by Ted Rall
Indifference has replaced "Big Brother" in 2024, a new graphic novel that updates George Orwell's classic book, 1984.
Orwell's Big Brother was a world government that monitored and controlled every aspect of life. Indifference and self-absorption is the fruit of the control wielded by massive multi-national businesses in 2024.
That rule so permeates each employee's life that losing one's job guarantees death by starvation. This is a very subtle, familiar and frightening layer that author Ted Rall slathered onto Orwell's vision.
Rall's plot is simplicity itself. Winston endures the grinding sameness of life by occasionally buying illegal electronic games and other items banned by his government and employer. Real danger adds a thrill to his mundane existence when Winston begins a loveless affair. But his world collapses when even sex becomes boring, and Winston buys a black-market freeware that links him to old TV shows. When the authorities arrest him, Winston confronts the shopkeeper who informed the authorities of his purchase.
"Thanks a lot, dude!" says Winston, flustered. "Now I'll NEVER be able to pay back my student loans!"
Yes, humor does occasionally relieve the relentless ugliness.
Many readers will find the profanity in 2024 tasteless and unnecessary. Profanity is almost always tasteless, but is used here to show the baseness of lives lived like animals in this spiritually dead world.
Rall's art is minimalistic and abstract, one step above a doodle, and may be enough to place wallets back in the pocket or purse of casual browsers. But it sets his stage perfectly, its simplicity even blunting some of the cold, hard and dead nastiness. It removes titillation from sex and excitement from violence, his simple lines and flat grays painting the unending, numbing sameness of Rall's bleak, unromantic, godless future.
This graphic novel is a bummer, man, a downer, depressing, and highly recommended for adults.
[ by Michael Vance ]