It’s rare that a book can be preachy, intuitive and somewhat blithe toward the act of suicide yet still be enjoyable and insightful. British writer Nabiel Kanan brings together an inherent sense of self in the pages of this collection, Exit: Under the Sun.
This story, though released later than the mini-series I reviewed last week, was written years earlier. It takes places in two sets of time, running rather parallel throughout the story: eighteen months in the past and present time. Present time overruns parts of the other mini-series, creating an extra wrinkle in the story that exists between Karl and Louise, who are still heavily featured in this series despite not being the main attraction.
The two new characters Kanan introduces here are Cig (who makes brief appearances in Traitors) and Roger Boothe.
Time is exceedingly fluid throughout this story. At times bleeding from panel to panel, in Kanan’s hyper-detailed style. This can present challenges if you choose, as I did on occasion, to put the book down mid-chapter and not return to it for several hours or a day. I highly recommend letting the chapter breaks be natural stopping points.
As we are introduced to Roger, eighteen months in the past, he is about to catch a train to London to catch a flight to America. We eventually find out that his plans go off less like a hitch and more like a gunshot to the leg: not necessarily fatal, but damn nasty and leaves you with a limp.
Cig is brought into the mix as he converses with Karl about their A Levels at the end of Sixth form (yes, that’s British terminology which I have some understanding of thanks to a couple of English friends). A visit from an “old friend” sparks the conversation between Cig and Karl about Roger Boothe.
This is where the story really gets going.
A lot of side-stories weave their way throughout the story, a trick Kanan seems to play on the reader. Not a mean trick, mind you, but one to distract you from some of the main participants so what when they do come back into view you were genuinely wondering what had been happening to them. And that’s the trick, he makes you care about the characters without having to shove it in your face. Too often books, television, movies will introduce a character, try to make you care about him/her just to create the drama of their death and have it be meaningful.
The best example of this I can produce here is a friend of Karl’s, not mentioned or shown until the page he lives and dies in, and several pages later when Louise is forced to shatter Karl’s reality by confronting him with the truth of his friend’s suicide, you as the reader care. You don’t care about the kid that died, that would be silly – as a character you’d only just been introduced to and were given virtually no back story on – but to see the subtle actions and facial expressions Karl makes is gut-wrenching.
Having read this story several times over the years I always walk away from it having learned or interpreted something different after each read. This time I came out thinking something rather radical: Cig is Roger Boothe. They are the same person. I think an argument can be made for this, but I will not make that here. Any of you that go out and purchase this incredibly worthwhile read, I would be interested to get your thoughts, either in comments or you can always e-mail me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overall Exit: Under the Sun gets an A+ from this reviewer. The art is phenomenal, the writing is high-end and the development of both the story and the characters within is extraordinary. Though hard to find this trade paperback is well worth the investment.
If you have suggestions for future Bin Fodder reviews, drop me a line in comments! Also, see below for this week’s Playlist!
Till next Wednesday…
Jonathan Coulton – Nobody Loves You Like Me, Jukebox the Ghost – Hold It In, Panic at the Disco – London Beckoned Songs About Money Witten by Machines, Panic at the Disco – The Ballad of Mona Lisa, Jonathan Coulton – Tom Cruise Crazy, People on Vacation – Rainy Day, I Fight Dragons – The Geeks will Inherit the Earth, Jukebox the Ghost – Under my Skin, Rubyhorse – Fell on Bad Days, Green Day – Boulevard of Broken Dreams, No Use for a Name – Pride, 36 Crazy Fists – An Agreement Called Forever, Erik Vee – Far Away, Solea – Make it Last, Stabbing Westward – Television, Rise Against – Broken English, The Get Up Kids – The One You Want, Old 97’s – Broadway