The Book of Forks

Title: The Book of Forks

Author: Rob Davis

Summary: Castro Smith finds himself imprisoned within the mysterious Power Station, writing his Book of Forks while navigating baffling daily meetings with Poly, a troubled young woman who may be his teacher, his doctor, his prison guard . . . or something else entirely. Meanwhile, back home, Vera and Scarper’s search for their missing friend takes them through the chaotic war zone of the Bear Park and into new and terrifying worlds. With The Book of Forks, Rob Davis completes his abstract adventure trilogy by stepping inside Castro’s disintegrating mind to reveal the truth about the history of the world, the meaning of existence, and the purpose of kitchen scales.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: The third and final book in Davis’ The Motherless Oven trilogy, I couldn’t wait to get my hands and eyeballs on it. I was sad my copy didn’t come with a bookplate, as I had hoped to frame and display all three, but the book is obviously more important.

This book has as much weird and wonderfulness as the first two. With the main characters venturing out beyond the boarders of The Bear Park, where (almost) all of them have lived for their entire lives, we get to see new places and new ways in which these worlds are strange, bizarre, and fascinating. Guerilla postmen, exploding people, diseases as gods, and rotting corpses on the street. And of course we see more of Castro’s book (can you guess what it’s called?), which explores the history and nature of this world in all its peculiarness.

The art, as ever, is beautiful. Simple, but with such amazing detail. The faces are definitely my favourite, varying from plain and unobtrusive in wider panels, slightly more detailed in more medium panels, to perfectly detailed with amazing subtleties in expression and character in the really close panels. I could look at the faces alone for quite a while. Pages from Castro’s book are presented as a kind of divide between chapters and two alternating storylines, which worked well, and I loved the layout and illustrations, as well as the contrasting white-on-black of those pages.

People accept whatever absurdity surrounds them as reality. And yet, to question this absurdity is to become absurd.

I five-star loved the first two books in this series, but unfortunately this book didn’t hit me with quite the same amazement. I really enjoyed this one, it just… It’s longer than either of the first two, but it also feels like less happens for some reason. I think the story races to its conclusion, trying to tie all the threads together, but is also trying to cram in a lot of new things (Castro’s personal story, his book, the other death states, the postmen…). It just doesn’t fully work. And as much as i enjoyed the pages from Castro’s book, they were often a little… much. Whole pages of text in a graphic novel, and switching from panels to full bodies of text and back again made for slow progress, an inconsistent reading pattern, and loss of focus. I loveloveloved Castro’s insightfulness and theories on the strange things the characters in this world accept as normal, but this book made me realise I loved them in context and in brief. Entire pages with numerous (useless) footnotes failed to keep my interest as high.

Overall I do love this series, and it will certainly be one I’d love to revisit. Likely i will choose to read this installment in two halves–the story told in panels, then all the pages from Castro’s book separately. I think I would enjoy it a lot more that way.

The Can Opener’s Daughter

Title: The Can Opener’s Daughter

Author: Rob Davis

Summary: Vera Pike lives in the cruel world of Grave Acre. Her mother is the Weather Clock, the megalomaniacal Prime Minister of Chance. Her father is a can opener. Charting Vera’s childhood, the second part of Rob Davis’ trilogy takes us from her home in Parliament to suicide school, and from the Bear Park to the black woods that lie beyond. In the present day, Vera and Castro Smith are determined to see their friend Scarper again – but is he even alive? Can anyone outlive their deathday? A darkly inventive sequel, The Can Opener’s Daughter answers many of the questions posed in The Motherless Oven, while asking plenty more of its own.

Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5

Review: This book is every bit as freakishly wonderful as its predecessor, The Motherless Oven. Name plates, suicide charts, and ink gods… there were so many new weird and incredible details. Details that are just so mundane and accepted by characters in the book, but that just make me smile and ponder possible deeper meanings. Whether there are deeper meanings or not–whether you look for them or not–doesn’t matter. I just as easily love this book for its random nonsense.

