Through Innocent Eyes

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Title: Through Innocent Eyes
Publisher: NorthCoast Press
Date(s): 2003
Medium: print
Fandom: Man from UNCLE
Language: English
External Links: flyer here
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cover by Linda Cornett and Lisa Madden

Through Innocent Eyes is a gen and slash 281-page Man from UNCLE anthology of stories by Linda Cornett, published in 2003. Cover art is by Linda Cornett and Lisa Madden.

Reactions and Reviews

See reactions and reviews for My Dinner with Angelique.

[She Waits]: Why this must be read:

The original The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was usually light and witty and the agents would often crack wise in the most dire circumstances. This was true even at times other than the third “silly season.” Over the years, MFU fanfic writers (including yours truly) have been influenced by newer trends in espionage fiction and later spy series and films, and so, the fiction has generally become a bit more serious and occasionally, a lot darker.

But for this month, in keeping with the summer season, I’m going to highlight the sunnier side of MFU fiction which, like the guys, can be smart and witty and even downright funny.

First up, is a short piece that is not only amusing, but, like the most memorable jokes, has a great twist at the end. It also ties into canon, too, and those who’ve seen certain episodes (I won’t spoil it and point out which ones) will really appreciate what is, essentially, a character study. [1]

[The Trainer]: Why this must be read:

Because this is the best deathfic I have read in this fandom (and many others). No, don't run away! I avoided this story for a long time because of its 'take no prisoners' opening line: "My partner is dead."

Once I overcame my squeamishness, I regretted every minute I'd delayed reading it. Linda does far more than superbly encapsulate the mental, physical and emotional shock of grief. She also reveals the human side of an often inhuman profession, and demonstrates how the end of one partnership can become the beginning of another.

Trust me, and pull the bandage off quickly. It's worth it. [2]

[Such Friendly People]: An entertaining and incisive take on the U.N.C.L.E. universe from the viewpoint of a female agent. She and Napoleon are posing as a swinging jetset couple on vacation, while Illya accompanies them as back-up. Surely every fan's dream...or is it? Napoleon is charming and flirtatious yet doesn't trust her with the nitty-gritty espionage work, but he's a welcome relief to Illya's impenetrable aloofness.

However, an embarrassing mix-up results in Illya being mistaken for the 'husband.' Is Illya capable of swinging? Our female agent has doubts, but Napoleon is cheerfully upbeat about Illya's ability to deliver. Even so, can a convincing chemistry be manufactured in time to fool the enemy? And what to do with it when the assignment is over?

Readers worried about Mary Sue traits should relax - Bev proves to be a character with wit and insight, but not annoyingly so. Her observations about being a female in a male-dominated profession has resonance today, and her gradual awareness of Illya's considerable appeal will be heartening to the Illya fans out there. The depiction of the friendship between Napoleon and Illya is an added bonus - though it's not the main theme, it's a reassuring anchor to canon. [3]

[More Precious than a Carriage]: Some stories you just know will be good as soon as you see the author's name. Linda Cornett is one of those authors as she never fails to please.

This story involves an innocent trapped in a nameless country that has broken out into revolution. Napoleon asks Illya to take Robin to safety, a duty that Illya doesn't want to handle as he's afraid the woman will complain, and also that she will slow him down. However, he allows her to travel with him and eventually gets her to safety.

The story is told from the innocent's POV, letting us judge Illya and his actions from outside. We follow the pair along, watching as Robin goes from hating the way Illya is treating her, to grudging respect and finally something almost like friendship, or as much as friendship can be during wartime.[4]

[Close to a Knockout]: I came across this story recently when someone posted a query about it on that splendid fic-finding community, mfuficfind, so it isn't exactly unknown, but it's so brilliant that I couldn't resist reccing it to the wider world. Linda is one of those multi-talented comic writers who can combine humour, drama and emotion in the most satisfying way. Her stories are hugely entertaining: funny, exciting and moving, and wonderfully written. Many of them are told in the first person, from the point of view of an innocent who gets caught up in UNCLE activity, either tangentially or directly, and the voices of these original characters are an absolute joy. The narrator of "Close to a Knockout" is a Chandler-esque private eye (so Chandler-esque, in fact, that his name is Chandler), and the pastiche is spot on. What I love best about the use of OC's as narrators is that it opens all sorts of possibilities for dramatic irony and comic misinterpretations, because the readers know what's going on so much better than the narrator. Linda makes the most wonderful use of this trope.[5]

[zine]: This is an Illya-centric gen zine worth the purchase price for even the most die-hard of slash fans, and is a handy way for readers to lay their hands on Linda Cornett's excellent fanfic, published in a number of different zines over the years. However, please note that since I wrote this review, Linda has brought nearly all of her fiction online. Links are provided below for each story.

"Through Innocent Eyes" is a nice sized zine, collecting 24 reprinted stories in 282 pages. Published in 2003 and still available from NorthCoast Press as of January 2008. Layout is full-page, and the pages are packed with text but still pretty readable in what looks like 12 point Arial font. 8.5" x 11", comb-bound, no interior art, and a cleverly designed, if minimalist, cover.

The "hook" in many of these stories, for those readers who have not encountered this author before, is that the story is nearly always told from an outsider's point of view. Sometimes this person is an Innocent, hence the zine's title. Sometimes it is a less-than-innocent outsider, but in nearly every story what we get is a refracted, multi-faceted view of Illya and Napoleon.

Too often collections from a single author throw a limited repertoire into harsh outline, but this is not the case here. The stories range from hilarious to heartbreaking, with length as varied as concept. Linda has a remarkable ability to make readers cry and laugh at the same time, and the stories are full of injokes and clever references.

