Tales from Outer Suburbia reviewed by Kristian Williams

Posted by on December 16th, 2009 at 10:00 AM

by Shaun Tan; Arthur A. Levine Books; 96 pp.; $19.99; Color; Hardcover; ISBN: 9780545055871

It is famously difficult to follow a masterpiece.  Shaun Tan follows one with many:

A visitor in a teacup.  A water buffalo who knows the way.  An amnesia machine.  Walking, humanoid tumbleweed.  Re-purposed weaponry.  A nameless holiday.  A hidden room, a hidden courtyard, a hidden world.  Lost poems.

Beyond the limits of the invisible cities, past the place where the sidewalk ends, just before the garden of forking paths — you will come to Outer Suburbia. Tan’s short pieces are beautiful and strange, absolutely enchanting.  Every illustration, and every word, adds to the wonder and the mystery.

The Arrival was a pure graphic novel — a long, wordless story showing the development of a small set of characters.  Tales from Outer Suburbia is something else entirely.  Though richly illustrated, the tales are in prose.  Some are stories; and some are something more than stories — the suggestions of stories still untold, worlds yet to be explored.

Outer Suburbia is not The Arrival, but it is Shaun Tan.  It has a different form, but the same magic.

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