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Book Review: Feisengrad by Aaron Richard Golub

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Feisengrad is the tale of a 1984-style dystopia called The Z, in which the rules are governed by umpires who make you jump onto a baseball plate when you commit a crime, and it’s entirely up to them whether you’re safe or out; the normal citizens are called Plow7s (I’m still not quite sure why and I don’t think it’s ever actually explained); and people are expected to get jobs and a girlfriend in their first week of life.

The title comes from the surname of the main character, Plausible Feisengrad (strange name, I know, but then there are a few strange names in this book), who is born from a large egg at the beginning of the week as a surprisingly articulate thinker of a baby. As the week goes on, he has to learn his way around The Z. The book seems confused sometimes about how old the character is (the illustrations seem to suggest about 13 years old), with the baby gaining delinquent friends quickly and learning about sex and love. And I’m pretty sure he can walk. Admittedly, he could have had his growth accelerated somehow (it’s not like he was born normally) but this doesn’t seem right, and there are lines later in the book that back me up here (“His tiny hand elevated to meet hers”, for instance). It does give the author a chance to explore the adult domains to great effect, however, so I’ll let it pass.

Like most stories of this type, the government that oversees everything (in this case, The Z Board) keeps the best for themselves and suppresses knowledge of any wrongdoing.

The thing that drew my attention to this book in the first place was seeing that it was compared to Douglas Adams and George Orwell’s styles. Having read it, I can say that such comparisons are warranted. It may not be as funny as Douglas Adams’ books but the humour is definitely there. I particularly liked his satire of American nicknames, such as naming actual people Joe College and Joe Blow. And as I mentioned earlier, the two religions seen are named for things that spread viruses. Make of that what you will.

Now, some information about the actual book itself. It’s a short book (144 pages) and so can be finished relatively quickly. If you’re anything like me, you will finish it quickly. It is billed as a graphic novel, and technically that’s true. It is a novel (well, maybe novel is pushing it a bit), and there are graphics, rather beautiful pictures interspersed every 20 pages. 

I don’t normally like dystopia stories at the best of times as they seem to want the reader to experience the same level of paranoia about the government as the author does, and I seem to have a bit more faith in humanity than their target audience. The main attraction of these kind of stories is that you buy into the world shown and are disturbed by the plausibility. Do I believe that people would be stupid enough to permit the rise of a society governed by baseball umpires? No. Does it make for an entertaining story nonetheless? Absolutely.

And so, to use the kind of ending line I despise others for, if you don’t buy this book, you’re out!

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About Scott Varnham