Because Vera’s Mum is the Weather Clock, and a god to boot. Her dad is a simple manual can opener who gets locked in drawer for a year. She spends her days listening to ink gods, wandering around the parliament building she lives in, and admiring the Escher-esque paintings of the immortals. Totally normal things. Until her mum sends her to suicide school, where she avoids plotting and planning her own demise and instead decides to live forever. And it all makes sense, honestly.

I loved Vera in the first book, and I only loved her more in this one. She’s always been strong-willed, rebellious, and independent, and her face in this comic is just… she’s gorgeous, she’s smug, she’s angry, she’s over it. All the faces and characters (human and non-human) are brilliantly vivid and detailed in the book, particularly those of the three protagonists, but I’ve a soft spot for Vera. Maybe because her face can be so angelic but she’s actually anything but!

The story, other than Vera’s fascinating backstory, is very much a bridge between the first and last books. While the first can stand on its own (albeit with a gaping hole of an open ending, but I love those), and I can only assume the third and final book will have some kind of conclusion and satisfying end to the story. But this book doesn’t have much to allow it to stand up on its own. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. It has taken my love and intrigue from the first book and amplified it, leaving me only wanting more, and that’s not a bad thing.

And the art. It has so much depth and detail. Varies from quite simplistic to immensely intricate. If the concepts are bizarre and out of the ordinary, well, it’s only right that the art work is, too. The contraptions children have cobbled together to call parents–some as simplistic as a basic can opener, others as complex as torturous racing cars. The paintings and wheels. The garden full of growing gazettes. I really love the panel choices and framing of scenes. So many, simply as stand alones, are so striking and beautiful. The Weather Clock’s boobs, though, are absolutely terrifying.

So, yeah. I freaking love this book, and this series. Book three comes out in October and can’t wait to get my hands and eyeballs all over it.

The Motherless Oven

Title: The Motherless Oven

Author: Rob Davis

Summary: In Scarper Lee’s world, parents don’t make children—children make parents. Scarper’s father is his pride and joy, a wind-powered brass construction with a billowing sail. His mother is a Bakelite hairdryer. In this world it rains knives, and household appliances have souls. There are also no birthdays–only deathdays. Scarper knows he has just three weeks to live. As his deathday approaches, he is forced from his routine and strikes out into the unknown–where friendships are tested and authority is challenged.

This unsettling and fiercely original coming-of-age story from Rob Davis traces a journey through a bizarre, distorted teenage landscape: a world not so different from our own.

Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5

Review: I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while, and I’m so annoyed I didn’t read it sooner. I freaking loved it!

This book is weird. I’m a fan of weird. So when the very first page is about it raining knives… yeah, i’m pretty much in love already. So many strange things are introduced quite rapidly, and all without explanation, as if it’s all humdrum and routine–which it is for the characters in this world. Weather clocks, kitchen gods, wheels people watch like a TV… and the only way to figure out what the hell all these things mean is to keep reading. It’s one hell of a hook.

So okay, the story. It follows a trio of new friends (Scarper, Vera, and Castro) as they chase after Scarper’s dad–a big brass vehicle that he made as a child–across the town. They escape the lions at school, turn summer on, and joyride someone else’s dad–all while running away from the police, who are old couples who travel in slow tic-toccing three wheeled carriages. All in the weeks leading up to Scarper’s deathday. It has some deeper meanings, but in a world this bizarre those are completely up for debate and interpretation.

The art, too. All black and white and shadows. The faces of the three main characters are so expressive and speak just as loudly as their words. The parents, being odd contraptions built by their children, are all strange and unique and fascinating. And the just the bizarre nature of things being captured… raining knives, stark white against the black nights; daily wheels, intricate in their repeated patterns; and summer, turned on by mines on chains rising from the ground to hover over the town. It’s so weird, and so mindbogglingly amazing.

In case it wasn’t already obvious, this is one of my new favourite books. I adored it. It’s the first in a trilogy, with it’s sequel The Can Opener’s Daughter moved swiftly up my to-read list. The third book comes out in October and I already can’t wait.