, say, reading it aloud, or pausing to google a fact or fictional detail on the internet, or simply allowing their own mind to drift on an inspired tangent — it is all part of the experience.

    It seems we find ourselves too immersed in a daily world where, often, material and volume are king, and we place so much importance on what is literally said, rather than what is seen and not actually said.

    Thanks again, Shannon, for your time, thoughts and encouragement, you made my day!

    Mick Rooney.

  3. [...] 2, 2008 by shannonyarbrough To start this month off, LLBR caught up with Mick Rooney, author of  Academy which we reviewed earlier this year.  Mick returned to Lulu this month with a new book, Filigree [...]

  4. [...] first discovered Mick Rooney’s writing last year when I reviewed his book Academy.  Mick, like me, keeps informed of the POD world and its regular developments, often covering very [...]

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