Wednesday, May 10, 2017

SPILL ZONE by Scott Westerfeld

Big thanks to First Second for the review copy of Scott Westerfeld's first graphic novel. The graphic novel was just released last week, but prior to that, it was serialized online at The Spill Zone. If you're a fan of Westerfeld's work (and seriously, if you aren't, it's likely because you haven't read him yet), this will be right up your alley.

It features:

A female lead with a motorcycle and a camera
An environmental disaster
An exploration of what we do with abandoned or ruined spaces
An exploration of family relationships (Addison, the lead, has custody of her younger sister, rendered mute by the disaster)

Here is part of what Westerfeld said about how this graphic novel came to be:

In 2004, a Ukrainian photojournalist named Elena Filatova (aka KiddofSpeed) blogged an account of her illicit motorcycle journeys through the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the area blighted by history’s worst nuclear accident. Her photos and writing were elegiac and apocalyptic, evoking the otherworldliness of the forsaken city of Pripyat. But once the posts went viral, certain discrepancies were noted, and Filatova admitted that her accounts were “more poetry than reality.”

In short, she might have taken a tour bus. You see, it’s pretty easy to get into the Exclusion Zone these days.

But the poetic version stuck with me—a woman on a motorcycle, a camera, an empty and dangerous world.

I’ve always been a sucker for tales about exploring broken, abandoned terrain. As a kid I was an “urban explorer,” though we didn’t have that term back then. I spelunked the buildings at my upstate New York college, and I’ve explored abandoned sites in and around NYC since. There’s nothing quite like the silent loneliness of a place that has been abandoned, restricted, and left to ruin. In these spaces, the usual rules don’t apply. It feels as if the laws of physics don’t either.

So what if they really were a slice of another world?

That’s what Spill Zone is about. The ways that disasters, canny or uncanny, change the spaces that they take place in. And the ways that we survivors become explorers of those ruined spaces, picking them apart with memories, stories, and art.

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