As I mentioned in a previous post, I really enjoy Simon Stalenhag‘s art and storytelling. The first book of his that I read, The Electric State, was an excellent post-apocalyptic story that he told with both words and images. I found it heartfelt and moving.
After having such a great introduction to his work, I picked up a second volume titled, The Labyrinth. The story – again – is set in a post-apocalyptic setting where a chosen few have been selected to live underground while the Earth’s surface has been turned into a toxic soup.
While the premise is good, the story itself didn’t deliver. For example, the transformation of the Earth into this toxic, unlivable environment isn’t explained. There’s a mention of these “black balls” that appear and begin to turn everything into poison, but that’s it. There’s not much description about them, the process, or the reasoning.
I’m fine with a little mystery, leaving things to the readers’ imagination, but there’s basically nothing here to spark my imagination. The “black balls” only appear in a couple of illustrations and after being mentioned near the beginning they’re forgotten.
As for the main story, it was okay, but not as engrossing as the previous book I read, The Electric State. In that one, I cared about the protagonist and her brother. I felt the tension as they traveled, trying to avoid contact with others, trying to reach their destination intake. Here, well, the characters felt one-dimensional. Plus, the plot twist was obvious from early on.
In the end, the book felt more like a vehicle to publish Stalenhag’s art and the narrative was there to loosely tie the images together.
Disappointed? Yes, but I’ll still pick up another title of his at some point. Just because an author publishes a less-than-stellar story doesn’t mean I’ll give up on them. Hell, Stephen King has published his share of weak stories, but I’ve still read just about everything he’s produced.
If you love futuristic, post-apocalyptic art and stories, you may enjoy The Labyrinth, but I’d suggest you check out one of Stalenhag’s other books.