Please note that not all of these stories have happy endings.

There is occasional explicit het sex. Consider yourself warned, slash fans. However, several stories imply a more-than-business relationship between Napoleon and Illya, and I really like the way Linda incorporates this so casually into essentially gen stories.

Now, on to the stories!

In The Trainer, a seasoned agent must cope with the shock and grief of losing a beloved partner while trying to carry on with the mission that took his other half's life. 5 pages of trying to guess who and hoping it isn't who you think it is.

A young woman accidentally caught up in a bloody revolution finds the man - Illya - leading her to safety just as frightening as the danger that dogs their heels in More Precious Than a Carriage. 11 pages.

Beautiful redheads, THRUSH, high finance and a private detective whose attitude could put Bogie to shame complicate Illya and Napoleon's lives in Close to a Knockout. 17 hilarious pages.

In The Dying of the Light, Illya spends several difficult hours facing the reality of his actions. 7 very touching and thought-provoking pages.

Inevitable Evil is a fascinating character study of an investigative reporter who comes to examine her life and ethics and must make a moral decision, because of her brush with Illya. 14 pages.

Kids say the darndest things. Especially when they're writing in their school journals. Miss Butcher thinks one of her students has a career as a novelist ahead of her when she reads Lorelei's Journal. Hilarious and chilling at the same time. 9 pages.

The abandoned mine turned into a secret laboratory for nefarious doings is a cliché, but in The Appalachia Affair it's a well-done cliché. It's the original characters - and the way Napoleon and Illya interact with them and affect their lives - that takes this story to a higher level. 21 pages.

She Waits is a hysterical teaser of a vignette. I howled. More double entendres in two pages than I would've believed possible.

THRUSH villains show up in force in "The Heaven's Slingshot Affair", (now online retitled as The Devil's Slingshot Affair, a 30 page story co-written with F. Y. Driver. The focus is on a very complicated plot (at the expense of characterization and partnership moments, in my opinion). There is also the obligatory Illya torture scene, sadly with precious little comfort.

Shopping malls and conspicuous consumption - everybody who always thought THRUSH was behind the commercialism of modern society raise their hands. The Temple of Mammon Affair only confirmed my suspicions and made me laugh into the bargain. 7 pages.

A retired Illya returns to New York City when he receives an Invitation to the Dance, and teaches a couple of rookies a thing or two. 11 pages.

During My Dinner with Angelique, Illya doesn't give much away but discovers he has a lot in common with this surprisingly vulnerable THRUSH agent when they end up sharing a table and conversation. 7 pages.

Another very plot-heavy story co-written with Fara Y. Driver, The In Vino Veritas Affair offers a more light-hearted premise and more partnership moments. Napoleon's womanizing gets himself (and a friend) into trouble, and Illya must help him unravel the puzzle. 43 pages.

Number 1, Section 1 hasn't been forgotten. In "The Waverly's Day Affair", the inspired resourcefulness that made Alexander Waverly The Man in Charge is detailed. Who knew the old man had it in him? 11 pages. This story is not online.

'At'sa some spicy meataball they serve over at that little Italian place across from Del Floria's. The La Famiglia Affair is 5 pages of takeover madness.

Poor Los Angeles. Poor Ben Kowalski. Neither one comes off well in The LaLa Land Affair, a post-Return story wherein Illya has a close encounter with California cuisine while rescuing Napoleon from THRUSH's evil clutches. 10 pages.

Human Kindness is a heartbreaker of a short story (5 pages). Illya goes looking for release after a particularly difficult mission and finds absolution. This one will stay with you, readers.

It's always rewarding to meet Such Friendly People when travelling to luxurious resorts, especially when they're THRUSH. Poor Illya gets the experience of his life when he must assume a role that was intended for Napoleon. There is an unfortunate editing glitch in this story, where a character's name switches back and forth. I found this error annoying and distracting. 12 pages.

"Partners" most definitely isn't about Napoleon and Illya. It's a coda to "Such Friendly People" and is essentially a het PWP. Although there's certainly a point to what happens here; as with all good PWPs we learn a lot about who these people are. 3 pages. See the link to "Such Friendly People" for the online version.

Poor Francesca Johnson, taken in by that THRUSH agent masquerading as a photographer for National Geographic. But Illya has come to set things right. Uncovered Bridges takes up where the famous novel The Bridges of Madison County left off. 16 pages.

Another heartbreaker of a story, in a completely different way. "Waiting for the Light" suggests an all too likely scenario - at least up until the end, when it turns a bit overly sentimental and convenient for my taste. 9 pages. This story is not online.

Coitus Interruptus isn't exactly what you think it is... but it's pretty darned close. Apparently Illya holds a Ph.D. in flirting along with all his other advanced degrees. 7 pages of amazing dialogue.

A lonely widow without a future meets a man without a memory or a past, and together they find the will to live again, in "A Wonderful Life". 10 pages. This story is not online.

The title says it all. "Survived By". Grief can draw the most unlikely people together. 6 pages. This story is not online.[6]


  1. ^ comment at Crack Van (June 3, 2007)
  2. ^ comment at Crack Van (April 25, 2007)
  3. ^ a 2006 comment at Crack Van
  4. ^ More Precious Than A Carriage by Linda Cornett (G), rec by periwinkle27 at crack_van, posted 24 July 2009. (Accessed 09 May 2017.)
  5. ^ Close to a Knockout by Linda Cornett (G), rec by azdak at crack_van, posted 16 July 2007. (Accessed 09 May 2017.)
  6. ^ Review of Through Innocent Eyes at Partner Mine, Print Zines and Fiction Reviews. Posted between April 2005 and March 2007 (see Wayback Machine captures), accessed 09 May 2017.