The Grot: The Story of the Swamp City Grifters by Pat Grant
|The Grot: The Story of the Swamp City Grifters by Pat Grant|
|Category: Graphic Novels|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A fun, if perhaps slightly slight, graphic novel of grifters in a dystopian future Australia.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 200||Date: June 2020|
|Publisher: Top Shelf Productions|
|External links: Author's website|
Everything in this world runs on pedal-power, and that includes the punk bands. There are three pedallers at the front of the Heath Robinson contraption taking our lead characters to the ferry across the swamp to Falter City, where a mother and her two sons aim to set up a yoghurt factory. You could say that yoghurt would be the only culture around, for this is a really rough-and-ready dump of a place, but everyone is interested in small things that grow. For the only money to be had – the only fortunes to be found in Falter City – come from algae, gunk and other crud that – well, the use of it is never really made clear. Once there, the two brothers set themselves each up with a guide – Lippy, the more forward-thinking, industrious of the two, with a besuited gent, Penn with a ballsy young teenaged girl with bright red hair. But which of the two will come off the worse as they make their own way in this dystopian, semi-Apocalyptic hellhole?
Normally I don't like books like this graphic novel that aim for the scuzzy, dirty, best-to-wash-your-hands-after-reading feel, but this achieved it without getting too gross or base. You have to find some kind of black humour in the different side characters, intent on making fortunes by finding the rare strain of algae in the putrid swamp. This is clearly a rarefied future existence, but still one we can see grounded in our reality, and the metaphor for hard, benefitless labour is obvious. Just as any number of gold rushes in our world forced a race to the bottom, this is just the same dialled up to eleven. What we get here is a great bit of world building.
I'm not sure 'great' is the adjective for everything here, though. The jury's not quite got a unanimous verdict on the storytelling, in fact, for over long stretches (not that this is a long read at all) it didn't seem to have had quite the same work put into it as our creator's inkwork, nor indeed what I take to be the watercolours providing the suitably scuzzy aesthetic by Fionn McCabe. The telling is never bad, or less than interesting, but it did feel the book was sacrificing plot for the sake of series-launching at times (we're told from the off this is the first book in, again we're not told what.) Junior readers like to get everything established and have a paucity of drama as a result, and this had that feel.
But, in a book that wants to delight in the switcheroo, we're also guilty of having the wool pulled over our eyes a little. And I've been imbued with that spirit, too – for all I said about algae being the only way to riches, on the evidence of these pages it's not. So while this book wasn't outstanding, it was pleasantly off-kilter, did ultimately prove it knew what it was doing all along, and was worth the commendation. While it seemed to take years to get to publishing, if the end-notes are to go by, I hope there's also money in Falter City by creating books about it, and I'd quite enjoy a return visit to these stench-ridden, effluent-raddled streets.
While you have the handwash to, er, hand, you might want to continue being dirty with Trashed by Derf Backderf. We can also recommend Howl: A Graphic Novel by Allen Ginsberg and Ratchwood Dilemma by Duncan Watson and Brian Bicknell.
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