Oh dear. I wanted to like this book, I really did. I had a great time reading [b:House of Leaves|24800|House of Leaves|Mark Z. Danielewski|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327889035s/24800.jpg|856555] and I thought the way Danielewski played with the format of the book was pretty effective. Alas, The Fifty Year Sword just wasn't nearly as good.
Let's start with the plot. House of Leaves had, at heart, a very interesting idea for a plot, and Danielewski used it to great effect. This, on the other hand, is a really a very short ghost story. Sure, he says as much at the beginning. But if it weren't for the typography play, this might be a twenty page story, instead of over 250 pages. A short story isn't bad by default, don't get me wrong, and can often be the most effective way to tell a ghost story. But this one in particular is just kind of flimsy. There's nothing here that will stay with me.
The typography play is also far less effective than it had been in House of Leaves. It's mostly present in the form of alternating quotes from what seem to be four different speakers, to represent four different narratives about the event. Except that all four narrators use exactly the same voice and literally pick up one right after the other with no pause.
"on the page.
There's no real sense while reading that this is more than one voice, let alone four, and the broken up lines only serve to make reading the story choppy.
For the most part, the text is only on the left side of the page. The right side is reserved for illustrations, except that at least half of the illustration pages are completely blank. But when they do show up, they're the best part of the book, by far. They're actually embroidered with multicolored thread (and, sometimes, cut paper) and stunningly beautiful. Perfect abstractions of what's happening in the story. Anybody interested in fiber arts should probably at least take a look at the illustrations, though I can't recommend the book for purchase.