Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire

Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods (part 1) is a post-apocalyptic graphic novel by Canadian Jeff Lemire. It's been described as Mad Max with antlers and Bambi meets Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I kept thinking of David Small's book for young children, Imogene's Antlers, crossed with Stephen King-style horror.

At the start of the story, Gus is nine years old, living in a cabin in a former wilderness sanctuary with his father who is very ill.

"My dad says so few kids was born after the accident that god decided to make 'em special, so we got fur, or tails, or antlers. He says I'm the last one left. Outside of the trees is fire and hell, so we's gotta stay here, where it's safe."

After his father dies, Gus is found by a man named Jeppard, who promises to take him to a place that's safe for half-animal kids. Gus discovers a huge fondness for chocolate and Jeppard teases him about his sweet tooth. As as they travel together through the lawless countryside, the gun battles, fist fights, ghost towns and even a whorehouse morph the tale from science fiction into an old-fashioned western. There's also the psychological suspense of never being sure of Jeppard's motives. Is he a captor or rescuer? The ending is a humdinger of a cliff - I hope part 2 will be out soon!

Even though my pick for essential Canadian novel of the past decade - Skim - did not make the Canada Reads top 10, I'm pleased that Jeff Lemire's moving Essex County trilogy has done so. Yay for graphic novels!

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