This is a beautiful graphic novel that’s a Roald Dahl-esque fairy tale. On the island of Here, everything is perfectly ordered. The people are well-groomed, as are the trees, and even the island itself is a perfect oval. But beyond lies ‘There’ – chaos, fear and disorder. Dave, a data analyst who is bald apart from one stray hair, one day finds the data scrambled, forming shapes he has only seen in his nightmares of There. His face begins to burn, and a gigantic, ever-growing beard erupts from his chin.
The drawings are all in greyscale, and I really liked the way Collins draws across panels to create a kind of depth to the story. Like this one:
Like most fairy tales, you can read this simply as a weird and wonderful tale of a gigantic beard taking over a small island, or on any number of levels: the fear of ‘other’ (what is There and not Here), the fear of what cannot be controlled (and how chaos finds a way nonetheless), what it means to be different, and so on.
This book was perfectly timed for me. Because of overdoing it, I wasn’t well after Christmas (‘overdoing’ in ill-person speak means being around people all the time and staying up til 12 a few nights in a row. I know. Crazy). I needed something engaging but easy-read, comforting but different enough to serve as the catalyst for my 2014 reading. This was absolutely it. It’s a gigantic book itself (an A4 hardback), and perfect for curling up in a big chair with a cup of tea.