GENRE: Sequential Art, Graphic Novel, Fiction
Having finished the Man Booker prize nominee and the first graphic novel to be listed, I was left befuddled. I started to collect my thoughts many times to make them into a cohesive whole. But I failed at my attempts. A multitude of emotions were running in my mind which left me exhausted, depressed, down in the mouth and absolutely bummed out. For a while I was not sure what I the story was about, or what was happening. There is a lot going on simultaneously in the book that you sometimes feel lost as to the events in the book.
I found it particularly difficult to engage because of its small font size, which are then boxed into tiny squares that are practically difficult to read. The excessive use of the colour grey and other equally pallid colours makes it distracting and hard to read, The characters all looked similar with identical body shapes irrespective of gender. Whether this was intentional or just style is not known. At their best all characters look emotionless and impassive, and lost in their own cocooned shell.
Plot: A young woman, Sabrina goes missing, her boyfriend Teddy leaves town with no belongings to live with an old friend, Calvin. Her body is found in a flat, a few streets from her own. The flat belongs to a recluse who is shown as active participant in men’s rights activism and regularly posts on conspiracy theory message-boards online. The mystery behind her death is revealed when a video showing her gruesome murder is uploaded on the internet. Calvin and Teddy watch in horror as details of the murder become viral across the internet. The aftermath of the murder is what ensues in the consecutive pages. The conspiracy theorists attempt to prove the pointless murder and the video is part of a greater plan put in place by the government.
There are many themes that run parallel in the book. There is grief and detachment that permeates each and every page of the book. The characters have an expression of gloom and sadness always. One can easily touch the anguish and ache of the people. Firstly , Sabrina’s sister and Teddy, who not only have to face the fact that Sabrina has been brutally killed but also accustom themselves with the video of her murder appearing online where it is devoured and exhumed for evidence that her murder was fake, with people harassing them to admit they’re actors. The story illustrates loneliness with an intensity that overwhelms you and you feel like in the dumps. There is Teddy, recently bereaved; Calvin, who lives alone due to estrangement with his wife, who left with their child. It highlights how the society in general has become isolated with more and more people in the cities not just in America live secluded lives devoid of warmth or color, as is the book. Society seems to be shrinking within itself and seems nonchalant about the lives and happenings of others. There is a general indifference when it comes to pain and how it affects people. Most of the times people find themselves at loss of word when faced with situation of pain and bereavement. This has been depicted in the book when Sabrina’s sister has a shutdown and her friend finds herself unable to reach out and console her.
The book mostly seems like a commentary on the conspiracy theory prevalent in social media and the havoc it creates in our lives. It speaks about the influence and horror exercised by the internet and social media in general. In this era of fake news, paranoia, suspicion and mistrust easily sky rockets. Social media pilfers into our lives leaving no privacy. Everything in our lives is reduced to hash tags and what’s trending at the moment, what’s hot and what’s not. Personal space is infiltrated and distorted beyond recognition. We are not prepared to handle lives which is normal since everything is about a Facebook status or an Instagram hash tag. It’s isolating and emotionally damaging.
We live in a world inundated with the latest news which is accessible 24×7. We information at our fingertips, it’s hard to switch off and shut down. The impact of media, news and social media has led us to compassion fatigue. We are increasingly becoming desensitised – when the whole thing is sombre, nothing is. It takes a lot to shock, it takes a lot to commit to memory.
In all aspects I found the book lacking. It is trying to talk on socially relevant topics but fails to have an impact. The succession of events is lost when too many things happen at the same time. Characters come and go without any coherence. The dullness of the graphics and the small fonts add to whole lack lustre effect of the book. I would recommend this book if you’re interested in the digital age, conspiracy theories, fake news, isolation,, emotional detachment, mysteries, and can handle the effects of disappearance/murder on family of the victim. Be prepared to feel dripping wet by the end of the book.