Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 245 (10/6) -- Second Thoughts by Niklas Asker

Two professionally creative people -- novelist Jess and photographer John -- meet briefly in London's Stanstead airport, on their ways to other places. And Second Thoughts appears to be their two intertwined stories -- but it's not that simple, as the reader eventually learns.

Second Thoughts is the first graphic novel by Niklas Asker, a Swedish illustrator and painter. It plays with alternate paths, different lives, but it does so quietly, almost surreptitiously, palming cards and waiting to see if the reader will notice. (For example, parts of this book are narrated, and some are not. Some pages have a black background, and some do not.)

Jess is dating a woman named Chloe, an American musician, and waiting for her arrival from New York. John tells her that he's running away to New York -- on the return flight of the same plane Chloe is on -- but not why. When the flight is cancelled, they both head back to London, separately -- and two stories begin. But they're not equal stories, and the careful reader -- perhaps after taking a look at the cover to remind herself who the real central character of Second Thoughts is -- will begin to untangle the stories of Jess and Chloe, Andrew and Sofia, John and the nameless woman we see at the end.

Without being blatant about it, Second Thoughts is a story about creation -- about creating art, and about creating your own life, and how the same pieces can go into both creations but end up with very different products. It may be a shade too subtle for its own good -- Publishers Weekly's review seems to have missed the central conceit entirely, and I expect many readers, even careful ones, will miss it unless they're particularly careful and are expecting Second Thoughts to go in an unexpected direction. Still, for a first graphic novel, it's impressive -- thoughtful and assured, with images that repeat as motifs and a strong sense of these doubled lives. If this is what Asker can do his first time out, he's definitely a talent to keep an eye out for.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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